Essay on Legal Issues in Adult Education

Published: 2021/11/16
Number of words: 3588


The use of mobile phones in learning has demonstrated itself as a quicker, flexible, and accessible means for many students, regardless of their locations. The widespread use of mobile phones, especially in the educational field, can be accredited to the growth of mobile phones and services industry and the mushrooming competences of the current phone generation. Consequently, the use of mobile phone gadgets in adult education has been analyzed in various contexts. Aker et al. (2012) assert that mobile phones positively impact the outcome of adult learning, especially within poor communities and rural populations of developing countries. Mobile phones can also pass contextually relevant information, especially in clinical education, creating digital narratives used in adult learning and as tools for interactive museum guidebooks. However, apart from the evident benefits that stem from mobile phones in adult learning, some worries emanate from the misapplication of this technology that can result in legal issues and hence affect the adoption of the concept. One significant legal issue in mobile learning is privacy and data security. This paper will examine arguments on the potential legal issues in mobile learning in adult education, specifically focusing on data security and privacy.


In the current world that emphasizes mobility and efficiency, people have become heavily reliant on mobile technologies. Mobile phones are recognized as an emerging innovation that has significantly transformed society and people’s daily lives. The use of mobile gadgets in adult education allows learners to study anytime and anywhere, hence extending their learning beyond the classrooms. In the United States, the use of phones in adult education has increased greatly. According to a survey by Pew Research Center (2019), about 92 percent of adults in the United States own phones. Additionally, a majority of these individuals have embraced the idea of using mobile devices as learning tools.

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The United States federal government has played a crucial role in the adoption of mobile learning through funding several technology and innovation programs with an aim of modernizing schools. Due to the government’s policy that regards educational technology as a means of reducing overall expenditure, it has committed resources towards this course. Equally, the adoption of technology has been embraced by learning institutions and learners alike. As a result, mobile learning is a growing trend in the country. However, so far, there are no major or countrywide mobile learning initiatives for American schools. Most of mobile learning activities are at an institutional or district level. Many of these initiatives are due to individual interests of teachers. However, a few of them are supported by global education and technology providers such as Google, Pearson, and Apple.

It is important to note that mobile learning, both formal and informal, has greatly developed, transitioning from the computer era to the present generation to modern smartphones. Furthermore, one may argue that mobile learning is not an extension or descendant of e-learning but rather a dissimilar learning practice and philosophy. This assertion is rational given that people do not consume their smartphones services the same way as they use their laptops or desktops. In fact, the differences between mobile learning and e-learning are so pronounced that a different path, concerning user experience, graphic, instructional, and presentational design, to name a few, needs to be followed.

Despite the widespread acceptance of mobile technologies as a convenient means of learning, advances in this field have mainly focused on delivery, deployment, and development, paying little attention to the privacy and security of personal information. Several authors have downplayed the importance of data security and privacy in mobile learning. For instance, Martin et al. (2011) examine the state-of-the-art middleware and structures aiding ubiquitous and mobile learning. The authors conclude that there is a need for further development in the mobile phone security and privacy sphere to build systems that safeguard users’ rights. In numerous cases, privacy and security fears have been conceptualized, considered, and downplayed similarly within the context of mobile learning.

However, downplaying user privacy and data security issues in mobile learning is unreasonable since it can plunge the concerned learning institutions into legal challenges and affect its implementation and effectiveness in adult education. Additionally, as noted earlier, it is crucial to note that the security and privacy concerns in e-learning are fundamentally different from those of mobile learning. For example, concerning privacy in mobile learning, users may be worried about the safety of their private information indirectly and without the user’s consent collected from mobile phones. This information includes IP address, phone numbers, location data, unique phone ID, and International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI).

Legal Challenges in the Adoption of Mobile Learning

Data and Systems Security and Privacy

The safety of systems, both on the server and client’s side, that enable them run smoothly and provide services to the intended user is, without doubt, necessary in any educational realm. This problem entails securing an institution’s systems and deploying appropriate security procedures and policies that can repel and deter attacks. Additionally, data privacy and security require ensuring the confidentiality, privacy, and integrity of information transferred and stored for educational purposes. Therefore, the adoption of strong mechanisms that facilitate student approval, verification, management of data, non-repudiation, content editing and copying, and protecting a user’s assessment and examination from imposters and attackers are just some of the pre-requisites of e-learning.

