Innovation in workplace and language training; the Athabasca University mobile workplace project
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The need for studies on learning via mobile device, particularly how workplace and language training might be conducted, grows in importance, as more and more people become mobile device users. The Athabasca University (AU) Library has initiated a mobile workplace English project (www.wpeau.ca) to explore the effectiveness of mobile devices such as the iPhone in delivering interactive and multimedia content for the development of language and workplace skills for workers. The mobile workplace English project develops and tests innovative approaches to workplace language training using mobile devices in a variety of learning contexts. Students are able to access learning resources, in interactive module formats with multimedia rich content (such as text, audio, and video) on demand, with the goal of increasing their motivation and interest while facilitating self-directed study. This project was designed for adult learners of English who are already in the workplace. Vocabulary and workplace situations from a wide range of career fields were chosen to supplement the usual grammar lessons that they would have studied when they were “just” students. The key points of the lessons were kept but with a richer, more job-oriented focus to the lessons overall. Instead of studying the present perfect formation with “I have been learning English for four years,” worksite specific vocabulary was added to form sentences such as, “I have been welding on the pipeline for two months.” The project was implemented with adult learners at a college in Northern Alberta. The mobile workplace English site was accessed through 1st generation iPhones, on an EDGE network. The speed and access to the multi-media parts of this site were variable and contributed to the few negative student responses. The majority of the students tested liked to idea of learning using an iPhone and wanted to take classes that could be delivered with mobile technology. Following an examination of the site, the students answered approximately thirty questions on the ease and usability of the site answering questions such as, “the audio helped me learn from the lessons, “ and “ I would like to take more lessons with mobile learning.” The questionnaire and personal interviews were used as the main assessment tools for this project. This is where the technical challenges, the future areas of research, the positive and negative experiences that the students and instructors had with the content were recorded for researcher’s evaluation. The project supports research on how one-to-one mobile computing can improve language learning and workplace skills development, promote innovative professional practices and life-long learning. This presentation discusses the design, implementation and evaluation of the project. Benefits, opportunity and challenges of mobile workplace training will also be presented.