Thoughts, writing & snippets

Marguerite Koole, PhD

Mobile Learning: Is the FRAME Model still current?

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I was asked to do a short video interview for a group of master’s students. This was one of the questions:

Five years has passed since you developed the FRAME Model. In that time there has been an explosion in the number and type of mobile learning devices available to instructors and learners. Is the FRAME Model still current?

That is a very good question, the answer to which helps me clarify the nature of the FRAME model.

The acronym comes from a rather verbose title: Framework for the Rational Analysis of Mobile Education. In my master’s thesis, I explain why I selected these words. But, I will focus on the meaning of the model here.

Basically the model is a heuristic; that is, it is a tool, like a lens, that allows someone to critically examine a given phenomenon. What I realized shortly after defending my master’s thesis is that the model can apply to all kinds of technology. (It would need a new name: FRATE?)

The FRAME Model is a Venn diagram composed of three overlapping circles:

Diagram: The FRAME Model

The circles represent the characteristics of the device, the learner, and the social. The Device Aspect (D) takes into consideration the physical characteristics, input and output capabilities, file storage & retrieval, processor speed, and error rates. If using this model for other technologies, other characteristics might come into play. The Learner Aspect (L) focuses on the characteristics of an individual such as prior knowledge, personal history, memory, emotions, learning styles (if you subscribe to a belief in learning styles), and ability to transfer skills and knowledge from context to context. The Social Aspect (S) takes into consideration processes of conversation and cooperation, the sharing of signs and symbols, as well as social and cultural beliefs and values.

When these aspects overlap each other, we start to see interesting developments. As a learner comes into contact with a device as per the Device Usability Intersection (DL), we can consider elements like portability, information availability, psychological comfort, and satisfaction with aesthetics and functionality. The Social Technology Intersection (DS) we consider how people, as a collection, interact with technology. So, we can consider the means of networking, connectivity amongst systems, and collaboration tools. Finally, with the Interaction Learning Intersection (LS), what comes into view is how an individual is influenced by and influences the collective. This is where we can consider constructivist and constructionist ideas such as type of interaction, situated cognition, and learning communities.

At the centre of the model, the aspects and intersections inform us of the nature of the learning context. This is the point at which we can consider mediation, information access and selection, and knowledge navigation. One of the questions for the interview asked if the FRAME Model was complementary to George Siemens theory of Connectivism. Whilst it has been a couple of years since I read his book, Knowing Knowledge, I would say that it is in alignment. In fact, the FRAME Model is in alignment with many other theories. I have never suggested that it should supersede or replace other models. But, rather, as I mentioned earlier, it is one of many tools (heuristics) that we can use to better understand a given learning situation.

Now, in answer to the question above: Yes, the FRAME Model is still current. It can be applied to virtually any kind of learning technology—not just mobile technology. And, it can be applied to formal and informal learning. With some creativity, it can be applied to non-learning situations.

The second question to which I will respond this morning is:

The year 2011 introduced a number of innovative mobile devices into the marketplace. Designers have addressed some previous limitations such as small screen size. With these device upgrades, do you anticipate these changes will enhance issues related to cognition, learning potential or collaborative learning?

Like Mark Bullen (BCIT, Canada) and Chris Jones (Open University, UK), I do not think that these enhancements will change cognition or the fundamental learning capacity of learners—in contrast to what Mark Prensky and Don Tapiscott might contend. But, I do think that there is some truth to the task-artifact cycle (Carroll et. al., 1991). People create technology to fulfill a certain need. The technology changes how people work—sometimes altering the need itself. The technology is updated. The need is altered. The technology is updated. Yes, that is greatly simplified. But, as technology enhances our “cognition”, we behave differently. We modify our technology . . . in an ongoing cycle. The plasticity of the underlying human learning capacity (adaptive ability) allows this kind of interaction. But, I stop at the point where people might suggest that the underlying human adaptive capacity changes. I don’t think there is evidence for that.

