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Supportive Framework and Innovative Mobile Application to Augment Mobile Collaborative Learning (MCL) Activities

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With deployment of modern technologies, interest of people have diverted from Computer-Supported learning to mobile-supported learning. Mobile learning is greatly demanded in educational organizations to demonstrate the pedagogical activities. Some of MCL supportive frameworks and applications have been introduced in numerous fields to advance the activities of those organizations but they require more succinct standard to sustain collaboration successfully. This paper introduces the new marking and heuristic evaluation method that provides educational support and gives entire picture for developing new educational group application for MCL. The features of application support asynchronous and synchronous collaboration. To authenticate various features of application, usability testing is conducted that helps to find the feedback of users. Further, application aims to improve learning impact and educate people at anytime and anywhere. General terms: Theory, Development, Usability testing.
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Supportive Framework and Innovative Mobile
Application to Augment Mobile Collaborative
Learning (MCL) Activities
Abdul Razaque Member, IEEE Khaled Elleithy, Senior Member, IEEE
Computer science and Engineering department Computer science and Engineering department
University of Bridgeport, Bridgeport, CT 06604, USA University of Bridgeport, Bridgeport, CT 06604, USA
1
arazaque@bridgeport.edu
2
elleithy@bridgeport.edu
Abstract With deployment of modern technologies,
interest of people have diverted from Computer-
Supported learning to mobile-supported learning. Mobile
learning is greatly demanded in educational organizations
to demonstrate the pedagogical activities. Some of MCL
supportive frameworks and applications have been
introduced in numerous fields to advance the activities of
those organizations but they require more succinct
standard to sustain collaboration successfully. This paper
introduces the new marking and heuristic evaluation
method that provides educational support and gives entire
picture for developing new educational group application
for MCL. The features of application support
asynchronous and synchronous collaboration. To
authenticate various features of application, usability
testing is conducted that helps to find the feedback of
users. Further, application aims to improve learning
impact and educate people at anytime and anywhere.
General terms: Theory, Development, Usability testing.
Keywords: empirical results, group application, MCL, mobiles,
usability testing, marking and heuristic evaluation, user
requirements.
I. INTRODUCTION
Mobile learning has highly attracted new generation to deploy
in educational environment. Mobiles are easily accessible,
ubiquitous and portable devices and used by the majority of
people anywhere and anytime. Mobile telephony connects the
large numbers of potential and sophisticated learners through
communication networks. This situation indicates that there is
high potential for increasing the pedagogical learning with
mobile devices [6]. MCL is a highly multidisciplinary learning
paradigm around the world [1].
It attracts the people through new phenomenal way and its
pedagogical, theoretical, technical and organizational
structures being deployed [4] & [5]. MCL initiates a new
rationales and paradigms to deliver learning materials into our
daily life [8]. Many mobile communication frameworks
promote the mobile learning through the learning portal by
using Internet, sending SMS and voice communication. MCL
could be made more effective due to convergence of
promising interactive features of audio, video, web and new
emerging mobile technologies in one package. Many pilot
projects have already been launched to meet the requirements
of distance education as part of e-learning to satisfy the
demand of information and communication technology (ICT)
for promoting the learning environments [7]. The main focus
of the projects is to develop specific applications with limited
features such as introduction of courses and quizzes.
The review of some usability testing and empirical survey on
the latest status of MCL that explores alternatives to help the
educational institutions to fulfill major functions of
processing, storage and disseminating information that can be
deployed with the issues of real life [9] & [10]. However
existing literature is not sufficient for developing more
powerful and general mobile application to meet most of the
basic user requirements.
The leading mobile application should have some interactive
features to support self-directed, cognitive and constructivist
quality for increasingly mobile learners to meet the
educational targets. The thirst in exploring the new
application, leads us to introduce new usability testing method
with support of heuristic evaluation for devising the basic user
requirement for MCL. On the basis of collected information,
we synthesize the new group application with very promising
features to support pedagogical, organizational, social and
other environments. Initially, validating the some of the
important features of Group application conducted the post
usability testing to find out the some core activities being used
in MCL.
The remaining part of this paper is organized as follows:
Section II presents related work, In section III, ranking method
and heuristic evaluation is presented, which help to discover
the basic user requirements for designing and developing new
mobile application, section IV discusses the development of
group application. To validate some features of MCL, section
V discusses the usability testing and finally, conclusion of the
paper is given in section V.
II. RELATED WORK
There are many related contributions that provide strong
support for importance of our new usability testing and group
application. A major study done in Mobile Learning
Environments (MLE) project was funded by Nordic
Innovation Center. This project provided the forum to invite
the people from businesses, universities and government
organizations. The focus of the project was to introduce the
pedagogical game-like practices in primary school systems of
Nordic countries. The tests were conducted at Denmark,
Finland and Sweden. The encouraging outcome of the project
was to motivate the researchers to design pedagogical tools
and applications [11].
