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ABSTRACT

 

Internet connectivity is one of the fundamental requirements for a successful mobile learning
environment. However, within the context of Africa, availability and access, let alone cost, still
pose a great challenge in higher education, especially in distance learning. Consequently, there
arises a dire need for a native mobile learning application framework that would serve as an
alternative to web-based learning environments in localized contexts such as Africa, where the
problems of internet connectivity and bandwidth remain untackled. However, little body of
knowledge exists on how such native application frameworks, which leverage the mobile
device’s underlying hardware resources and rich user interfaces (UIs) in offering a heightened
learning user experience (UX), can be designed and implemented. As a result, this thesis sets out
to bridge this gap by proposing a Native Mobile Multimedia Learning Application (NMMLA)
Framework, implemented on the Android platform by using a systematic approach we called
“Content Flow Algorithm Tree,” which can be leveraged by mobile learning application
developers in developing native applications for various higher education courses, especially in
science and engineering. The framework is a one-page-setup and do-it-yourself toolkit and
library that will facilitate the development of NMMLAs by reducing deployment time or time to
market. Basically, the framework supports five (5) types of multimedia learning content—
images, Hypertext Markup Language (HTML), audio, video and simulation—aimed at meeting
the different needs of learners with different learning preferences. The framework provides a
number of key features, which include theme, course, quiz and simulation menus; listview and
tabview render modes; and Search and Help utilities. This work will benefit researchers and
stakeholders in the m-learning field, especially Higher Education Institutions (HEIs), training
and learning organizations. It will also benefit multimedia learning content developers and
providers in general and on the Android platform in particular by preventing them from
reinventing the wheel. Above all, it will benefit teachers, students and workers, especially
distance learners, in the pursuit of life-long formal and informal learning, as they will be able to
learn anywhere and anytime without internet connectivity and limited bandwidth being a barrier.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

Certification …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… I
Dedication ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. II
Declaration………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. III
Acknowledgements ……………………………………………………………………………………………………… III
Abstract ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. V
Table of Contents ………………………………………………………………………………………………………… VI
List of Figures ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………. XII
List of Tables ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………. XIII
Acronyms …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. XIV
Chapter 1 ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 1
Introduction ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 1
1.1 Background …………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 4
1.1.1 Contextualized M-Learning ……………………………………………………………………………….. 4
1.1.2 Mobile Devices and Application Development …………………………………………………….. 5
1.1.2.1 Mobile Development Concerns …………………………………………………………………… 5
1.1.2.2 Screen Sizes, Resolutions and Densities ……………………………………………………….. 6
1.1.3 Theory of Multimedia Learning ………………………………………………………………………….. 6
1.1.4 Learning Style Models ………………………………………………………………………………………. 8
1.1.4.1 Neil Fleming’s VAK/VARK Model …………………………………………………………….. 8
1.1.4.1.1 Visual Learners ……………………………………………………………………………………. 8
1.1.4.1.2 Auditory Learners ………………………………………………………………………………… 8
1.1.4.1.3 Tactile/Kinesthetic Learners ………………………………………………………………….. 8
1.1.4.2 David Kolb’s Learning Styles Model ……………………………………………………………. 8
Master of Science Thesis
Computer Science, AUST 2013 Page vii
1.1.4.2.1 Converger ……………………………………………………………………………………………. 9
1.1.4.2.2 Divergers …………………………………………………………………………………………….. 9
1.1.4.2.3 Assimilators ………………………………………………………………………………………… 9
1.1.4.2.4 Accommodators …………………………………………………………………………………… 9
1.1.5 Framework Overview ……………………………………………………………………………………. 9
1.1.5.1 Multimedia Support …………………………………………………………………………………… 9
1.1.5.2 Framework Use Case Diagram ………………………………………………………………….. 11
1.1.5.3 Framework Model View Controller……………………………………………………………. 14
1.1.5.3.1 Model ……………………………………………………………………………………………….. 14
1.1.5.3.2 Controller ………………………………………………………………………………………….. 16
1.1.5.3.2.1 Course Loader ……………………………………………………………………………… 17
1.1.5.3.2.2 Component Router ……………………………………………………………………….. 17
1.1.5.3.2.3 Module/Item Dispatchers ………………………………………………………………. 17
1.1.5.3.2.4 Atomicfile Handlers ……………………………………………………………………… 18
1.1.5.3.2.5 Quiz Handlers ……………………………………………………………………………… 18
1.1.5.3.3 View …………………………………………………………………………………………………. 18
1.2 Aims And Objectives ………………………………………………………………………………………….. 18
1.3 Motivation for Choosing Native Application and Android Platform …………………………. 19
1.4 Research Questions …………………………………………………………………………………………….. 20
1.5 Thesis Structure …………………………………………………………………………………………………. 21
1.6 Expected Contributions ……………………………………………………………………………………….. 21
Chapter 2 ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 22
Literature Review ……………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 22
2.1 Overview of Software Framework …………………………………………………………………………. 22
2.1.1 Features of a Framework …………………………………………………………………………………. 23
2.1.2 Purpose for a Framework …………………………………………………………………………………. 23
2.1.2.1 Advantages of Using a Framework …………………………………………………………….. 24
2.1.2.2 Disadvantages of Using a Framework ………………………………………………………… 24
2.2 Mobile Application Frameworks …………………………………………………………………………… 25
2.2.1 Android Application Framework ………………………………………………………………………. 25
