Analysing user reviews of inquiry-based learning apps in science education

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Computers and Education, 2021, 164, pp. 104-119
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© 2020 Elsevier Ltd The science education community is increasingly valuing the use of mobile apps in inquiry-based learning (IBL) to improve learner’ attitudes and their understanding of science concepts. Although there exists a body of research on mobile apps used for IBL in science education, limited attention has been paid to linking apps' features with their pedagogical affordances. Our study addresses this research gap by evaluating science mobile learning apps with respect to IBL pedagogy. Nine functional features of apps that support educational aspects of inquiry-based pedagogy are identified from user reviews, including: fingertip interaction, graphics visualisation, informative materials, location-based services, offline access, search by question, timeline scrolling, user tutorials, and zoom control. The information contained in the version history of the apps is analysed and four educational aspects of IBL supported by the nine functional features are identified as: motivation, conceptualisation, exploration, and conclusion. We have further compared the evolution of the functional features of apps to the educational aspects of inquiry-based pedagogy identified from different versions of apps. The findings of this study show the trend of updated functional features that support IBL and inform practitioners seeking to improve their use of mobile apps to support students' learning in science. We conclude by proposing areas of future research in this field.
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