Mobile Devices and Software Applications to Promote Learning in a Musculoskeletal Physical Therapy Class: A Case Report

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Background and Purpose.

Use of mobile devices in higher education to promote learning (m-learning) is growing. Mobile devices, such as iPads and software applications (apps) offer faculty tools to improve student learning. Despite increasing use of mobile devices by consumers and health care professionals, little has been reported of m-learning in physical therapist (PT) higher education. The purpose of this case report is to describe m-learning with iPads and apps for instruction and assessment in a musculoskeletal physical therapy class, challenges to its use, and student and faculty experiences.

Case Description.

A university provided iPads to students in a professional level PT program for use in coursework. The instructor of record modified the first musculoskeletal course using iPads and m-learning. Laboratory instruction was supplemented with a commercially available musculoskeletal examination measures app. Formative assessment was conducted using an active response system (ARS) app promoting class discussion. Summative assessment was conducted with in-class mobile-compatible quizzes created in a learning management system, allowing students to review graded quizzes anytime, anywhere.


Course assessment results for the m-learning cohort were similar to those of the preceding cohort despite a larger class size for the m-learning cohort. Students reported the musculoskeletal measures app was helpful to learn proper technique. Most students did not like inclass mobile quizzes due to technical difficulties, including wireless connectivity problems.

Discussion and Conclusion.

Students perceived m-learning with musculoskeletal measures and ARS apps to be helpful for learning and for formative assessment. There was no apparent effect on assessment scores. Because technical challenges to m-learning for summative assessment are present, collaboration between academic technology professionals and faculty is necessary for planning and implementing m-learning in PT curricula.

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