The reality of using smartphone applications for learning in higher education of Saudi Arabia

Aljaber, Abdullah Awadh M. (2021) The reality of using smartphone applications for learning in higher education of Saudi Arabia. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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The smartphone has emerged as one of the most important educational tools in today's digital era due to its ability to facilitate access to learning materials without the traditional time and locational limitations. Smartphones and their associated applications also have the potential advantages of enhancing communication between learners and educators as well as simplifying the research process. However, there have been concerns over the extent to which college and university students use smartphone apps for educational rather than non-educational purposes. Moreover, there are concerns over the real usefulness of smartphone devices in the learning process. Therefore, this study focused on the perceptions of students and their faculty staff concerning the reality of smartphone apps usage and their value regarding the learning process and collegiality in the context of higher education in Saudi Arabia. The study also sought to determine the major challenges that students and faculty members face in the use of smartphone apps for educational purposes within a particular e-learning environment that using the Blackboard system and associated resources. In order to study the usage of smartphone apps in Saudi Arabia’s higher education sector, this study adopted a mixed methods research approach within a case study university; the Saudi Electronic University. Quantitative research was conducted involving a survey of 324 students from the Saudi Electronic University (SEU) using self-administered questionnaires that assessed the patterns of smartphone apps usage. In addition, a qualitative study was conducted using semi-structured interviews with 13 faculty members. Survey data was subjected to statistical analysis while interview data was analyzed using thematic content analysis.
The findings of this study reveal that smartphone apps are extensively used for learning purposes as part of a wider e-learning environment in the Saudi Electronic University in Saudi Arabia. It emerged that 70% of all learning is delivered through digital platforms while 30% of learning takes place through face-to-face interactions. Most faculty members in the case study agreed on the usefulness of integrating smartphones in the learning process. In this context, faculty members believed that the use of smartphone apps in education is a necessity today. Furthermore, smartphone apps were viewed as being useful in enhancing skills of learners and faculty members as well as promoting communication between educational stakeholders. From the students’ perspectives, the findings of this study revealed a positive engagement with smartphone apps for educational purposes. Most students used smartphone apps to check their emails (73.5%), the students were browsing the internet for learning purposes (59.3%), communicate with other learners and instructors (53.1%, access learning materials (37.3%), and engage in general learning activities (35.5%). The study showed a wide acceptance of mobile learning and positive perceptions on the usefulness of smartphone apps in learning. However, there was variation in students’ views and understanding among students about the role of smartphone apps for certain learning purposes. Factors that were seen to influence the students’ attitudes towards smartphone apps usage for learning included class standing, age, and brand of smartphones, mobile operator (P<0.05). The qualitative findings highlighted that the use of smartphone apps as part of a broader mobile learning environment contributed to online communities of practice involving staff and students. Finally, the findings of this study revealed that students and faculty members experience several major challenges in the use of smartphone apps in learning. These include slow internet connections, incompatibility with certain devices, small screen sizes of the smartphones, low battery life, high costs, technical failures on the university learning app, and distractions on students’ attention, among others. Therefore, the findings of this study suggest a need for Saudi higher education institutions to reflect on the practical and technical challenges affecting mobile learning platforms that can inhibit the use of smartphone apps in the mobile learning environment and students’ awareness of the benefits of mobile learning.
In addition to revealing the areas of potential improvement for optimization of mobile learning in Saudi Arabia, the present study also makes important contributions to the theoretical and conceptual understanding of aspects of e-learning using the Saudi context as a focus for the study. The study findings revealed that the Technology Acceptance Model (TAM) as well as the situative and cognitive learning theories are useful models to help explain the behavioural intentions and processes of technology use among students and faculty members in the Saudi higher education sector. Based on the study findings, and in line with the TAM theory, it may be concluded that perceived usefulness and perceived ease of use of the technology have a strong influence on the learners’ evaluation of the appropriateness of e-learning systems in Saudi Arabia. While the Technology Acceptance Model highlights the importance of physical aspects of e-learning technology, the Cognitive and Associative theories are also helpful in understanding the social processes involved in this context and the role of online communities, respectively for higher education learners in Saudi Arabia.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Subjects: L Education > L Education (General)
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Education
Supervisor's Name: Lally, Prof. Victor and Lowden, Mr. Kevin
Date of Award: 2021
Depositing User: Abdullah Awadh Aljaber
Unique ID: glathesis:2021-81974
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 02 Feb 2021 07:51
Last Modified: 19 Aug 2022 15:54
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.81974

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