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A. Aljaber, V. Lally, K. Lowden

University of Glasgow (UNITED KINGDOM)
Learning with smartphone applications is an emerging trend in the education system, especially in higher education. These applications make use of wireless communication technologies, and they include Wi-Fi and wireless LAN (Narayanasamy and Mohamed, 2013). This also includes multimedia messages and SMS messages (Arkorful and Abaidoo, 2015). In a short period smartphone applications have proven to be an effective approach in facilitating and advancing education. In Saudi Arabia, students in higher education use smartphone applications through the internet and wireless technologies to acquire new knowledge and skills (Alfawareh and Jusoh, 2017).The new generation of electronic learning provides opportunities, including collaborative learning activities, professional learning, training, and specialised groups. This paper focuses on smartphone application usage in promoting learning in higher education for students in Saudi Arabia.

Students who are located in different parts of the world can access electronic learning materials on their devices at any time. In addition, smartphone apps enable students to merge their learning experiences and share knowledge in a collaborative environment. The popularity of this approach is rapidly growing and has prompted widespread research in the sector (Alwraikat, 2017). In order to understand the role of smartphone applications in promoting learning in higher education in Saudi Arabia, it is essential to examine this issue in more detail.

The issue that prompted this study was a growing number of students in higher education in Saudi Arabia who are already using smartphone applications. The research questions focused on faculty members’ and learners’ perceptions of the role of these applications in promoting education, and whether they are effective support tools for learning. The data was obtained from students and teachers of one higher education institution. The interview participants were purposively sampled from lecturers and managers in the institution. These interview responses were complemented with quantitative research findings elicited from students.

The research findings reveal a range of functions for smartphone applications in promoting learning in the university. The study found that smartphone applications used by students and teachers fosters learning in many ways as users share course materials. For example, the majority of participants stated that smartphone applications foster collaborative and interactive approaches to learning for both lecturers and students. This was seen as contributing to the improvement of learning and teaching outcomes for the students in the higher education institution.

In addition, faculty members perceived a positive impact on their professional skills. Also, the communication with students was seen as more flexible along with improvements in student learning. Students and teachers reported that platforms like Blackboard and social media platforms are widely used in sharing of ideas that relate to their education outcomes.

The study includes a discussion of the major challenges that faculty members and learners face when using smartphone apps for promoting learning in higher education that largely focused on technical issues such as software and hardware compatibility, bandwidth as well as concerns over data security. The research findings have relevance for other higher education institutions in Saudi Arabia and internationally.