Evaluating the feasibility of collaborative mobile learning systems in environmental science


Universities are increasingly using mobile and digital technologies in teaching and the extent of these tools has accelerated owing to the COVID-19 pandemic. Mobile technologies have the potential to provide students with opportunities for flexible and collaborative learning and are increasingly attractive to field-based environmental science and ecology disciplines.

However, there is a lack of coherent systematic data describing how mobile learning technologies are used in these disciplines, and their feasibility and sustainability over the longer term. Critical factors for mobile learning project success include the integration of technology into the curriculum, the pedagogical and technological capacity of instructors, and adequate provision of support. Further factors that influence the sustainability of these initiatives include the institutional context within which projects are implemented.


This project will explore the feasibility and suitability of mobile learning initiatives across The University of Melbourne, Hong Kong University and the University of Johannesburg within the context an existing project in coastal ecology, whilst the support of a Universitas21 Fellowship will allow the project to be extended to the University of Maryland. The initial research will involve a systematic literature review of recent mobile learning projects in environmental science, analysis of strategy and curriculum documents and qualitative evaluation of instructors’ capacity and aptitude for integrating mobile and digital technologies. These data will be utilised to further inform the mobile learning evaluations and provide recommendations for practitioners and institutions. A Universitas21 Fellowship awarded to Dr Bone will allow travel to all four institutions during 2022 to explore further opportunities for project development across the U21 network.


  • Dr Elisa Bone, The University of Melbourne


  • Dr Allyson O'Brien, The University of Melbourne
  • Associate Professor Bayden Russell, The University of Hong Kong
  • Professor Gray Williams, The University of Hong Kong
  • Professor Richard Greenfield, The University of Johannesburg
  • Associate Professor Judy O’Neil, The University of Maryland
  • Professor William Dennison, The University of Maryland


Melbourne Graduate School of Education Researcher Development Scheme
Universitas21 Fellowship, The University of Melbourne


Bone, E.K., Greenfield, R. Williams, G.A. & Russell, B.D. (2020). Creating a digital learning ecosystem to facilitate authentic place-based learning and international collaboration – a coastal case study. Concise paper: ASCILITE 2020 Conference Proceedings. Draft available at: 2020conference.ascilite.org/program

Proposed outcomes in 2022 include progress towards a predictive framework, software development to update a custom-built mobile application, a policy briefing paper and journal article. This project will extend into 2023 through the support of the Universitas21 Fellowship. A seminar will be presented to the University audience following the completion of the Fellowship in 2023.

More information

Dr Elisa Bone, Melbourne CSHE, The University of Melbourne