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Learning from anywhere, anytime: The use of mobile technologies for educational purposes

This contribution is a excerpt from my latest article that was published by Springer’s Technology, Knowledge and Learning (Journal). The content has been adapted for this blog post.

Suggested citation: Camilleri, M.A. & Camilleri, A.C. (2022). Learning from anywhere, anytime: Utilitarian motivations and facilitating conditions to use mobile learning applications. Technology, Knowledge and Learninghttps://doi.org/10.1007/s10758-022-09608-8


University students are using mobile technologies to improve their learning outcomes. In the past years, a number of academic authors contended that educational apps were supporting many students in different contexts Butler et al., 2021; Crompton & Burke, 2018; Hamidi & Chavoshi, 2018; Sung et al., 2016; Tosuntas et al., 2015). In the main, they maintained that ubiquitous technologies enable them to access learning management systems and to engage in synchronous conversations with other individuals (Camilleri & Camilleri, 2021).

One may argue that the m-learning paradigm is associated with the constructivist approaches (Chang et al., 2018), including those related with discovery-based learning (Camilleri & Camilleri, 2019c). Relevant theoretical underpinnings suggest that the use of mobile apps can improve the delivery of quality, student-centered education (Camilleri & Camilleri, 2021; Camilleri, 2021b; Chang et al., 2018; Crompton & Burke, 2018; Furió et al., 2015; Lameu, 2020; Nikolopoulou et al., 2021; Sung et al., 2016; Swanson, 2020). This research raises awareness on m-learning technologies that enable students to search for solutions for themselves through the Internet and via learning management systems. It also indicated that mobile apps like Microsoft Teams or Zoom, among others, allow them to engage in synchronous conversations with course instructors and with their peers, in real time.

This study explored the users’ perceptions about m-learning technologies. It validated key constructs from TAM Briz-Ponce et al., 2017; Cheung & Vogel, 2013; Granić & Marangunić, 2019; Ngai et al., 2007; Scherer et al., 2019; Thong Hong & Tam, 2002) and UTAUT (Gunasinghe et al., 2019; Yang et al., 2019), as shown in Table 1.

The descriptive statistics clearly indicated that the research participants felt that m-learning technologies were useful for them to continue their course programs. The principal component analysis confirmed that the students’ engagement with their educational apps was primarily determined by their ease of use. This is one of the main factors that influenced their intentions to engage with m-learning apps.

The findings revealed that higher education students were using m-learning apps as they considered them as useful tools to enhance their knowledge. Evidently, their perceptions about the ease of use of m-learning technologies were significantly correlated with their perceived usefulness. In addition, it transpired that both constructs were also affecting their attitudes towards usage, that in turn preceded their intentions to use m-learning apps.

The results also revealed that the respondents were satisfied by the technical support they received during COVID-19. Apparently, their university provided appropriate facilitating conditions that allowed them to engage with to m-learning programs during the unexpected pandemic situation and even when the preventative restrictions were eased.

The stepwise regression analyses shed light on the positive and significant relationships of this study’s research model. Again, these results have proved that the respondents were utilizing m-learning apps because their university (and course instructors) supported them with adequate and sufficient resources (i.e. facilitating conditions). The findings indicated that they were assisted (by their institution’s helpdesk) during their transition to emergency remote learning. In fact, the study confirmed that there was a positive and significant relationship between facilitating conditions and the students’ engagement with m-learning technologies.

On the other hand, this empirical research did not yield a statistically significant relationship between the students’ social influences and their intentions to use the mobile technologies. This is in stark contrast with the findings from past contributions, where other researchers noted that students were pressurized by course instructors to use education technologies (Camilleri & Camilleri, 2020; Teo & Zheng, 2014). The researchers presume that in this case, the majority of university students indicated that they were not coerced by educators or by their peers, to use m-learning apps. This finding implies that students became accustomed or habituated with the use of mobile technologies to continue their course programs.

This research builds on previous technology adoption models Davis et al., 1989; Venkatesh et al., 2003; 2012) to better understand the students’ dispositions to engage with m-learning apps. It integrated constructs from TAM with others that were drawn from UTAUT/UTAUT2. To the best of the researchers’ knowledge, currently, there are no studies that integrated facilitating conditions and social influences (from UTAUT/UTAUT2) with TAM’s perceived ease of use, perceived usefulness and attitudes. This contribution addresses this knowledge gap in academia. In sum, it raises awareness on the importance of providing appropriate facilitating conditions to students (and educators). This way, they will be in a better position to use educational technologies to improve their learning outcomes.

