Townsend (2015) outlines his PhD research on mobile learning for Aboriginal
and Torres Strait Islander female pre-service teachers in very remote
Australian communities. He proposes mobile devices to counter the low
completion rates for Initial Teacher Education (ITE) programs in South
Australia (SA) Queensland (Qld). These programs have a 36% completion
rate nationally, which itself is not good, but only 15% in remote
communities. Townsend argues that mobile learning particularly suits
this group of students who have a "collective or corporate
understanding" and posits it will improve completion rates.
Townsend (2015) studied 64 students, but not all used mobile devices.
I had difficulty working out from the paper exactly how many did.
Townsend (2015) found that students want videos suitable for mobile
devices of the on-campus lectures and seminars (apparently the students
don't get all the materials in a format they can use). Also
announcements should be sent to the students’ mobile devices.This
appears to indicate a failing with the configuration of the learning
software used. The video lecture system and learning management system I
use will, by default provide versions of videos and announcements for
The third student requirement reported by Townsend (2015) is non-technical:
"... give frequent personal praise,
sympathy or emotional support as appropriate through the changing
circumstances of a student's life directly to students’ mobile devices
to ensure a student remains engaged in study".
How frequent the support is required is not stated. I provide each
on-line student in the courses I teach an individual person message each
week. I first positively comment on something the student did, before
making suggestions for improvement.
However, this may not be common. In
courses I have been a student of, it is rare for students to receive
this level of attention, hearing from the tutor in person perhaps once a
month. In some courses I have not received any personal message from
the tutor at all over a three month course.
Townsend (2015) points to the value of mobile learning in terms of
place, time, and pace of study, with work, family commitments and health
issues preventing students from attending a class in person, even when
they are in proximity to a study center. He also details the benefits in
terms of collaboration between students from e-learning (I have found
this as a student).
While these benefits of m-learning apply to the community generally,
but to a lesser degree. Those in an urban environment are not so far
from a university campus and may have better access through a laptop or
desktop computer than in a remote indigenous community. However, issues
of family and cultural obligations, along with ill-health, can prevent
access to conventional campuses and study.
Rather than treat very remote indigenous students as a special case
and provide them with special programs, I suggest that tertiary studies
should be, by default designed on the assumption the student will be
remote and part time. It is well past the time when a student could be assumed to be full time on campus and not have any work, family or cultural obligations.