Mobile Usability in Educational Contexts: What Have We Learnt?
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The majority of mobile learning activity continues to take place on devices that were not designed with educational applications in mind, and usability issues are often reported. The paper reflects on progress in approaches to usability and on recent developments, with particular reference to usability findings reported in a range of studies of mobile learning. The requirements of education are considered as well as the specific needs of students participating in distance education; discipline-specific perspectives and accessibility issues are also addressed. Usability findings from empirical studies of mobile learning published in the literature are drawn together in the paper, along with an account of issues that emerged in two mobile learning projects based at The Open University, UK, in 2001 and 2005. The main conclusions are: that usability issues are often reported in cases where PDAs have been used; that the future is in scenario-based design which should also take into account the evolution of uses over time and the unpredictability of how devices might be used; and that usability issues should be tracked over a longer period, from initial use through to a state of relative experience with the technology. The paper offers a checklist of factors impacting on the usability of mobile devices in education.