2.2.2 Rhodes Framework …………………………………………………………………………………………. 27
2.2.3 Open Mobile IS ………………………………………………………………………………………………. 28
2.2.4 PhoneGap ………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 28
Master of Science Thesis
Computer Science, AUST 2013 Page viii
2.3 Multimedia Learning Frameworks And Environments ……………………………………………. 29
2.4 Learning Management Systems ……………………………………………………………………………. 32
2.4.1 Moodle ………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 32
2.4.2 Blackboard Mobile Learn ………………………………………………………………………………… 33
2.5 NMMLA Framework ……………………………………………………………………………………………….. 33
Chapter 3 ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 34
Research Methodology ………………………………………………………………………………………………… 34
3.1 Framework Requirements …………………………………………………………………………………….. 34
3.2 Spiral Modelling Approach…………………………………………………………………………………… 35
3.3 UML Diagrams …………………………………………………………………………………………………… 36
3.3.1 Use Case Diagram…………………………………………………………………………………………… 36
3.3.2 Technical Class Diagrams ………………………………………………………………………………… 36
3.3.3 Activity Diagram ……………………………………………………………………………………………. 37
3.4 Modelling View Controller …………………………………………………………………………………… 37
3.4.1 Model ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 37
3.4.1.1 Framework Data Model ……………………………………………………………………………. 38
3.4.1.2 Module and Quiz Data Models ………………………………………………………………….. 39
3.4.2 View ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 40
3.4.3 Controller ………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 41
Chapter 4 ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 42
Framework Implementation ………………………………………………………………………………………… 42
4.1 Framework Packages ……………………………………………………………………………………………….. 43
4.1.1 Root Package ………………………………………………………………………………………………… 44
4.1.2 DataModel…………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 44
4.1.3 HomePage …………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 44
4.1.4 TabFile …………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 44
4.1.5 ListModule ……………………………………………………………………………………………………. 44
4.1.6 TabModule ……………………………………………………………………………………………………. 44
4.1.7 Evaluate ………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 44
4.1.8 Search …………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 45
4.1.9 Util ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 45
Master of Science Thesis
Computer Science, AUST 2013 Page ix
4.2 Framework Overview Schematic …………………………………………………………………………… 45
4.3 Framework Implementation Activity Diagram ………………………………………………………… 45
4.4 NMMLA Framework Implementation Algorithm ……………………………………………………. 45
4.4.1 HomePageFragmentActivity ……………………………………………………………………………. 49
4.4.2 TabFileFragmentActivity ………………………………………………………………………………… 49
4.4.3 TabModuleFragmentActivity ………………………………………………………………………….. 50
4.4.4 ListModuleFragmentActivity ………………………………………………………………………….. 50
4.4.5 Evaluation Activities ………………………………………………………………………………………. 51
4.5 Key Framework APIs ………………………………………………………………………………………….. 52
4.6 Key Setupactivity’s Data Models and Constructors …………………………………………………. 52
Chapter 5 ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 54
Presentation and Discussion of Results …………………………………………………………………………. 54
5.1 Framework Key Features …………………………………………………………………………………….. 54
5.1.1 About……………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 54
5.1.2 Course Menu …………………………………………………………………………………………………. 54
5.1.3 Theme Menu …………………………………………………………………………………………………. 54
5.1.4 Quiz Menu ……………………………………………………………………………………………………. 54
5.1.5 Sim Menu ……………………………………………………………………………………………………… 55
5.1.6 Search …………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 55
5.1.7 Help ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 55
5.1.8 Screen Mode …………………………………………………………………………………………………. 55
5.1.8 Render Mode …………………………………………………………………………………………………. 55
5.1.9 Sequencing Capability ……………………………………………………………………………………. 55
5.2 Instantiating the Framework ………………………………………………………………………………… 56
5.2.1 Setting up the Application ……………………………………………………………………………. 57
5.2.2 Running the Application ………………………………………………………………………………. 57
5.2.3 Navigating through the Application ……………………………………………………………….. 59
5.2.3.1 Introduction ……………………………………………………………………………………………. 59
5.2.3.2 Learn – Doc……………………………………………………………………………………………. 60
5.2.3.3 Learn –Video …………………………………………………………………………………………. 61
5.2.3.4 Learn–Slide ……………………………………………………………………………………………. 62
5.2.3.5 Simulate ………………………………………………………………………………………………… 63
5.2.3.6 Evaluate …………………………………………………………………………………………………. 64
5.2.3.7 Resources ………………………………………………………………………………………………. 65
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5.2.3.8 Help ………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 66
Chapter 6 ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 67
Conclusion ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 67
6.1 Summary Of Framework And Key Features ………………………………………………………….. 67
6.2 Summary Of Work And Results …………………………………………………………………………… 67
6.3 Contribution ………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 68
6.4 Challenges …………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 68
6.5 Future Work ………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 69
References …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 70
Appendix A1 ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 75
Setupactivity and Related Class Diagrams ……………………………………………………………………. 75
Appendix A2 ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 76
ListModuleFragmentActivity and Related Class Diagrams …………………………………………… 76
Appendix A3 ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 77
TabmoduleFragmentActivity and Related Class Diagrams …………………………………………… 77
Appendix A4 ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 78
TabFileFragmentActivity and Related Class Diagrams ………………………………………………… 78
Appendix A5 ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 79
Evaluation Activities and Related Class Diagrams………………………………………………………… 79
Appendix A6 ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 80