Practical implications

This research indicated that students held positive attitudes and perceptions on the use of m-learning technologies in higher educational settings. Their applications allow them to access course material (through Moodle or other virtual learning environments) and to avail themselves from video conferencing facilities from everywhere, and at any time. The respondents themselves considered the mobile technologies as useful tools that helped them improve their learning journeys, even during times when COVID-19’s preventative measures were eased. Hence, there is scope for university educators and policy makers to create and adopt m-learning approaches in addition to traditional teaching methodologies, to deliver quality education (Camilleri, 2021).

Arguably, m-learning would require high-quality wireless networks with reliable connections. Course instructors have to consider that their students are accessing their asynchronous resources as well as their synchronous apps (like Zoom or Microsoft Teams) on campus or in other contexts. Students using m-learning technologies should have appropriate facilitating conditions in place, including adequate Wi-Fi speeds (that enable access to high-res images, and/or interactive media, including videos, live streaming, etc.). Furthermore, higher education institutions ought to provide ongoing technical support to students and to their members of staff (Camilleri & Camilleri, 2021).

This study has clearly shown that the provision of technical support, as well as the utilization of user-friendly, m-learning apps, among other factors, would probably improve the students’ willingness to engage with these remote technologies. Thus, course instructors are encouraged to create attractive and functional online environments in formats that are suitable for the screens of mobile devices (like tablets and smartphones). There can be instances where university instructors may require technical training and professional development to learn how to prepare and share customized m-learning resources for their students.

Educators should design appealing content that includes a good selection of images and videos to entice their students’ curiosity and to stimulate their critical thinking. Their educational resources should be as clear and focused as possible, with links to reliable academic sources. Moreover, these apps could be developed in such a way to increase the users’ engagement with each other and with their instructors, in real time.

Finally, educational institutions ought to regularly evaluate their students’ attitudes and perceptions toward their m-learning experiences, via quantitative and qualitative research, in order to identify any areas of improvement.

Research limitations and future research directions

To date, there have been limited studies that explored the institutions’ facilitating conditions and utilitarian motivations to use m-learning technologies in higher education, albeit a few exceptions. A through review of the relevant research revealed that researchers on education technology have often relied on different research designs and methodologies to capture and analyze their primary data. In this case, this study integrated measures that were drawn from TAM and UTAUT. The hypotheses were tested through stepwise regression analyses. The number of respondents that participated in this study was adequate and sufficient for the statistical purposes of this research.

Future research could investigate other factors that are affecting the students’ engagement with m-learning technologies. For example, researchers can explore the students’ intrinsic and extrinsic motivations to use educational apps. These factors can also have a significant effect on their intentions to continue their learning journeys. Qualitative research could shed more light on the students’ in-depth opinions, beliefs and personal experiences on the usefulness and the ease of use of learning via mobile apps, including serious games and simulations. Inductive studies may evaluate the effectiveness as well as the motivational appeal of gameplay. They can possibly clarify how, where and when mobile apps can be utilized as teaching resources in different disciplines. They can also identify the strengths and weaknesses of integrating them in the curricula of specific subjects.

Prospective researchers can focus on the design, structure and content of m-learning apps that are intended to facilitate the students’ learning experiences. Furthermore, longitudinal studies may provide a better understanding of the students’ motivations to engage with such educational technologies. They can measure their progress and development, in the long term. The students’ perceptions, attitudes and intentions to use m-learning technologies can change over time, particularly as they become experienced users.

A prepublication of the full article is available here: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/360541461_Learning_from_anywhere_anytime_Utilitarian_motivations_and_facilitating_conditions_to_use_mobile_learning_applications

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The pros and cons of remote learning

This is an excerpt from one of my latest articles that was accepted for publication by the 6th International Conference on E-Education, E-Business & E-Technology (ICEBT2022).

Suggested Citation: Camilleri, M.A. & Camilleri, A.C. (2022). A cost-benefit analysis on remote learning: A systematic review and implications for the future. 6th International Conference on e-Education, e-Business and e-Technology (Beijing, China: 26th June 2022). https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=4104629

(image source: CrushPixel)

After the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic, educational institutions were expected to adapt to an unexpected crisis situation. In many cases, they had to follow their policy makers’ preventative measures to mitigate the contagion of the pandemic [1, 2]. As a result, they introduced contingency plans, and disseminated information on the virus, among students and employees. In many cases, educators were coerced to shift from the provision of traditional, face-to-face teaching and blended learning approaches, to a fully virtual remote course delivery [3, 4]. This transition resulted in a number of challenges to students and instructors [5]. Educators were pressurized to utilize digital technologies including learning management systems (LMS) as well as video conferencing programs [6]. Very often, they relied on their institutions’ Moodle or virtual learning environment (VLE) software to share digital resources including videos, power point presentations and links to online notes [7]. During the pandemic educators also acquainted themselves with video-conferencing platforms [8].

