Clark Quinn has just published another book on mLearning, his second this year. The latest work, The Mobile Academy: mLearning for Higher Education, is intended as a guide to strategy and implementation of mobile learning for administrators, instructional support staff, and faculty. As such, it is direct, to the point, and extremely practical.

Research and thinking

In the Foreword, John C. Ittelson, Director of Outreach to the California Virtual Campus and Professor of Telecommunications, Multi-Media, and Applied Computing at California State University Monterey Bay (CSUMB), says, “Reports such as the Horizon Report and organizations such as EDUCAUSE and other leadership groups point to transformational change that is beginning to occur. How you put this in context, evaluate, and plan for this coming sea change will determine the course of education, and no one has done more research or thinking about these issues than Clark Quinn.” In the pages that follow, Quinn provides the background information needed to successfully put together a strategy for harnessing the fundamental revolution in education brought about by mobile devices, through mobile learning solutions.

In addition to a model for mobile learning, Clark offers advice and examples on implementing mobile for administrative needs, supporting delivery of content and meaningful practice, incorporating social learning, and anticipating emerging modalities such as Augmented Reality, Alternate Reality, and Adaptive Delivery. His discussion of each of these areas includes checklists that will guide implementation and questions that will help the reader consider how to apply the information to make the higher education process more effective.

What’s in the book?

In this very concise book, Clark Quinn has packed an amazing amount of information. He begins with two chapters that provide the foundations needed to understand just what mobile is, and how it relates to learning. These Foundation chapters are the longest ones in the book, although at about 14 pages each they are by no means “long.” As I said, the treatment is very concise.

In the first of the Foundation chapters, Quinn provides his convergent model that demonstrates just how powerful mobile devices have become. Many of us take our smartphones almost for granted, until we look at all the functions they really can perform. He also recaps his “four C’s” of mobile capabilities, which he introduced in Designing mLearning earlier this year. The reader will come away from this chapter with a new appreciation of the benefits that mobile devices offer to higher education.

In the next chapter, Clark provides a review of learning, in a way that provides a shared vocabulary and puts the focus on formal change. He provides another recap of ideas he has presented in earlier work, the seven C’s of learning. At the same time, he introduces additional concepts that are essential to understanding how best to use mobile capabilities, such as spaced practice and scaffolding, problem-based learning, social learning, and performance support.

The rest of the book proceeds, in chapters of about ten to twelve pages each, to give very precise guides for mobile administration, content and media, interactivity and assessment, the use of social media and emerging technologies in a mobile context, and dealing with organizational issues. These chapters are long enough to spark creative thought about ways to apply the ideas presented, and short enough to avoid belaboring the points. There are plenty of examples, illustrations, checklists, and bullet points. The treatment is by no means superficial; it simply respects the reader’s time and intelligence.

Why this book? Why now?

Although 90% of the world population now has access to mobile networks, and even though there are 116 subscriptions to mobile services for every 100 eligible individuals, higher education, for the most part, has been slow to adopt the technology. Less than 25% of these institutions have embraced mobile learning and administration, creating a serious mismatch between the services provided and the expectations of the students on most campuses.

More serious than this mismatch is the missed opportunity for deeper and more persistent learning. As Quinn points out, “Mobile is not a cure but is a tool to achieve the ends, and consequently it is a catalyst for change.” Other sectors – corporate, government, and even K-12 education – are moving quickly to apply mobile technology. There are many ways to make use of mobile devices in the classroom, and to extend the learning experience, and these ways are growing even more rapidly with the introduction of tablets.

In addition to the stated purpose of the book, I think that Clark Quinn has also produced a work that will be useful in settings other than higher education. If, for example, you are looking for a quick overview of mobile learning that you can provide to busy executives, The Mobile Academy could be a great choice.

Business has already discovered that it is essential to have a clear strategy for accommodating mobile. Universities, where the implementation of these technologies is more complex and challenging, have an even greater need for a plan and a system to keep up with rapid changes in the mobile field. In my opinion, Clark Quinn has provided an excellent foundation for creating such a strategic plan.

Bibliographic information

Quinn, Clark N. (2011) The Mobile Academy: mLearning for Higher Education. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. 120 pages. ISBN 978-1-118-07265-3. $36.52 (Paperback); $22.00 (Kindle Edition)

Barnes and Noble (online): $35.50 (Paperback); $32.00 (Nook Book)

Jossey-Bass (online): $40.00 (Paperback)