Supporting Student-Initiated Mobile Device Use in Online Learning

Karen Milheim, Christy Fraenza, Kim Palermo-Kielb


Understanding the experiences of students who self-initiate mobile device use for online courses or course-related activities provides institutions with valuable insights. In this study, we report how students enrolled in online courses in higher education voluntarily used mobile devices for their coursework and course-related activities, the challenges in using these devices, and how they managed those challenges. We surveyed 103 college students enrolled in one or more fully online courses regarding their habits in using mobile devices for online learning. Findings reveal most participants use mobile devices for convenience, portability, and overall ease of use. The way the devices are used for course-related activities varies, however, with reasons ranging from taking notes and reading course materials, to downloading those materials, communicating, socializing, and other purposes. Challenges when using these devices often relate to access issues and overall limitations of the technology. Yet, despite these limitations, some reported that, depending on the task, even though using a mobile device often took longer compared to a laptop or PC, the convenience of using it was a greater benefit. Participants were surveyed about their experiences prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, providing additional perspectives for possible future research focused on emergency circumstances to remote teaching or alternative forms of instruction. Additionally, this study provides a foundation of how and why students choose to use mobile devices for coursework and in what ways they may need support from their institutions related to their use.


online learning, mobile device use, student support, mobile learning, student experience

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