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Search Activities And Related Class Diagrams ……………………………………………………………… 80
Appendix A7 ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 81
File Handler Activities and Related Class Diagrams ……………………………………………………… 81
Appendix A8 ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 82
Utility Activities and Related Class Diagrams ………………………………………………………………. 82
Appendix A9 ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 83
Appcontroller and Version Class Diagrams ………………………………………………………………….. 83
Appendix B …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 84
Content Provider Project Android Manifest …………………………………………………………………. 84
Appendix C …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 90
Content Provider Project Setupactivity ………………………………………………………………………… 90

 

CHAPTER ONE

Introduction
The advent of Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) and much later smartphones brought about a
paradigm shift in the way, how, when and where we learn—from e-learning to m-learning [1],
which fosters a much more personalized and self-directed learning. Upside Learning [2], while
referring to mobile technology “as any device that is designed to provide access to information
in any location, or while on the move,” defines mobile learning as “the acquisition or
modification of any knowledge or skill through the use of mobile technology, anywhere,
anytime, resulting in the modification of behaviour.”
Mobile learning has made great inroads worldwide into our way of life and every facet of our
humanity, be it personal or professional, in a way some few years ago no one expected or ever
imagined. For example, on the educational and organisational fronts, it has made such impact
that you would hardly find a Higher Education Institution (HEI) teacher or student, a corporate
employer or employee, both in developed and developing countries, without a smartphone—be
it in the sitting room, bedroom, office, classroom, on the road, in the air or at sea. According to
Heiphetz [3], it has impacted our lives to such a great extent that some of us are unable to
leverage all of its benefits, which include but not limited to the following:
1. Makes content universally accessible anytime, anywhere
2. Adapts to student and employee needs (personalization)
3. Enables reflection
4. Is continuous, ongoing and flexible
5. Enables formal and informal learning
6. Increases knowledge retention and saves time
7. Encourages knowledge sharing and gathering
8. Readily available
9. Adapts to the needs of the organisation (academia and business)
10. Creates best practices
M-learning is made possible by mobile devices, mobile technology, mobile platforms and
mobile applications, which come basically in three different forms: 1) a dedicated standalone
application that can run on individual mobile devices; 2) a client-server model with the client
application running on mobile device and a server application on remote server; and 3) a mobile
web browser that requires back-end application-server connection in the course of sending
requests from the mobile device [4, 5].
The introduction of the open-source Android platform [6] in 2007 by the Open Handset Alliance
(OHA) pushed the frontiers of mobile learning further, owing to its openness, flexibility, and
relatively low cost of developing and owning its applications, as opposed to the iOS, Windows
Master of Science Thesis
Computer Science, AUST 2013 Page 2
Phone 7 and other mobile development platforms [7]. Similarly, according to [8], “Android
applications have none of the costly and time-intensive testing and certification programs
required by other platforms such as BREW and Symbian.” As a result, a large number of
learning content developers and providers (e.g. Moodle, Blackboard etc) started taking
advantage of it as a medium for delivering rich, interactive multimedia content to a wide range
of learners with different learning preferences across different geographical locations and time
zones. Consequently, mobile multimedia learning applications (native and web-based) abound in
the marketplace today, as evident in Google Play. However, while there is a substantial body of
knowledge on the design and implementation of mobile multimedia learning application
frameworks for web-based applications, there is little or none on native applications, which can
take advantage of the mobile device’s underlying hardware resources and rich user interfaces in
delivering rich multimedia learning user experience (UX) [9]. This research sets out to bridge
this gap by providing a conceptual design of a NMMLA framework and implementing it as a
library on the Android platform using an Object-Oriented Programming (OOP), Universal
Modelling Language (UML) and Model View Controller (MVC) approach, Java programming
language and the Eclipse Integrated Development Environment (IDE) with Android
Development Tool (ADT) and other required development tools plugged in. The framework will
help guide the process of mobile multimedia learning application development and facilitate
future development on the Android platform.
The framework is made up of a number of components. A component, within the context of the
framework, is represented by an icon (with certain functionality) on the Android device’s screen.
It is either hosted in the main body, called gridview (GV) or at the top of the screen, called
actionbar (AB). Thus, the framework has two types of components, namely, gridview and
actionbar. The former are the main components, while the latter are the support components.
The main (GV) components are grouped into five (5) major abstracted categories, which include
AtomicItem, TabFile, ListItem, TabModule and ListModule, which content
developers and providers can leverage in delivering a complete functional NMMLA, which
include components such as Introduction, Learn, Simulate, Evaluate, Resources and Help in line
with industry guidelines such as the Advanced Distributed Learning M-learning Guide [10].