Some references to the FRAME model:

Ally, M., Cleveland-Innes, M., Koole, M., Kenny, R. F., & Park, C. (2009). Developing a Community of Inquiry in a Mobile Learning Context. Learning and Technology: A Capital Idea! Retrieved from

Batista, S. C. F., Behar, P. A., & Passerino, L. M. (2010). M-Learning in Mathematics: mapping requirements. Interactive Computer Aided Learning (ICL). Hasselt, Belgi9um: Kassel University Press.Retrieved from

Crescente, M. L., & Lee, D. (2011). Critical issues of m-learning: design models, adoption, processes, and future trends. Journal of the Chinese Institute of Industrial Engineers, 28(2), 111-123. Retrieved from

JISC InfoNet. (2011). Emerging Practice in a Digital Age (Mobile Learning Info Kit) (pp. 1-65). Retrieved from (Or:

Hamdeh, M. A., & Hamdan, A. (2010). Using analytical hierarchy process tomeasure critical success factors of m-learning. European,Mediterranean & Middle Eastern Conference on Information Systems (EMCIS, April 12-13). Abu Dhabi, UAE. Retrieved from Refereed Papers/C33.pdf

Issa, G. F., Hussain, S. M., & Al-Bahadili, H. (n.d.). A framework for building an interactive satellite TV based m-learning environment (document in preparation). International Journal of Emerging Technologies in Learning (iJET). Retrieved from

Kenny, R. F., Van Neste-Kenny, J. M. C., Park, C. L., Burton, P. A., & Meiers, J. (2009). Mobile Learning in Nursing Practice Education: Applying Koole’s FRAME Model. Journal of Distance Education. Retrieved from

Koole, M. (2006). The Framework for the Rational Analysis of Mobile Education (Frame) Model: An Evaluation of Mobile Devices for Distance Education. Unpublished Thesis: Athabasca University. Retrieved from

Koole, M. (2009a). Chapter 2: A Model for Framing Mobile Learning. In M. Ally (Ed.), Mobile Learning: Transforming the Delivery of Education and Training (Vol. 1, pp. 25-47). Edmonton, Alberta: AU Press. Free download:

Koole, M. (2009b). Workshop: Go Mobile! Advantages, Issues, and Examples of Mobile Technologies in Distance Education. 8th Annual International MADLaT Conference (Vol. Winnipeg, ). Retrieved from

Koole, M. (2010). Mobile learning: Do the benefits justify the cost and time? New Era Teaching and Learning (Vol. Online). Commonwealth of Learning. Retrieved from

Koole, M., Letkemen McQuilkin, J., & Ally, M. (2010). Mobile Learning in Distance Education: Utility or Futility. JOURNAL OF DISTANCE EDUCATION. Retrieved from

Koole, M., Waard, I. de, & Elsayed Meawad, F. (2010). Mobile Learning: Solutions & Challenges. Cider Sessions (Vol. Online). The Canadian Institute of Distance Education Research. Retrieved from

Kumar, A., Tweari, A., Shroff, G., Chittamuru, D., Kam, M., & CAnny, J. (n.d.). An Exploratory Study of Unsupervised Mobile Learning in Rural India. Proceedings of the 28th International Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 743-752). Atlanta, GA. Retrieved from

Kumar, L. S., Biplab, J., Aggarwal, A. K., & Kannan, S. (2011). Mobile Device Intervention for Student Support Services in Distance Education Context – FRAME Model Perspective. European Journal of Open, Distance and E-Learning, 2. Retrieved from

Mishra, S. (2009). Mobile technologies in open schools (p. 97). Report by the Commonwealth of Learning.Vancouver, BC. Retrieved from

Palmer, R., & Dodson, L. (2011). Distance Learning in the Cloud: Using 3G Enabled Mobile Computing to Support Rural Medical Education. Journal of the Research Center for Educational Technology (RCET), 7(1), 106-116. Retrieved from

Pettersson, O., Svensson, M., Gil, D., Andersson, J., & Milrad, M. (2010). On the role of software process modeling in software ecosystem design. Technology, (August), 103-110. ACM Press. doi:10.1145/1842752.1842778

Serrano-Santoyo, A., & Organista-Sandoval, J. (2010). Challenges and opportunities to support learning with mobile devices. MexIHC 2010, 3rd Mexican Workshop on Human-Computer Interaction (November 8-10, 2010). San Luis Potosí, Mexico. Retrieved from

Stockwell, G. (2010). Using mobile phones for vocabulary activities: Examining the effect of the platform. Language Learning & Technology, 14(2), 95-110. Retrieved from

Whalley, W. B., France, D., Park, J. R., Welsh, K., & Favis-Mortlock, D. (2011). Flexible personal learning environments developed with netbook computers to enhance learning in fieldwork learning spaces. The PLE Conference 2011 (10th – 12th July) (pp. 1-13). Southampton, UK: Web Science Trust. Retrieved from

Other uses & mentions of the FRAME model: