Using personal mobile devices to increase flexibility and equity in learning in resource constrained contexts.
This paper examines how, in a resource-constrained context, access to personal mobile devices for first-year university students increases flexibility of learning and creates an environment of greater inclusivity at university. In 2016, at the start of their first year, 201 students in an extended degree programme in the Humanities at the University of Cape Town were surveyed about their access to personal mobile devices (PMDs). Based on need, 68 students were given an entry-level tablet to use as their own for the duration of their studies. As a consequence of establishing a learning context in which all students had access to a PMD, the lecturers could engage students in a multimodal blended learning and teaching approach. This paper draws on data in the form of student surveys and focus groups and explores not only the challenges and opportunities for students in using PMDs for their learning in and out of the classroom, but also the flexibility of learning enabled by PMDs. The study shows that creating an equitable context in terms of physical access to digital technology extends students’ learning opportunities, but also presents some new challenges.