The support (AB) components are further grouped into two: menu and action. The action
components include About, Search and Help. They derive from the main components, with
the last two offering utility services across an instance application. About is a HTML file which
holds information about the instance application, which utilizes the framework. Search
enables the learner to look up words in the dictionary included in the application. Help offers a
list of HTML files, which provide information on the usage of various components of the
application. Search and Help (represented by an icon and text) are pinned to the actionbar
throughout the application UIs. On the other hand, the menu components include Course,
Theme and Render Mode menus, which are pinned to the actionbar as well. They enable the
framework to support multiple courses, themes and render modes respectively. Theme is
Master of Science Thesis
Computer Science, AUST 2013 Page 3
customizable by the content provider (CP) if he chooses not to use the default provided by the
framework. For small–sized screen, the actionbar components may overflow to the menu at the
bottom of the screen, while for large screens they may be rendered as a list of submenus at the
right-hand corner of the actionbar. And for much larger screens, such as tablets, all the menu
items may be rendered across the actionbar.
The NMMLA framework was designed by adopting an Object-oriented Programming (OOP)
approach and the Universal Modelling Language (UML). For the modelling, Use Case Diagram
(UCD), Activity Diagram (AD) and Technical Class Diagrams (TCDs) were used, while for the
implementation, Java programming language, Eclipse IDE with plugged-in ADT and other
required development and desktop/online asset-generating tools, were used. Moreover, the
framework is backward compatible. By virtue of Android’s FragmentActivity class [6]
and the Actionbar Sherlock Library [11], the framework is capable of supporting both phones
and tablets alike, ranging from API 8 (Android 2.2) to API 17 (Android 4.2) platforms.
This academic work will benefit stakeholders in the mobile learning field, be it in education,
government or organization, in four major ways. First, it will help content providers on the
Android platform in these sectors with little or no application development know-how to
concentrate on the development of quality multimedia on any subject or course for learners,
while relying on it as a reliable medium to deploy their content, thus reducing time to market.
Second, it will provide NMMLA developers on any platform, especially computer scientists and
aspiring techno-entrepreneurs, with the fundamental knowledge, skills, systematic design
techniques and programming approaches needed for successful software application
development. Third, in the context of forward engineering, the UML diagrams, provided by this
thesis, offer a veritable design base, required for the successful development of future native
multimedia learning applications. Fourth, it will help students (especially those living far away
from the classroom), workers and individuals with different learning preferences have access to
rich multimedia content of their choice and learn on the go without internet access being a
barrier, especially on the African continent where poor or lack of internet connectivity and
limited bandwidth continue to militate against the full adoption of e-learning and m-learning.
The rest of this chapter presents the background to this thesis as well as the aims and objectives.
It goes further to state the research question(s), which this thesis aims to answer. Finally, it
explains the thesis structure and organization by providing an insight into what the next chapters
cover. However, before proceeding further, it may be useful to state some of the text-formatting
styles adopted and assumptions made throughout this work. Standard programming constructs
such as Java class and object names; framework class and object names; Android widget names
and related keywords such as “Activity”, “Search”, “listview” etc are written in Courier New
font. This is done so as to facilitate easy reading and understanding of the concepts presented in
this material. Also, the CP in the middle of the m-learning value chain, for the most part, is
referred to as “user”, while the consumer at the tail end of the chain is referred to as “learner”.
Master of Science Thesis
Computer Science, AUST 2013 Page 4
1.1 Background
Mobile learning, being an offshoot of mobile technology and the internet revolution, is one of
the greatest wonders that have happened to humanity since the industrial revolution in the early
19th century [7]. It offers a veritable tool in man’s endless quest for knowledge to provide
answers to many of the yet unanswered philosophical and metaphysical questions, and find
scientific solutions to the plurality of its problems, which range from social to medical and from
physical to economic, just to mention a few. Similarly, today, like never before, the media for
the acquisition of the required knowledge and skills to solve these problems have increased
phenomenally and become raceless, spaceless and timeless. As a result, anyone, anywhere,
anytime, any age (AAAA), can learn through whichever means and media he prefers, and come
up with lasting solutions to any of the world’s problems, as the world has become flat, and keeps
flattening each day, due to the power of Information and Communications Technology [12],
multimedia, and lately mobile technology and devices. According to [13], “mobile phones are
misnamed.” Rather, “they should be called ‘gateways to all human knowledge’.” Similarly,
mobile technology was described by [2] as the most popular and widespread technology on the
planet, which has become the most rapidly adopted technology in history, with the global
mobile industry expected to grow to $1.9 trillion by 2015 from the current $1.5 trillion level.
Furthermore, the global subscriber base and the number of mobile connections are projected to
grow to 4.6 billion and 9.1 billion respectively by 2015. Finally, according to the multimedia
principle [9], “People learn more deeply from words and pictures than from words alone.”
