The Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore started their eLearning initiative in July 2000 using a creative branding called edveNTUre (http://edventure.sg). With the rapid adoption of edveNTUre eLearning services by professors and students, the University began its journey to introduce more value-added services within edveNTUre. A new initiative called aNTUna was started in July 2002 with strategic focus on bringing mobile accessibility to content and collaboration. This paper presents the processes and strategies the University adopted in evaluating and implementing aNTUna mobile learning over the past three years.
Keywords : eLearning, Mobile Learning, mLearning
With the proliferation of students’ notebook computer PC ownership and the growing usage of the campus wireless network, edveNTUre is easily available any time, any where, to anyone on campus and elsewhere with network access. As part of edveNTUre services, aNTUna (sounds like the "antenna" for radio communication) was initiated in July 2002 to embody mobile eLearning applications on portable devices such as Personal Digital Assistants (PDA), hand phones and notebook computers. Two services were launched, namely namely aNTUna Blackboard ToGo! and aNTUna wireless Video Projector system.
aNTuna Blackboard ToGo! – NTU’s very first Mobile Learning platform
BlackboardToGo! was the first aNTUna initiative rolled out in July 2002. This software application allows content located on edveNTUre Blackboard server to be downloaded to Personal Digital Assistants (PDA), i.e. Palm PDA or Pocket PC, for off-line browsing. With this application, students are able to revise their lecture materials while they are on the move. It runs as a supplementary channel to the wide-used Avantgo (http://www.avantgo.com) service commonly used by PDA users for accessing news, information and other reading articles. Lecture materials in Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Portable Document Format (PDF) and other file formats can be viewed with the necessary third party tools and viewers.
Arcstream (http://www.arcstream.com) provided the building block that integrates Avantgo within Blackboard 5.5 Learning Management System. Please refer to Figure 1 for a screen capture of aNTUna Blackboard ToGo!
Figure 1: aNTUna BlackboardToGo!
- Supported File Formats
Even though the initial response to aNTUna BlackboardToGo! back in July 2002 was overwhelming, professors and students soon discovered a major limitation with the portable devices: the syncing process only facilitates automatic download of text-based materials; non-text documents such as Microsoft PowerPoint, Word, Excel and Adobe PDF files are to be downloaded via the Microsoft Active Sync or Palm Hot Sync applications.
- On board Memory
This inconvenience is further hampered by the fact that PDAs are equipped with fairly low on-board memory (16MB or 32MB) and this is insufficient to house the relatively large-sized lecture documents. In those days (year 2002), memory cards are expensive and not widely adopted (unlike now) among the IT user community.
- PDA’s Adoption Rate
Owing to the high cost and the fact that it is not a full-fledged PC, PDAs are not widely adopted by the undergraduate students. On the other hand, many working post graduate students find aNTUna Blackboard ToGo! useful for downloading announcement and text-based materials such as course outline and lesson plans.
The aNTUna Blackboard To Go! service was in use by the NTU community from July 2002 to June 2004. It was discontinued in July 2004 when NTU upgraded their Blackboard enterprise system from version 5.5 to version 6.1 as the BlackboardToGo! system supports only Blackboard Learning Management System version 5.5.
With the lessons learned from this unsuccessful implementation of Mobile Learning initiative, the team from Centre for Educational Development in NTU decided to evaluate a new Mobile Learning platform for the University.