The various types of mobile applications with general patterns
of interactions are suggested in [12]. The paper also focuses
on user study with low-fidelity and conduct paper-prototypes
to analyze them. The results provide the guidelines and best
practices for the design and development of general mobile
applications [12]. The theme of the paper is to introduce an
idea for development process of mobile application. The work
is handy but it does not target any issues faced by users during
the MCL. The Authors in [13] present the basic method of
data collections such as interview, observation, questionnaire,
survey and verbal protocol, which are employed for
conducting the usability test of mobile application. The
developed application covers the limited aspects for
collaboration. Another contribution in [14] targets to desktop
computing and subsequently leads for development of the
conceptual models that helps for evaluation of mobile phone
application. The authors mainly create the usability metric to
analyze the mobile application.
Quality in Use Integrated Measurement (QUIM) is presented
in [15]. QUIM helps the beginner who has trivial knowledge
about the usability. This model covers 10 factors, which are
categorized into 26 criteria. The model provides 127 metrics
to measure the criteria. The model also helps in identifying the
problem of working applications. However, the model is
supporting the beginning process of usability testing but needs
to be validated.
The authors in [16] have proposed a prototype for their
participatory design project supported by inter generational
design group to build mobile application and incorporate into
iP Phone and iPod touch environment. The contribution
provides the opportunities to bring the children and
grandparents together by reading and editing the books. They
focus on specific filed but work is not handling the issues
required for effective MCL. The work already done in
previous papers do not provide the detailed information for
building very promising application for MCL that may handle
the issues for delivery of large rich multimedia contents
(video-on-demand), administrator rights to teachers to check
their courses and evaluate the progress of students,
asynchronous and synchronous collaboration, support for
multi model, provision for archive updating, user friendly
interface, middleware support, virtual support.
III. RANKING METHOD & HEURISTIC EVALUATION
The most significant and challenging tasks for designing and
developing the mobile applications are to determine the basic
requirements for end users and how needs of users may be
fulfilled and satisfied through applications. To meet the target
of users, ranking method with heuristic evaluation is the best
practice to figure out the acceptable solutions. The suitability
of applications is evaluated later, when the prototypes are
tested and implemented, however usability testing makes the
work of bridging the users with applications.
A. Set objectives
In order to conduct ranking, we analyze various features of
MCL; some of them are already found in literature and
arrange them according to feedback obtained from human
interaction. These features provide the foundation to create
new ranking method based on pre-usability testing method.
This method involves the both genders including students,
teachers, teaching Assistant and Administrators. Furthermore,
our ranking method is based on two phases. In the first phase,
we collect the user requirements through literature survey,
interviews, coordination with experts of field to get valuable
suggestions and comments. In the second phase, we sort out
most influential basic requirements of users through
questionnaire.
B. Participation of organizations
The sources of collecting the information are Face book, vista
survey and personal interactions. The process of coordination
and conducting the interviews continued for four days. We
summarize the findings and comparing them with existing
literature survey. Finally, we combine all features by using
intersection strategy. The participants of 15 universities
became the part of this task. This task involves 106 users
including 58 students, 23 teachers, 14 teaching assistants and
11 administrators from both genders. It helps in collecting the
following user requirements given as follows:
Interface should be easy to use
Asynchronous Collaboration
Synchronous Collaboration
To support multimodal MCL
To provide Archive updating
Should be User friendly interface.
To get a help from middle ware
To give virtual support
To provide application sharing facility and make easy
text communication
To provide admission functionality, if any user wants to
participate in middle of the session.
The administrators should be provided the opportunities
to record the collaborative activities of students and
teachers during the whole session or any specific period
of time
To provide the opportunities for interactive and shard
white board
Users may need short start time for collaboration
Server should provide content adoption service
The Students should have alternative choices in selecting
any topic for discussion
The Students should have access to check the comments
given by teacher regarding their performance and grades
The teacher should include critical notes for the
performance of each student after completion of MCL
session and provide the feedback to improve in future
To provide audio and video communication only
To provide connectivity management support
To provide the support for session management
To provide the checking facilities to instructor to check
the group members
To provide the freedom of thoughts to participating
group members
Server should give the message of information updating
To provide the facility of translation of audio, video and
text to other languages
Client should give notification of his/her availability
To provide the support for user role
Portfolio should be created in order to store an
information regarding the course
To include group manager component
The methods of communication should be direct or
mediated
The available digital materials should be integrated easily
Instructor should dedicate time to monitor the progress of
participating members
To provide the support to handle the shared information
To provide privacy and safety
To provide the facility to contact and invite the
participating for collaboration
The communication should be based on broadcast with
support of multicasting
To make small participating group for collaboration
To be flexible to collect and extract the data.