On the mobile front, Africa is widely acknowledged as the world’s fastest growing mobile
market [14]. According to George Ferreira [15], Africa is the second largest and fastest mobile
phone market in the world after China, with Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya and Ghana taking the
lead in smart phone sales, adding that mobile device penetration grew from a base of 90 million
in 2005 to a current estimate of 450 million handsets in 2012. In a survey carried out by a global
market research firm, TNS, it was found that 25% of Nigeria’s over 105 million mobile
telephone subscribers use smartphones. Similarly, Tony Liangwei [16], projected 30 million
smartphones were expected to be sold in Nigeria between now and 2015.
The statistics in the foregoing hold a huge potential for the African continent and Nigeria in
particular on the mobile learning front: more and more people will eventually own a smartphone
in the next few years to come, which will not only be used for basic communication or just-intime
learning but can support rich multimedia learning content as well. This behooves the
African research community to leverage this great opportunity for the educational development
of its citizenry as developed countries have done over the years [7].
1.1.1 Contextualized M-Learning
While internet access and high-speed connectivity can be taken for granted elsewhere in the
world, here in Africa and Nigeria in particular, these twin necessities of an information age are
still luxuries and continue to pose a great challenge for learners and teachers on the continent
and in the country [7]. In cases and places where they are available, the cost of access or
Master of Science Thesis
Computer Science, AUST 2013 Page 5
download is still on the high side to the extent that most students and teachers cannot afford it
[17]. Thus, as espoused by [17, 18, 19], there is need for the adoption and development of a
contextualized learning framework or model that takes the infrastructural and technological
limitations of these environments into consideration. Consequently, they called on learning
content developers and providers on the continent and in the country respectively to endeavour
to develop contextualized e-learning models and systems, which support and facilitate teaching
and learning in these environments. This is necessary, more especially when, as [17] noted, full
internet connectivity, in places where there is, is not uniform across all locations, and most
distance learners neither attend residential sessions nor have the opportunity to have
synchronous assistance in hard-to-understand portions of study modules because they are not
living close to their teachers or classmates.
1.1.2 Mobile Devices and Application Development
A mobile device basically is a portable device that can be carried from place to place and used in
enhancing day-to-day living such as communication, searching for information on the Internet,
job opportunities, and above all, teaching and learning. According to [10], a mobile device is
any device that:
1. Turns on instantly (don’t require boot-up)
2. Is carried in a pocket or purse most all the time and are gaining ubiquity
3. Has sufficient power to last one day
4. Has input and output capabilities and a processor
It added that mobile devices are more than just a phone, as they come in different categories and
sizes. Establishing that basic mobile phones are not suitable for m-learning, it identified and
classified those that offer huge potential for m-learning in a logical way as shown in Table 1.1.
Table .1. ADL Classifications of Mobile Devices
S/N Mobile Device Capabilities
1. Smartphones System-On-Chip (SoC), full browser / HTML5 support, Wi-Fi, 3G/4G,
music player, GPS, video-capable, Bluetooth, touch support, camera,
accelerometer, 3D video acceleration, etc.
2. Tablets Same core features as smartphones, but larger screen sizes (e.g., 5′, 7′,
9′) and optional keyboard, and no true phone.
3. Non-phone
Devices
Wi-Fi support, browser, other features, etc. iPod, PDAs, handheld game
consoles, wearable devices, or portable media players.
1.1.2.1 Mobile Development Concerns
Usually, when developing for mobile devices, more issues than for desktops need to be
addressed by the developer, as the mobile device has a lot of limitations compared to the desktop
environment. According to [10], these limitations include battery life, connectivity, cost, data
charges, device ownership, screen size, security and technology. Other concerns which need to
be addressed as well by the developer include network, carrier, device and platform.
Master of Science Thesis
Computer Science, AUST 2013 Page 6
1.1.2.2 Screen Sizes, Resolutions and Densities
Unlike desktops and laptops, mobile devices have some restrictions such as limited battery life,
small screen size and resolution. Besides, they come in different display sizes, densities and
resolutions as evident in Android phones and tablets. Generally, Android devices come in four
different display screen sizes, which include small, normal, large and xlarge. Consequently, the
programmer must be prepared to tackle these issues if he wants his application to support (run
seamlessly in) a wide range of mobile devices with different sizes and resolutions. Resolution is
the number of physical pixels contained in a screen. However, it is more preferable for
developers to work with screen density, which is the quantity of pixels within a physical area of
screen, referred to as dpi (dot per inch). But then, during the definition of layouts and layout of
widgets on the UI, a density-independent metric known as density-independent pixel (dp), which
is a virtual pixel unit, is required. This metric allows layout dimensions or positions of widgets
on the screen to be expressed in a density-independent way. As a standard, one (1) dp is
equivalent to one (1) physical pixel on a 160 dpi screen, which is the baseline density assumed
by the system for a medium density screen [20, 21]. Generally, Android devices come in four
basic different screen densities—low density-independent pixel per inch (ldpi), simply referred
to as low; medium density-independent pixel per inch (mdpi), simply referred to as medium;
high density-independent pixel per inch (hdpi), simply referred to as high; extra high densityindependent
pixel per inch (xdpi), simply referred to as extra high.
