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Mobile Usability in Educational Contexts: What have we learnt?

  • Agnes Kukulska-Hulme The Open University
Keywords: Usability, mobile devices, PDAs, flexible learning, empirical studies, scenario-based design


The successful development of mobile learning is dependent on human factors in the use of new mobile and wireless technologies. The majority of mobile learning activity continues to take place on devices that were not designed with educational applications in mind, and usability issues are often reported. The paper reflects on progress in approaches to usability and on recent developments, with particular reference to usability findings reported in studies of mobile learning. The requirements of education are considered as well as the needs of students participating in distance education; discipline-specific perspectives and accessibility issues are also addressed. Usability findings from empirical studies of mobile learning published in the literature are drawn together in the paper, along with an account of issues that emerged in two mobile learning projects based at The Open University, UK, in 2001 and 2005. The main conclusions are: that usability issues are often reported in cases where PDAs have been used; that the future is in scenario-based design which should also take into account the evolution of uses over time and the unpredictability of how devices might be used; and that usability issues should be tracked over a longer period, from initial use through to a state of relative experience with the technology.

Author Biography

Agnes Kukulska-Hulme, The Open University
Dr Agnes Kukulska-Hulme is a senior lecturer in educational technology at The Open University, UK. She is also deputy director (IET staff development) of the Institute of Educational Technology. Dr. Kukulska-Hulme's email address is:
How to Cite
Kukulska-Hulme, A. (2007). Mobile Usability in Educational Contexts: What have we learnt?. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 8(2).