Over the past two decades, mobile learning (m-learning) has been a purposeful area of research among educational technologists, educators and instructional designers whereby doubts and controversies over its relevancy and applicability have been keenly addressed. This paper explores stakeholders’ perceptions of m-learning deployment in Higher Learning Institutions (HLIs). Spe- cifically, we examine the potential of m-learning for HLIs in Tanzania and the challenges that hinder successful m-learning deployment. We adopt a comparative qualitative case study design in which four HLIs in Tanzania were purposefully selected. The study uses a combination of de- sign science research approach and qualitative methods including grounded theory, document re- views, and observation. The respondents included university lecturers, students and ICT experts, who were selected for the interviews through theoretical sampling. The transcripts were loaded, coded and analyzed in NVIVO software. The results indicate that mobiles (smartphone, tablets, laptops, feature-phones etc.) are widely used in the HLIs. Stakeholders perceive that m-learning deployment is important and useful because it improves the quality of the learning experience. The results further indicate that there are financial, pedagogical, technological, infrastructural, individuals – and policy – related challenges that hinder successful deployment of m-learning in HLIs in Tanzania, such as limited network coverage, some students ́ inability to afford mobiles, lack of qualified staff for preparation of mobile content and administration, gaps in the exist- ing policies, and faulty course design. However, our results show that participants are optimistic about the potential of m-learning in the HLIs of Tanzania. They expect that m-learning will im- prove access to learning resources, teacher-student and student-student interaction without being restricted by time or place. Thus, m-learning is considered to have the potential to address issues of crowded classrooms, expertise, access to learning materials, flexibility of the learners as well as remote connectivity.
We recommend that HLIs should prioritize m-learning and commit resources to the success of the related projects. We also recommend that the governments and stakeholders provide policy interventions, subsidize mobile technologies, expand network coverage, build capacity within and outside HLIs, and improve digital literacy by integrating ICT education at all levels of education.
Key words: mobile learning, m-learning, mobile learning deployment, design science research, connectivism, critical theory of technology