1.1.3 Theory of Multimedia Learning
According to Mayer [9, 22], one of the fundamental hypotheses underlying research on
multimedia learning is that multimedia instructional materials that are designed taking into
consideration how the human mind works are more likely to result in meaningful learning than
those that are not. He summarizes it in the multimedia principle: “People learn more deeply from
words and pictures than from words alone.” His cognitive theory of multimedia learning
(CTML) is based on three cognitive science principles of learning, which include the following:
1. The human information processing system includes dual channels for visual/pictorial and
auditory/verbal processing (i.e., dual-channels assumption); and
2. Each channel has limited capacity for processing (i.e., limited capacity assumption) and
3. Active learning entails carrying out a coordinated set of cognitive processes during
learning (i.e., active processing assumption).
He advocates that multimedia instructional materials should be designed to meet the specific
five cognitive processes in multimedia learning, which are depicted in Fig. 1.1 and as follows:
1. Selecting relevant words from the presented text or narration,
2. Selecting relevant image from the presented illustrations,
3. Organizing the selected words into a coherent verbal representation,
4. Organizing selected images into a coherent pictorial representation and
5. Integrating the pictorial and verbal representations and prior knowledge.
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Figure .1. Cognitive Theory of Multimedia Learning
According to Pocatilu & Pocovnicu [23], an entertaining multimedia content has the potential of
“transforming young students’ learning from something that they need to do into something that
they like to do.” They gave a typical example as entertaining multimedia content which
combines gaming and learning. See Table 1.2 for the other cognitive principles of mobile
learning [24]. For the most part, the one in the bottom row builds on the other in the top row.
Table 1.2. Cognitive Principles of Mobile Learning
S/N Cognitive Principle Statement
1. Modality Principle People learn, retain, and transfer information better when the
instructional environment involves auditory narration and
animation, rather than on-screen text and animation.
2 Redundancy Principle People learn, retain, and transfer information better when the
instructional environment involves narration and animation,
rather than on-screen text, narration and animation.
3. Coherence Principle People learn, retain, and transfer information better when the
instructional environment is free of extraneous words, pictures
or sounds.
4. Signalling Principle People learn and transfer information better when the
instructional environment involves cues that guide an
individual’s attention and processing during a multimedia
presentation.
5. Contiguity Principle People learn, retain, and transfer information better in an
instructional environment where words or narration and pictures
or animation are presented simultaneously in time and space.
6. Segmentation
Principle
People learn and transfer information better in an instructional
environment where they experience concurrent narration and
animation in short, user-controlled segments, rather than as a
longer continuous presentation.
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1.1.4 Learning Style Models
Just like humans are different, so are their learning styles and preferences. In this section, we
will briefly look at two (2) of the most common learning style models: Neil Fleming’s
VAK/VARK Model and David Kolb’s Learning Styles Model. This is necessary so as to put the
objectives, which this thesis seeks to realize, into proper context.
1.1.4.1 Neil Fleming’s VAK/VARK Model
The Neil Fleming’s VAK/VARK model is used by learners to identify their preferred learning
style in order to maximize their educational experience by focusing on what benefits them the
most. It is one of the most common and widely-used categorizations of the various types of
learning styles [25, 26, 27] based on neuro-linguistic programming (VARK) models. According
to the model, as cited in [28], learners can be categorized into three (3) major groups: visual
learners, auditory learners and kinesthetic learners or tactile learners.
1.1.4.1.1 Visual Learners: Visual learners, according to Fleming’s model, have preference for
seeing and visualizing what they learn. He noted that they think in pictures and prefer visual aids
such as overhead slides, diagrams, flipcharts, handouts, videos, etc. This group of learners
prefers sitting in front in the classroom so no one obstructs their view of the teacher and
blackboard. For this group of learners, video, slides and HTML files, replete with diagrams and
images, which the NMMLA framework supports, will be useful and beneficial [27].
1.1.4.1.2 Auditory Learners: This set of learners, according to Fleming, best learns through
listening to audio content such as lectures, discussions, tapes, etc. The accommodation of audio
content in the framework is targeted at meeting the need of this set of learners [27].
1.1.4.1.3 Tactile/Kinesthetic Learners: This group of learners prefers to learn by experience,
i.e. through a hands-on approach, e.g. feeling, touching, moving and doing things. They prefer
being actively involved in exploring the world around them and engaging in scientific
experiments [27]. The NMMLA framework attempts to accommodate this group of learners by
supporting swiping and sequencing through content and the delivery of interactive content such
as simulations, which learners can interact with very closely so as to realise a heightened UX.
1.1.4.2 David Kolb’s Learning Styles Model
David Kolb’s [29] learning styles model gave rise to the Learning Style Inventory (LSI): an
assessment method used to determine an individual’s learning style. Based on the Experiential
Learning Theory (ELT), it is one of the most widely accepted models with substantial empirical
support. According to this model, which identified two pairs of related approaches towards
grasping and transforming experience, namely, Concrete Experience/Abstract Conceptualization
and Reflective Observation/Active Experimentation respectively, the ideal learning process
engages all four of these modes in response to situational demands [28]. Thus, in order for
learning to be effective, all four of these approaches must be actively involved and integrated.
