Balancing learner agency and technological support in mobile learning activities

Esther Tan

Rapid technological advancement has given rise to unprecedented ubiquitous opportunities to increase learner agency in mobile inquiry-based learning. This article presents a review of 62 studies on mobile inquiry-based learning with a focus on learner agency and technological support. The review presented a three-step analysis to identify the amount and measure of agency support in mobile inquiry-based learning.

The authors first identified 12 types of mobile learning activities in five core categories: i) direct instruction (location, procedural & metacognitive guidance); ii) access to content (fixed & dynamic content); iii) data collection (cooperative & collaborative); iv) peer to peer communication (asynchronous & synchronous); and v) contextual support (augmented, immersive & adaptive).

Next, the 12 types of mobile learning activities were scored against six dimensions of learner agency: i) goal; ii) content; iii) actions; iv) strategies; v) reflection; and vi) monitoring.
In the final step of analysis, the authors showed how the six-dimensional analytical framework could be used to identify, as well as to design mobile learning activities that effectively balance learner agency with mobile technologies as learning support.

Metacognitive guidance, learners’ access to content and contextual support are some of the important aspects for design consideration in order to enhance learner agency. Importantly, ubiquitous technologies do not necessary bring about autonomous learning. For learners to take greater ownership of their learning process, optimal support and instructional scaffolds in lesson design is pivotal. 

Article: Suárez, Á., Specht, M., Prinsen, F., Kalz, M., & Ternier, S. (2018). A review of the types of mobile activities in mobile inquiry-based learning. Computers & Education118, 38-55.