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Mobile Communications Technologies for Young Adults Learning and Skills Development

Objective

Some young adults most in need of education and training have little inclination to learn or to engage with conventional learning locations and processes.
They are discouraged by learning processes perceived as difficult, old-fashioned or boring.
Mobile phones are popular with, and already owned by many, young adults to whom they are fashion accessories as well as communications tools.
Project m-learning will investigate the feasibility of delivering micro-modules of on-line learning via technologies which are portable, easy to use and exciting, using mobile phones, palmtop computers and other personal digital devices.
The consortium will develop prototype literacy, numeric modules (including advanced speech and language technology facilities) and an intelligent tutor to assist in identifying learners needs and preferences and planning their learning. Internet microportals will be developed to provide the interface between learners and both the learning modules and other Internet based information and services. Trials will take place with young adults in the UK and Italy.

Objectives:
m-learning addresses 3 social/educational problems relating to many young adults in the EU:
- Poor literacy/numeracy, e.g. Improving Literacy and Numeracy: A Fresh Start (UK DfEE 1999) and Literacy in the Information Age (Statistics Canada & OECD 1997);
- Non participation in conventional education/training e.g. Learning Works (UK DfEE 1999);
- Lack of access creating ICT "haves"/ "have nots" resulting in inequality of opportunity e.g. "Closing the Digital Divide: ICT in Deprived Areas" (UK government 2000).

m-learning's will develop prototype products to provide information and modules of learning via inexpensive, portable technologies which are already owned by or readily accessible for the majority of EU young adults.
The products will seek to attract young adults to learning and assist in the development and achievement of life long learning objectives.

m-learning's target audiences will be young adults who are:
- not in education or training (including unemployed);
- mobile, casual, temporary or self-employed or in low paid/ low skill employment with literacy or numeric development needs.

Work description:
Research elements of m-learning will include:
- An analysis of current standards in the field of learning object representation to inform development of intelligent tutor and to inform development workpackages' decisions as to appropriate standards to apply;
- an initial investigation followed by a continuously updated technology watch service to identify, review and select from current and emerging mobile communications technologies with potential for use as delivery vehicles for m-learning information and learning modules, taking into account medical research into possible health hazards associated with excessive use of mobile phones;
- a survey of young adults use of mobile technologies exploring needs, preferences, attitudes, habits and experiences, followed by research focussing on the potential of m-learning for specific groups e.g. those with sensory impairments;
- research into the use of games machines by young adults;
- work with groups of learners to identify design approaches for the internet micro portals user interface to m-learning modules which will encourage independent exploration of on-line resources and empower learners to exercise choice whilst facilitating ease of use and making m-learning enjoyable;
- Initial and on-going desk research to identify other relevant research projects which might inform m-learning developments.

Development work with m-learning will include:
- Design, development and trailing of a prototype multi-agent "intelligent" system to evaluate learner knowledge and preferred learning styles/strategies and assist with personal development planning including tailoring of micro- courses to suit individual needs;
- Design, development and trailing of prototype multimedia modules for use via mobile technologies to deliver aspects of literacy and numeric skills;
- Incorporating advanced voice technology functionality to maximise the potential of handheld devices;
- Development of microportals and interfaces tailored to the needs of specific groups of users within m-learning's target audiences and to different levels of technology;
- Translation of prototypes and microportals developed to achieve both English and Italian versions.

Milestones:
It is expected that commercial m-learning products will be developed based on the prototype literacy and numeric modules and microportals developed by this project.
The capability of mobile communications devices to deliver aspects of learning, and the design principles which motivate users to use such devices, will have been investigated and assessed.

Key milestones:
- phase 1 progress report (month 6);
- completion of phase 1 (end month 10);
- completion of intelligent tutor;
- microportals and learning modules ready for trials (month 24);
- project completion (month 36).

Funding Scheme

CSC - Cost-sharing contracts

Coordinator

THE LEARNING AND SKILLS DEVELOPMENT AGENCY
Address
Regent Arcade House, 19-25 Argyll Street
W1F 7LS London
United Kingdom

Participants (4)

CAMBRIDGE TRAINING AND DEVELOPMENT LTD
United Kingdom
Address
The Paddocks, 347 Cherry Hinton Road
CB1 8DH Cambridge
CENTRO DI RICERCA IN MATEMATICA PURA ED APPLICATA - CONSORZIO
Italy
Address
Via Ponte Don Melillo
84084 Fisciano (Salerno)
LECANDO AB
Sweden
Address
Voltavaegen 2-4
168 69 Bromma
ULTRALAB, ANGLIA POLYTECHNIC UNIVERSITY
United Kingdom
Address
Bishop Hall Lane
CM1 1SQ Chelmsford