However, as individuals attempt to use all four approaches, the model postulated, they tend to
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develop strengths in one experience-grasping approach and one experience-transforming
approach. Consequently, the resulting learning styles are combinations of the individual’s
preferred approaches. These learning styles include converger, diverger, assimilator and
accommodator [30].
1.1.4.2.1 Convergers: Convergers are characterized by abstract conceptualization and active
experimentation. They are good at making practical applications of ideas and using deductive
reasoning to solve problems. The support of a simulation component in the NMMLA framework
will help this group of learners to actively engage in simulation activities on a mobile phone
prior to having the opportunity for live experiments.
1.1.4.2.2 Divergers: Divergers tend towards concrete experience and reflective observation.
They are imaginative and are good at coming up with ideas and seeing things from different
perspectives. The NMMLA framework provides for this group of learners likewise by allowing
them to interact with the multimedia learning application on the Android device through
clicking, swiping, zooming and sequencing through their learning content, which includes
HTML files, images, audio, video, simulations and quizzes.
1.1.4.2.3 Assimilators: Assimilators are characterized by abstract conceptualization and
reflective observation. They are capable of creating theoretical models by means of inductive
reasoning. Textual learning content, delivered in HTML format, supported by the framework,
will be suitable for this group of learners.
1.1.4.2.4 Accommodators: Accommodators prefer to have concrete experience and engage in
active experimentation. They are good at actively engaging with the world around them and
actually doing things instead of merely reading about and studying them. The simulation
component accommodated by the framework will be beneficial to this group of active learners.
1.1.5 Framework Overview
A review of existing literature revealed that not much research has been done on the process of
developing a NMMLA framework on the mobile platform. As such, as earlier stated, this thesis
attempts to come up with a conceptual design and implement it as a library on the Android
platform. The framework leverages the underlying hardware resources, such as audio and video
players, accelerometers etc, in delivering interactive multimedia-rich content for various
educational and training courses. Fig. 1.2 shows a schematic of how the framework can be
instantiated to realize a functional application. The CP loads the content from the IDE filesystem
into the framework, compiles it into a “.apk” format and pushes it to the Android device.
1.1.5.1 Multimedia Support
Due to the different learning preferences and styles of learners, the framework is designed to
support various types of interactive multimedia learning content including quizzes, which enable
learners to evaluate themselves upon finishing taking a modular content. Fig. 1.3, from content
standpoint, portrays the types of multimedia, which are supported by the NMMLA framework.
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Figure 1.2. Instantiating the Framework to Realize a Native Mobile Application
They include text, HTML, images, audio, video and simulations (graphics and animations).
These contents, for the most part, except for audio which plays on the background, are
embedded or rendered in a view widget on the screen, e.g., webview, imageview,
videoview etc. Table 1.3 depicts the various types of audio, video and image multimedia
formats supported by the framework and the Android platform [6]. Consequently, the framework
can be said to support the needs of verbal, visual and tactile learners, which can be regarded as
the major kinds of learners as outlined by Fleming model. HTML, video and simulation are
targeted at meeting the needs of verbal, visual and tactile learners respectively. In general,
learners can interact with the content they are studying/learning by clicking, swiping, paging etc.
(Pre-defined System)
Image
Quiz
VViieeww
Native Multimedia Learning Application Framework
Image
Figure 1.3. Types of Content Supported by the NMMLA Framework
HTML
Text
Audio
Video
Simulation
View
Content Input FRAMEWORK Output Native Application
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They can also carry their multimedia content anywhere they go. This is a fundamental deviation
from the traditional learning model, instructor-led training, where the learner was passive,
confined in space and time, or in situations whereby he is able to carry his content (reading
materials and textbooks) wherever he goes, weight and non-portability pose a great challenge.
Table 1.3. File Formats Supported by Framework
Types Audio Video Image
Supported
File Type/
Container
Formats
3GPP (.3gp)
MPEG-4 (.mp4, .m4a)
ADTS raw AAC (.aac, decode in
Android 3.1+, encode in Android
4.0+, ADIF not supported)
MPEG-TS (.ts, not seekable,
Android 3.0+)
3GPP (.3gp)
MPEG-4 (.mp4)
MPEG-TS (.ts, AAC audio
only, not seekable, Android
3.0+)
JPEG (.jpg)
GIF (.gif)
PNG (.png)
WebP
(.webp)
1.1.5.2 Framework Use Case Diagram
Fig. 1.4 shows the UCD for the NMMLA framework. It captures the main actors (content
provider on the right and learner on the left) and the overall components in the framework,
which are abstracted. The abstract nomenclature is indicative of their render modes (RMs),
which include listview mode (LM) and tabview mode (TM) for modular components, and detail
view (DV) for atomic components. These components, represented by intuitive icons, are laid
out either in the homepage (HP) gridview (GV) and at the top of the screen (actionbar) in an
instance application. For small–sized screens, the actionbar components may overflow to the
menu at the bottom of the screen, while for large-sized screens they may be rendered as a menu
at the right-hand corner of the actionbar. Better still, for larger screens like tablets, the
components are spread out along the actionbar. Table 1.4 shows the Framework Component
Grid (FCG). It outlines the features of the various components supported by the framework,
including their navigation levels (NLs). The dark orange color shows that the modular
component can render in TM when clicked. The same explanation holds for the modular
component with mid-orange color. The light orange color shows that the modular component is
composed of items in a list. Similarly, the blue color indicates that a file is an atomic item (either
in the HP GV or on the AB) or a tabbed detail view or an item in a list. The same applies to the
light blue color for sim (simulation). NL indicates the number of clicks (see Fig. 1.5 [6])
required to get to the detail view of each item contained in an atomic or modular component [7].
