Distance Learning by Mobile
By Eric Lin, Sat Sep 18 01:15:00 GMT 2004

Mobile Phones are providing an inexpensive, commonplace alternative to computers for a new English course in China.

A network in China is taking a distinctively different approach to teaching English. RTV China is offering a free course in colloquial English, and it is taking a more populist approach to teaching the class. Weekly one hour lessons on sports, dating, and other common subjects are broadcast on the radio throughout China. The lessons are then supported by daily SMS, as well as audio and video MMS featuring words and phrases for students to use.

People around the world with computer access have already begun to take advantage of free online courseware, like that offered by MIT. However these courses require computer access. Although many people who don't or can't own their own computers have access to computers through Internet cafes or public Internet stations, there are still far more people with radios and mobile phones. Adapting course work and even other online media to these more affordable and more common devices offers access to people who previously could not be able to take these classes or might not have made the effort.

Yesterday I noted that new software wis giving disabled users the chance to use their handsets as more than a communication device, but as a mobile computing platform. This class also proves that using the technologies already included in today's handsets, as well as other commonly available media, the handset can serve as a computer and Internet device where previously they did not exist or were difficult to access. We don't necessarily need smarter phones to enable mobile computing, in some cases we just need smarter content providers.