Open Access Research article

Evaluation of mobile learning: Students' experiences in a new rural-based medical school

Debra Nestel1, Andre Ng1, Katherine Gray1*, Robyn Hill1, Elmer Villanueva1, George Kotsanas2, Andrew Oaten1 and Chris Browne1

Author Affiliations

1 Gippsland Medical School, Monash University, Gippsland Campus, Northways Road, Churchill, Victoria, Australia

2 Medicine Nursing and Health Science, Monash University, Clayton Campus, Wellington Road, Clayton, Victoria, Australia

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BMC Medical Education 2010, 10:57  doi:10.1186/1472-6920-10-57

Published: 11 August 2010

Abstract

Background

Mobile learning (ML) is an emerging educational method with success dependent on many factors including the ML device, physical infrastructure and user characteristics. At Gippsland Medical School (GMS), students are given a laptop at the commencement of their four-year degree. We evaluated the educational impact of the ML program from students' perspectives.

Methods

Questionnaires and individual interviews explored students' experiences of ML. All students were invited to complete questionnaires. Convenience sampling was used for interviews. Quantitative data was entered to SPSS 17.0 and descriptive statistics computed. Free text comments from questionnaires and transcriptions of interviews were thematically analysed.

Results

Fifty students completed the questionnaire (response rate 88%). Six students participated in interviews. More than half the students owned a laptop prior to commencing studies, would recommend the laptop and took the laptop to GMS daily. Modal daily use of laptops was four hours. Most frequent use was for access to the internet and email while the most frequently used applications were Microsoft Word and PowerPoint. Students appreciated the laptops for several reasons. The reduced financial burden was valued. Students were largely satisfied with the laptop specifications. Design elements of teaching spaces limited functionality. Although students valued aspects of the virtual learning environment (VLE), they also made many suggestions for improvement.

Conclusions

Students reported many educational benefits from school provision of laptops. In particular, the quick and easy access to electronic educational resources as and when they were needed. Improved design of physical facilities would enhance laptop use together with a more logical layout of the VLE, new computer-based resources and activities promoting interaction.