The CP loads the framework with the required content from the right, while the learner
consumes it from the left. As shown, the entry names for all items of content are stored in a
database, such as SQLite database, while their corresponding files (image, HTML, video etc) are
stored in the CP’s project filesystem in the IDE [7].
Now, let us take an example of how the learner can interact with the framework components,
and how this interaction can be mapped to the component grid in Table 1.4.
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Fig. 1.4. NMMLA Framework Use Case Diagram from Component Standpoint
To illustrate this, let us say, as an example, he wants to study a module in Course 2. As a result,
he selects Course 2 from the Course drop-down menu. Course 1 (default) pops off and Course 2
comes up on the screen, displaying its components in the HP GV and on the AB. The learner
prefers to study a textual module, contained in a Learn component comprising a number of
modules of HTML items (just like the chapters of a book having different topics) [7].
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Table 1.4. Framework Component Grid
Component Features Other
Name Tab List Item File Sim NL
AtomicItem 1
TabFile 1
ListItem 2
TabModule 2
ListModule 3
However, he does not prefer the default render mode (LM) preset by the CP. As a result, he
proceeds to select his choice (TM) from the RM options menu. And then, he goes on to click
Learn. At this, a navigational tabview (dark orange in the FCG) opens, displaying the items of
the first module in the component in a listview (mid-orange in the FCG). From this list, he can
select an item (light orange in the FCG), which opens up the detail view of the corresponding
file (dark blue in the FCG). All of these took only just two clicks or NLs (mid-purple in the
FCG) to arrive at the detail view, as against three if he were in LM. Basically, the RM allows
the learner to decide whether to swipe or click through his content, e.g. HTML files [7].
Figure 1.5. Framework Navigation Hierarchy
Examples of top
level views an app
can support
Category views which
allow user to drill
deeper into an app
Detail/Edit view
where user view or
create data
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Moreover, the Course menu can also be used by content providers to organize courses according
to levels of difficulty such as “Basic,” “Intermediate,” and “Advance [7].”
1.1.5.3 Framework Model View Controller
The Model View Controller (MVC) is a programming paradigm or practice leveraged by
programmers to organize projects (especially large projects) in a standard way. Fortunately, in
Android programming, a large part of it is already implemented by the Framework [31, 32]. We
will briefly present the MVC, starting with the model (see Fig. 1.6), which our framework
utilizes in realizing a complete functional NMMLA. Moreover, while discussing the controller,
we present our Content Flow Algorithm Tree, which provides a visual flow of content through
the framework and between the framework controllers in an instance application [7].
1.1.5.3.1 Model: Model is the domain-specific representation of the data (content) on which the
application operates. In our framework, a model is a data structure that is used to retrieve data
from a database or other data sources such as the Android project filesystem in an IDE. Fig. 1.6
shows the UML TCD for the design and composition of the data models (atomic and modular)
which the framework supports. It depicts the static relationships (mainly inheritance and
aggregation) between the various data models, such as Course, Component, Module, Item,
File, Simulation etc, which make up a NMMLA. Examples of File objects include
images, HTML, audio and video, which are specified by the “fileEntryType” attribute in the
File class. Similarly, examples of Simulation include dynamic classes, which are
characterized by graphics and animations. Also depicted in the TCD is the Homepage class,
implemented as HomePageFragmentActivity (HPFA). This class inherits from the
Android’s FragmentActivity class and implements the interface
onGridItemSelectedListener. The implementation of this interface defines what
happens when a component in the HP GV is clicked. Moreover, the inclusion of the HP class
alongside the data models helps in portraying how the HP of the NMMLA relates with other
components, such as CourseBundle, ThemeBundle, Help, Search etc. It also portrays
how HP relates with intent-receiving classes such as ListModuleFragmentActivity
(LMFA), HtmlHandlerActivity (HHA) etc. These classes, referenced by a diamond-ended
arrow, come up on screen when invoked, i.e. sent an intent by HPFA.
Another very useful piece of information captured in the diagram is how the Module class
relates with Quiz class. We see in the diagram that for every module composed of items there
can be one or no corresponding quiz as desired by the CP. Finally, we see that a module can
have a render mode, LM or TM, which determines how its composed items will be rendered on
the screen. This allows the learner to have and make choices according to his learning style and
preferences. Similarly, a modular component can have a render mode, LM or TM, which
determines how its modules will be rendered on the screen. Finally, the HP class also has a
render mode static attribute, which determines in the overall how the modular components laid
out on the HP screen will be rendered when selected (clicked) by the learner [7].
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