The rise and rise of mobile learning

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I have been collecting together examples the past few weeks of when higher education institutions started rolling out these ‘iPads for every student’ programs. While the world read those attention grabbing headlines, a larger number of institutions have been sliently spending vastly more money, but with much less exposure, on supporting Bring Your Own Device strategies and building out wireless networks across their campuses to support this. These huge investments in mobile learning technologies in higher education¬†– for both free devices and BYOD – appears to have really started gaining momentum from 2008 onwards.

By coincidence I did a Google Scholar search on “mobile learning” last night.  Google Scholar indexes scholarly literature including journal and conference papers, theses and dissertations, academic books, pre-prints, abstracts and technical reports. I decided to conduct a year-by-year search from 2000 through to 2012 using the Advanced Search tools, and stuck the data into Excel so that I could chart it. The resulting line chart reveals the rise of mobile learning research from just over a hundred articles published in 2000 to over 6,000 published in 2012. That’s not cumulative, that’s 6,000 in a year! You can clearly see how mobile learning research really takes off in the second half of the decade, coinciding perfectly with the first wave of institutional spending in mobile technology.


Image: Google Scholar results for “mobile learning” by year

Now, would anyone like to read 6,000 research papers? That’d be a lifetime’s work for someone…

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