Subsequently, when COVID-19 restrictions were eased, a number of educational institutions reopened their doors to students and employees [9]. They introduced social distancing policies and hygienic procedures in their premises [4, 10]. At the time of writing, a number of academic members of staff, in various contexts, are still utilizing learning technologies including LMS and video conferencing programs [6]. Currently, student-centered educators are adopting hybrid/blended learning approaches, as they deliver face-to-face lectures in addition to online learning methodologies. Very often, they do so to support students who are not in a position to attend their lectures on campus.

A synthesis of the literature on the costs and benefits of remote learning

The costs

Many researchers noted that Covid-19 disrupted the provision of education. In the main, they reported that there were various challenges for the successful implementation of remote learning [17, 23-25]. For example, one of the contributions implied that the prolonged use of virtual platforms might negatively impact the efficacy of synchronous learning [27].

Various studies indicated that the research participants were not always pleased with the quality of education that was provided by their educators, during the pandemic [28]. Academic commentators indicated that faculty members were not experts in the delivery of remote/online instruction. They implied that instructors could require periodic developmental training to improve the service quality of their courses [4, 10].

While a few researchers noted that students appreciated the availability of recorded lectures [29], others reported that educators were not always recording their lectures and/or did not share learning resources with them [21]. This issue could have affected the students’ learning outcomes [30, 31]. In fact, some students were worried about their academic progress during COVID-19 [32]. In many cases, they encountered a number of difficulties during remote course delivery. For instance, online group work involved additional planning as well as institutional support [33]. Previous literature suggests that students necessitate counseling, tutoring and mentoring as well as ongoing assurances to succeed [34, 35].

In many cases, the researchers discovered that course participants required adequate training and support to complete their assessments [23, 24, 36]. A few of them also hinted that was a digital divide among students could have been evidenced among those who experienced connectivity and equipment problems, among other issues [5, 37]. Other authors argued about the individuals’ challenges to focus on their screens for long periods of time [6]. Notwithstanding, educators and students may develop bad postures and other physical problems due to staying hunched in front of a screen. Therefore, students ought to be given regular breaks from the screen to refresh their minds and their bodies.

The benefits

Generally, a number of contributions shed light on the benefits of using remote learning technologies, including learning management systems [1, 21, 29, 32] and interactive conferencing programs (1, 6, 17, 33]. Such educational technologies can help in creating rich social interactions [38-40] as well as positive learning environments – that foster learning and retention [41, 42]. Previous research indicated that digital learning resources can enhance the students’ knowledge and skills [43]. Remote instruction approaches can also provide supportive environments to students [39] and could even increase their chances of learning [30, 31]. Virtual lectures may be recorded or archived for future reference [29]. Hence, students or educators could access their learning materials at their convenience [44-46].

Several researchers underlined the importance of maintaining ongoing, two-way communications with students, and of providing them with appropriate facilitating conditions, to continue improving their learning journeys [6, 47-48]. Video conferencing technologies allow educators to follow up on their students’ progress. They facilitate online interactions, in real time, and enable them to obtain immediate feedback from their students [1, 49]. Notwithstanding, there are fewer chances of students’ absenteeism and on missing out on their lessons, as they can join online meetings from home or from other locations of their choice.


This review implies that online technologies have opened a window of opportunity for educators. Indeed, learning management systems as well as conferencing programs are useful tools for educators to continue delivering education in a post covid-19 context. However, it is imperative that educational institutions invest in online learning infrastructures, resources and facilitating conditions, for the benefit of their students and faculty employees. They should determine whether their instructors are (or are not) delivering high levels of service quality through the utilization of remote learning technologies to continue delivering student-centered education.

This paper can be downloaded from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/360474225_A_cost-benefit_analysis_on_the_use_of_remote_learning_technologies_A_systematic_review_and_a_synthesis_of_the_literature

References (these are all the references that were featured in the full paper)

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  30. Mark Anthony Camilleri, and Adriana Caterina Camilleri. 2017. Digital learning resources and ubiquitous technologies in education. Tech, Knowledge and Learning, 22(1), 65-82.
  31. Mark Anthony Camilleri, and Adriana Caterina Camilleri. 2017. The students’ perceptions of digital game-based learning. In European Conference on Games Based Learning (pp. 56-62). Academic Conferences International Limited.
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