Overcoming barriers and finding enablers

It is important to consider new initiatives in a holistic way. JISC infoNet’s Change Management infoKit is a useful primer for those new to implementing change in institutions and organisations. 

In any change management process there will be technical, procedural and cultural barriers. Often the technical and procedural barriers can be quantified and overcome through persistance whereas the cultural barriers can be multi-faceted and more problematic. 


Identifying barriers

In terms of mobile learning, there can be additional specific barriers to institutional adoption. Whilst using mobile devices may be popular and institutions may, to a great extent, be ‘pushing at an open door’ there are nevertheless barriers to adoption. Interviewees for this infoKit were keen to share their examples:

"The biggest barrier at the minute is still the percentage of students with appropriate devices – but we’re getting there." (John Fairhall, University of Bradford)


“Even though you still think of smart phones as becoming more common, there are still some barriers there for students... [T]hey don't like having to pay for stuff to be downloaded to their phones, because they're on tight budgets.” (Keith Cole, Mimas)


“It really seems to be that students don't consider mobile web apps to be true mobile apps, because you don't get them from the store. And so unless there's something actually in the store to download, they don't really think about it as a mobile app, and you kind of have to introduce them to it, kind of go out of your way to introduce it to them." (Kyle Bowen, Purdue University, USA)



“Gathering feedback from other professions or the service users... was very challenging for some of our professions.”

Julie Laxton
University of Leeds

The ALPS project at the University of Leeds, referred to in the Snapshots section, had barriers to overcome in addition to those provided by institutions, as Julie Laxton explains (see video to right)

The Wikipedia page for MLearning considers a number of technical and social reasons for barriers to mobile learning, including:


Barriers to mobile learning, as with any change management initiative are heavily context-dependent and will alter in terms of intensity as hardware and software change.

Finding enablers

As with the barriers to institutional change and mobile learning initiatives in particular, finding the enablers that allow progress to be made differ depending upon context. There are, however, some ways of approaching mobile learning initiatives as well as ideas that can be gleaned from projects that have trod a similar path.


JISC infoNet's CAMEL model has been used successfully by The Sheffield College in relation to mobile learning. See the ALT Newsletter entry and journal article about their experiences.


Claudia Igbrude of the Dublin Institute of Technology, for example, reminds us that SMS text messaging “remains to some extent the lowest common denominator, especially as smartphone use... is not yet at 100%.” “Every mobile phone,” she points out, “can send and receive texts” and “can be used in scaffolding learning experiences, providing just-in-time learning using keywords.”

Tony Bartley of Lowestoft College points out that institutions can use cloud services, “linking to services like Flickr, iPadio, Posterous, Google Docs and the like.” Students, he continues, “may already be using [these] anyway, and if not [they] are very easy and free to set up and can provide equally quick wins.” Using free and low-cost cloud-based services can often mean that useful tools can “easily be demonstrated to students as easy gain, low cost options."


The following comprises some key barriers with associated enablers identified in the literature and by those interviewed in the course of putting together this infoKit.


Group Barrier Enabler
Senior management Cost
  • Cost savings due to fewer PC clusters
  • Improved targeting of information
  • Retention/recruitment
Senior management Privacy
  • Start off with admin side of spectrum
  • Focus groups
Teaching staff Distraction
  • Classroom management (FE)
  • Debate, backchannel and peer support (HE)
Teaching staff Workload
  • Explore subject-based ways to engage staff
  • Use workshops to demonstrate how ‘mobile first’ can lead to better user outcomes
IT staff Compatibility/security
  • Target key staff (e.g. Director of ITS)
  • Buy-in through finding solution to specified problem
IT staff Functionality
  • Focus on lowest-common denominator
  • Consider two-tier approach (basic and advanced)
Learners Disruption to personal life
  • Set guidelines for staff on engagement
  • Make policies opt-in whilst explaining benefits
Learners Unfamiliarity
  • Don’t assume students ‘digital natives’ - run workshops for learners
  • Consider making mobile learning part of induction activities