Abilene Christian University’s (ACU) mobile-enhanced inquiry-based learning (MEIBL) is a blended learning strategy which creates an active and engaging learning environment, producing increased student engagement, maintenance of academic performance and improvements in student persistence and course completion. MEIBL addresses the greatest barriers for inquiry-based learning, minimizing time requirements of providing differentiated instruction and providing the fundamental guidance necessary for the inquiry process. Time saved on information transfer through MEIBL strategies enable faculty to mentor learners to engage course content at a deeper level. This project will scale MEIBL to demonstrate effectiveness in STEM programs with diverse and underrepresented student populations.
Inquiry-based learning differs from traditional teaching styles by allowing students to become investigators who ask questions, develop ideas and hypotheses, actively seek answers, and intelligently discuss findings. Teachers facilitate learning by guiding students throughout this process. Contrary to a lecture-based classroom, in an inquiry-based learning classroom teachers do not give the students all the information and answers, but engage the students in activities that foster the development of critical thinking skills. Students seek information needed to solve problems and learn how to collect then analyze data and draw reasonable conclusions. This process in an organic way of learning; teachers can lead students to pull the answers to their questions from their surroundings, experiments, and ultimately themselves. The knowledge and skills students gain through Inquiry-based learning are widely applicable and provide a better understanding of the world around them.
MEIBL in the Lab
MEIBL makes use of widely available student-owned mobile media devices to view faculty-produced podcasts in place of traditional lab lectures. Prior to class, students explore the lab activity, review instructional podcasts and provide a written solution. Once in class, student teams attempt to reach consensus. Experiments are then devised and conducted to validate the expected outcomes. Podcasts provide students with informational, procedural, and safety information prior to the lab, but also throughout the experimentation. Mobile technologies further engage students by providing access to response and polling tools, mobile enabled flash cards, timers, supplemental lighting (flashlights), calculators and many other tools. Students also spontaneously used mobile devices to create and submit electronic lab reports, often using the device’s camera to attach both still and video images as supporting evidence of findings.
Mobility in MEIBL
Information and knowledge is now readily available to millions of people via the tips of thie fingers on the screen of smartphones and bringing this world of mobility into the classroom has been the primary focus of ACU’s Mobile Learning Initiative. By enabling students with the technology to go mobile, ACU enhances communication between students, peers, and faculty and creates a learning environment built on collaboration. Mobility fosters the creative thought process and empowers both students and professors to be innovators, fashioning new ways to enrich and engage individuals in learning.