Guiding students with mobile solutions during field practice

Sami Heikkinen
Lahti University of Applied Sciences

This paper describes what kind of technical and pedagogical solutions has been adapted within Event Model. Lahti University of Applied Sciences has developed a model for learning in events. The Event Model offers students the opportunity to acquire skills in the field of event management. Instead of training professional event managers, the aim of Event Model is to familiarize students with the context of events and to help them identify what kind of opportunities events can offer for them to support their own professional skills.
Within Event Model, learning process happens in events. Events take place at their own rhythm: rarely during office hours and more likely during evenings and weekends. This does challenge the supervision process. Teacher is not able to be present at every event. This paper describes the benchmarking process of mobile learning platforms as a tool to help teacher guide the learning process. Event model has trialled two platforms: ExperienceFellow app and the Workseed cloud service.
The supervision takes place in the form of a real-time diary. Student writes short notes about the daily agenda every day. Teacher is able to access the notes in real time. This enables the supervisor to review what has been done in practice and what kind of challenging situations the student has faced. The sooner the challenges are identified, the sooner the solvation can be found. This fosters learning process and increases the engagement of the student to the interaction with the industry.

Mobile learning platforms
In traditional field practice report, the student has returned final report after the field practice. As submission takes place in the very of the process, supervising teacher does not have any means to help student resolving problems. Only thing left to be done is to reflect problems and consider what could have been done. With real time learning diary this process becomes more fluent as real-time notes give the teacher instant information about problematic situations.
ExperienceFellow is a native mobile application students are using to write learning diary while working in event. Learning diaries are uploaded to a cloud service in real time, enabling teacher to track the progress of the tasks students are doing.
As an second option we used cloud service Workseed. It is a browser-based service. Unlike native mobile application it does not set hardware requirements for the mobile devices students use.
These two options were benchmarked for academic year. During benchmark we have gathered user oriented information about the experiences of the students writing their learning diaries and teachers supervising students.

What has been learned?
Mobile phone does have a great potential as tool for learning. Most students are using their mobile phone on a daily basis. As the phone is nearby all the time it could be used to report daily activities. This does make the learning process more visible and gives the teacher an opportunity to give guidance during the process. To succeed, the systems and modes of operation of mobile learning platforms need to be further developed. Good tutorials for the new applications and routine-enabling consistency help students to get familiar with new platforms.
In addition to the routine, the software must meet operational and pedagogical requirements. Within benchmark process we have identified numerous critical factors that has to be paid attention to make sure mobile learning platforms can be used effectively.
The problem of monotonous assignments raised during the use of Workseed can also be solved. Questions for students could be divided into three parts: starting, intermediate and terminating questions. The first of these will be presented to the student when starting the working in event. These questions may include issues such as setting up work and learning objectives, working environment, and work related issues. Intermediate questions are questions that a student regularly answers while working. The purpose of these questions is to help students memorize things they have encountered during their work and to help them figure out how these things relate to achieving their goals. The final questions are reflected in the goals defined by the student at the beginning of the study in relation to what has happened along the way. The final questions are used to evaluate how the goals set have been achieved, what is learned and what is left unlearned.

Events are great environment for learning. It offers students a great variety of different kind of responsibilities and a way to find own field of expertise. As the expertise is found, student can focus on this field and practice own skills further. The mobile learning platform is a great tool to supervise this process. To make supervision possible we need right kind of tools for supervision. In the future, we still need to cooperate with the mobile learning platform service providers to develop platforms further. This helps us to achieve the goals we have set for learning process. As the platforms fill our requirements, we can concentrate on the pedagogical approach. This helps the student engagement into industry field practice.