To provide text, graphs, images, audio and video services
to meet the requirements of related course of study.
The teachers should have complete access to administer
their courses and evaluate the progress of students
C. Analysis of features and selection of basic requirments
All selected items are evaluated by applying second phase
of ranking method based on questionnaire with support of
248 participants. These participants belong to education,
business, social organizations and common people. Vista
survey, face book, personal relationships helped to reach
to those people to be part of ranking for finding the most
basic user requirements. This activity helps to meet the
pedagogical requirements through MCL.
We have used five-level Likert item in questionnaire,
which helps to specify the level of agreement for each
item. The Likert method covers the Strongly Agree= 1,
Agree= 2, Neutral/No Opinion= 3, Disagree= 4 and
strongly disagree= 5. Finally, we get empirical results,
which are useful to understand the type of applications
required for designing and developing for MCL. We sort
out only the items, which have "strongly agree", "agree"
and "Neutral/No Opinion" response. The items against
any disagreement or strongly disagreement response are
received that are not considered as basic requirements.
We introduce scaling values against each response such as
strongly agree = 100 points, agree = 75 Points and
Neutral/ No Opinion = 50 Points. The points for each user
requirements are calculated with following formula.
Mean Points for Each basic requirements= (Strongly
Agree + Agree + No Opinion)/3
The formula helps in calculating the values for each
items, which are given against each basic requirements
explained in table 1.
TABLE 1: BASIC USER REQUIREMENTS
All of these testing procedures are helpful to
understand the type of applications required for MCL.
Based on the above results, we introduce innovative
client-server based prototypes and mobile application"
group" that meet the pedagogical targets of end users.
IV. DESIGN OF GROUP APPLICATION
Before MCL is a newly emerging revolution for pedagogical
requirements for all type of educational institutions. It allows
the users to get computer-based information through mobile
devices.MCL supports portability, connectivity, context
awareness and social interaction [2]. Mobile is successful
influential tool for collaboration, allowing the students to
Description of Basic Requirement
Mean
Value
Should be easy to use
100%
Should be User friendly interface
100%
To be flexible to collect and extract the data.
99.698%
To provide text, graphs, images, audio and video services
to meet the requirements of related course of study
99.497%
The teachers should have complete access to administer
their courses and evaluate the progress of students.
98.995%
To support multimodal MCL
98.09%
The administrators should be provided the opportunities
to record the collaborative activities of students and
teachers during the whole session or any specific period
of time.
97.59%
The teacher should include critical notes for the
performance of each student after completion of MCL
session and provide the feedback to improve in future.
97.48%
The Students should have access to check the comments
given by teacher regarding their performance and grades
97.289%
To provide the checking facilities to instructor to check
the group members
90.00%
The methods of communication should be direct or
mediated
89.35%
To provide privacy and safety
88.35%
To provide the facility to contact and invite the
participating for collaboration
83.83%
share and update the information for obtaining the targeted
pedagogical activities. From one side, mobile creates the
bridge of opportunities, and from other side, limitations make
the hindrance for effective MCL. The limitations, which
highly degrade the performance of portable handheld devices,
are small size of screen, mobility, low resolution, navigation
issue, limited memory and bandwidth. The emerging
technologies make this task easier and accessible for all.
The development of general mobile application that covers the
many features for MCL can resolve the deep desire of students
to make possible collaboration with mobile anytime and
anywhere. Therefore our pre-usability testing gives the
complete picture for developing the mobile application that
will help the students to get the requested contents from server
to fulfill the course requirements. We focus to develop
application "group" with support of SDK and Visual basic and
running on android operating system (OS) shown in figure 1
with other working functional components, which consists of
control option and delivery option. The control option
performs the functionalities of add new contact, edit contact,
delete contact, existing collaborative group (C-G) and make
new C-G. Delivery option covers the function of receive and
send. When user requests for contents from server side, uses
delivery option and saves with help of store component.
Figure 1. Group application with working functional components
The store component is core area of mobile where different
type of data including file, audio and video are available to be
obtained from server for MCL. The store component has also
download option. The participants can use this option for
downloading the data and storing onto Really Simple
Syndication (RSS) 2.O for collaboration purposes.
We developed the RSS (website), which provides the RSS
feed to all the users to put and get contains frequently. Each
section of store component manages the various files, audio
and video. If once data is obtained that will be saved onto the
store component of mobile and uploaded in relevant RSS feed.
The upload section helps the user to store all types of data in
RSS feed to be availed by participants member of same group
for MCL. When user finishes the process of storing the data in
its own RSS feed then informs the collaborative group by
sending multicasting message to participate. The figure 3
shows main architecture that helps to get the contents and
store contents.
When participants of group obtains the message for MCL and
go to download the data from RSS feed of requested user.
