One recent interesting development in mobile learning has been the creation of mobile interfaces for Online Learning Environments. Here at the University of Canberra, I’ve been investigating one particular extension for the University’s new Moodle-based learning environment: the free and open source Mobile Learning Engine (MLE).
MLE provides a mobile interface to Moodle in two different ways.
- It features a custom Java application, capable of running on the majority of contemporary mobile phones. Some testing on different handsets shows that this Java application run on different handsets and at different resolutions. The big advantage of a custom Java application as a mobile interface is that the entire interface is dedicated to accessing Moodle functionality, rather than trying to fit Moodle menus and commands within a web browser, with its own menus and commands. As an example of how this simplifies things, the MLE interface has its own internal bookmarking system, which operates consistently between handsets. By contrast, different handsets designed by different manufacturers each have their own web browser which implements bookmarks in different ways, making it very difficult to train a user in how to bookmark a Moodle page as the process is specific to their device.
- For handsets that cannot install the Java application to access Moodle, a standard web/browser-based interface can be used to access MLE. This provides a “fallback” for students wishing to access Moodle but unable to install Java, or, for example, using a friend’s phone to quickly check their online course materials.
Of particular interest to me is MLE’s implementation of “Mobile Tags” – a QR Code reader built into its Java client. While this doesn’t appear to work on my handset, it has a lot of potential in terms of supporting situated learning activities and linking realia and printed learning resources with online and rich media via mobile devices.
I’ve had a chance to play with our own implementation of MLE, and while it may need a little polishing, it’s well on the way to being an excellent product for mobile learning.