Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Mobile Devices for Tertiary Study by Remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women

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 mobile devices.
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.


Townsend, P. (2015). Mobile Devices for Tertiary Study–Philosophy Meets Pragmatics for Remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women. The Australian Journal of Indigenous Education, 1-11.

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