When they complete the process of downloading the required
information from RSS feed of requested user, starts to process
the MCL. If participating members of group need file for
MCL, therefore open the file to obtain the information of the
contents. In case the information of file is not sufficient to
clear their understanding about the topic then play the video of
related information.
The group application provides utility to manage and control
the data with its relevant options. If type of data is based on
only "text" then file option is used, otherwise audio and video
options are used. When each of collaborative members get to
know about topic, subsequently starts the process of MCL by
using existing collaborative group (Existing CG) option to
watch the lecture given in figure 2.
The process can be supported by using H.323 at the server
side to facilitate the real-time audio and video communication.
The H.323 protocol will help to collaborative members to
discuss the contents after reading and watching the video of
related information. The important feature of H.323 is
provision of point-to-multipoint, which creates the
opportunities for all to participate simultaneously. The Quality
of service can also be maintained by using H.323 [3]. With
implementation of this application, MCL can be more
successful with various promising features [17].
Figure 2. Students watching live lecture using framework
V. USABILITY TESTING
In this section, we discuss post usability testing for group
application based on heuristics and questionnaires. We choose
the field test method that was conducted in the main lobby of
North Hall in Bridgeport University and 08 participants took a
part in application testing process. The tests evaluate the
usability of group application. With this application, the users
can transfer files between laptops and the mobiles. The
usability of group application testing procedure invites the
multiple types of participants because many are familiar and
belonging to mobile and wireless communication field and
fewer possess less expertise in this field but know how to use
mobile devices to make MCL. Some users are using the
chat service process to validate the performance of features
shown in figure 3.
Figure 3. Live chat for exchange the information
After completion of questionnaire, we arrange the meeting
in which all the participants come and share their experience
and give their impression regarding the test. We also get
suggestions regarding the redesign and modification of
application. When participants leave the room, we compile
the results and arrange in form of table for better
understanding shown in table 2.
Figure 4. Testing process of some features of group applications
We devise the testing method using three steps. First, we
introduce the testing procedure from design phase to
conducting the test. Second, make all the related operations
of group application and finally, we give the questionnaire
to all the participants based on 5-level Likert method, so that
participants give the answers after completing the
appropriate tasks.
TABLE 2. Showing the remarks of participants after usability testing
Post Usability Testing of fields
Comments of
participants
Should be easy to use
Strong Positive=08
Positive=00
Neutral=00
Negative=00
Strong Negative=00
Should be User friendly interface
Strong Positive=08
Positive=00
Neutral=00
Negative=00
Strong Negative=00
To be flexible to collect and extract the data.
Strong Positive=06
Positive=01
Neutral=01
Negative=00
Strong Negative=00
To provide text, graphs, images, audio and
video services to meet the requirements of
related course of study
Strong Positive=06
Positive=01
Neutral=01
Negative=00
Strong Negative=00
To support multimodal MCL
Strong Positive=05
Positive=01
Neutral=02
Negative=00
Strong Negative=00
The Students should have alternative choices
for selecting any topic to discuss.
Strong Positive=03
Positive=02
Neutral=02
Negative=01
Strong Negative=00
To provide the facility to contact and invite
the members for collaboration
Strong Positive=02
Positive=03
Neutral=03
Negative=00
Strong Negative=00
VI. CONLUSION AND FUTURE WORK
Advancement of innovative technologies in mobile
communication and correct use of usability testing introduce
highly featured mobile applications. Therefore, it is essential
to synthesize and adopt meaningful research methodologies
in conducting the usability testing. The contribution goes to
creation of successful educational learning environment and
development of highly supportive MCL application. This
paper targets some of the major challenges being faced to
enhance the student learning outcomes.
The study of existing empirical literature and pre-usability
testing based on interviews, questionnaire and heuristic
evaluation highlight some features having importance for
designing and developing the MCL application. Most of the
mobile learning applications are limited to short-funded
pilot projects, which were developed for special purposes or
individual courses offered by their institutions. The most
motivating and encouraging factor, which greatly impact on
the success or failure of MCL depends on balancing of
technology and human factors, how to create an effective
pedagogical paradigm to support the various major basic
user requirements for obtaining the contents through mobile
devices. In addition, the way we spend our daily life in
shopping, working, playing, learning highly being affected
due to mobility of busy schedule. To control over some
significant issues and providing an easy access of MCL at
anytime and everywhere, introduce new group application.
It provides user friendly interface, access to administrators
to record the collaborative activities of students and
teachers, asynchronous and synchronous collaboration,
multi model support, provision for archive updating,
providing the facility to contact and invite the participants
for collaboration, middleware support, virtual support and
delivery of large rich multimedia contents (video-on-
demand). Finally, we validate our claim by conducting the
post usability testing and heuristic evaluation. In future, we
will introduce more supporting features and software
threads to complete MCL for different organizations.
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