Imagine this: You’re standing at the podium, giving the biology lecture you spent hours preparing, and out of nowhere you hear the random sounds of the latest viral YouTube video being mistakenly played through a phone. You immediately know that one of your students was browsing social media instead of learning the material.

Recreational phone use during class time has become an epidemic. Many instructors have a difficult time managing student phone use, especially in a lecture-hall setting. So the question is, how can we make lemonade out of lemons? Gikas and Grant (2013) have examined the advantages and disadvantages of incorporating mobile computing devices into student learning. They defined this concept as mobile learning: formal or informal learning that is delivered and supported by mobile computing devices, such as cell phones, smartphones, or tablet computers.

One of the biggest advantages of mobile learning is the availability of content. With a mobile device, students can quickly access course content anywhere and everywhere. Mobile devices also allow for quick and convenient collaboration for both instructor and student through use of social media and apps specifically designed for course learning. They also offer a variety of ways to learn, particularly in regards to active learning techniques. Students can use mobile devices to easily create pictures or video projects related to course objectives.

When using mobile devices to enhance classroom learning, instructors must be aware of possible device challenges, such as malfunctioning apps, small keyboards, or complicated app interfaces. These devices may also serve as a distraction. Students may be tempted to quickly answer that text message or hop on Facebook in the middle of an assignment. As an instructor it is important to conduct activities that are fast-paced and engaging to discourage use of mobile devices for purposes outside of learning.

UTC has their own mobile learning app: UTC Learn Mobile. Instructors and students may use this app to check grades, view course content, receive alerts about the course, and more. For more active student learning in real-time, the Walker Center for Teaching and Learning recommends using the free REEF Polling system, where students can answer questions and collaborate together in real time, right from their devices. Find out more about REEF here: https://blog.utc.edu/walker-center-teaching-learning/2015/05/22/iclickergo-replaced-with-reef-polling/

Mobile computing devices can be a great asset to your students’ learning when employed effectively. Instructors should actively lead all classroom use of mobile devices and create a clear standard of participation to discourage potential misuse of these devices during class time.


Reference: Gikas, J., & Grant, M. M. (2013). Mobile computing devices in higher education: Student perspectives on learning with cellphones, smartphones & social media. The Internet and Higher Education, 19, 18-26.

Cait Carney

Cait is a 2nd year graduate student in the Industrial-Organizational Psychology M.S. program at UTC. As a native Floridian, she obtained her B.S. from Florida State University in 2014 with a double major in Psychology and Family & Child Sciences. She is currently a Graduate Assistant in the Walker Center for Teaching and Learning and teaches an undergraduate Statistics in Psychology Laboratory course. She also works as a HR consultant in her spare time.

Tagged with:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *