The Open University (OU), UK and Athabasca University (AU), Canada are both world leading distance-learning institutions. The OU currently has more than 200,000 students studying various undergraduate and postgraduate courses, while AU serves over 37,615 students and offers over 700 online courses. For distance learning, it is very important for online resources to be made accessible to as wide a range of users and devices as possible. It is essential that both existing and emerging technologies be implemented for effective deployment, delivery and support to remote students. In order to keep up to speed with mobile learners’ needs, several mobile learning initiatives have taken place within AU and OU. Both AU and OU libraries have initiated a strategic partnership to share expertise, knowledge and development work about mobile library services and resources.
This chapter will focus mainly on the mobile services development work at the Open University, UK but will also highlight the collaborative work being undertaken between Athabasca University and the Open University and the benefits, opportunities and challenges in developing mobile library services and resources.
Mobile learning and mobile library services
Mobile learning has for some time now had a high profile within the OU, as evidenced by the work of colleagues in our Institute of Educational Technology, and because mobile access to our Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) was planned from the beginning of the project to implement Moodle (the open-source VLE used by the OU). As we are a distance learning institution, mobile access to course materials seems like a natural extension of our online course offerings. Seventy percent of OU students are in full-time employment. Many of them have families and other responsibilities as well. Giving students the opportunity to access their course materials or library resources anytime, anywhere may assist them in scheduling study time into their busy lives. We also offer a range of workbased learning opportunities, where students can benefit from being able to review learning materials or reflect on practice at work.