For mobile learning, some or all of the needs mentioned above become even more difficult because the students are continuously moving, use various devices that are beyond an institution’s control, and usually use wireless interfaces to connect. For example, connecting a mobile phone to an unprotected wireless network raises the connection hijacking risk, implying that the user is highly likely to get their data compromised. Overall, the adoption of mobile phones in adult education puts the privacy, veracity, and confidentiality of information used in the learning process, for both the student and the institution at stake. E-portfolio data, evaluation information, and student details are examples of delicate data that should be protected. Therefore, learners and educators need to be warned of the risks associated with connecting to rogue wireless networks that attackers could exploit and conduct their malicious activities

Regarding the service side, security measures such as anti-malware software and firewalls are the common solution. Nonetheless, as noted before, mobile innovations increase the threat of casual or ill-motivated individuals trying to gain access into restricted online sites and retrieve information without authorization, reduce the network and server performance, or inject malware. On the student’s side, the use of common security measures like passwords should be considered. Other solutions include installing anti-malware software in mobile devices, encryption, and the use of biometric security mechanisms. However, even in such interventions, the safety and privacy of user information are not guaranteed. For example, mobile firewalls usually insect IP interfaces, ignoring the Bluetooth interfaces. As a result, Damopoulos et al. (2013) note that due to the rising incidences of attacks reported for mobile services, learners and educators need to be concerned about the safety of their information stored in a gadget or communicated over the air.

User Privacy

In terms of safeguarding a user’s privacy, mobile technologies allow the possibility to monitor the learner’s behavior regularly. Nevertheless, while educators claim to use this possibility to protect the learner in terms of deterring cyber-bullying and ensuring easy administration of education materials, it may sometimes be perceived as a trampling or violation of the learner’s private circle. On the other hand, collecting and evaluating personal information such as learner’s goals and preferences can help educators assist them. Therefore, mobile phones in learning involve a compromise between a learner’s confidentiality and an educator observing and regulating their behavior. For instance, monitoring a user’s geographic location, communication content, and browsing behavior can be perceived as a way of profile them.

Therefore, a privacy-preserving mechanism needs to be adopted that enables learners to be identified or monitored when necessary or when they wish to. Say, to allow learners to engage in a debate on a particular subject, the mobile application should organize a conference with course mates roaming close to them or let the educator help them. Moreover, learners should be enabled to create their desired character in classrooms by only displaying specific pieces of information rather than all their information. In such a manner, learners will become more comfortable by being in a non-biased classroom environment, which is not influenced by the outcome of previous classes or any other prior event.

Mobile phones have been criticized because of their ability to leak information on the location of its user and tracking their movements. Locational tracking is generally unacceptable not only to learners using mobile phones to study but also anyone. Conversely, as already pointed out, there are some instances where mobile phone tracking has proven helpful. Such cases include locating a missing person, a stolen device, or blocking access to a device that has been stolen. Tracking may, in fact, be obligatory when the educational institution provides the mobile phones used by the learners. Learning institutions use Mobile Device Management (MDM) systems to administer their gadgets in real-time. They can track, locate, and gather information about device movements to remotely evaluate and solve software problems, install or update software, or delete information from stolen or compromised gadgets.

Mobile Phone-Related Issues

In several cases, especially where learning institutions supply their students with mobile equipment, there are fears regarding the gadgets making them attractive to burgles. However, this is a common challenge, since that virtually every learner owns a mobile phone, especially in rich nations. The use of mobile phones in adult learning can nonetheless present a legal challenge since it augments the risk of mugging and attacks towards the students. Mobile device management systems and post-authentication solutions that analyze user behavior and contextual data, such as where an individual roams, can help in such cases. The problem can also be solved by making the organizational logos big and easily noticeable on these devices. Encryption, biometric security mechanisms, and passwords are other methods that can be used to solve this problem.

Other concerns in mobile learning arise from the functionalities that these devices incorporate. Most phones used in education contain other functionalities such as access to social media. These networking websites and smartphones with high-resolution cameras might increase the risk of bullying and the embarrassment of teachers and learners. Naturally, phones have augmented the risk of online bullying as people can easily capitalize on the functionalities of these devices to take photographs or record videos, post on social sites, and make fun of them. In the context of mobile learning destinies for employees, cameras embedded in phones can increase the risk of corporate information leakage. Nonetheless, it is not clear whether the use of phones in learning increases the risk or not.

Content Filtering

Mobile learning presents a challenge in restricting and controlling learners’ access to inappropriate and illegal content in some cases. Ideally, mobile learners, particularly the ignorant ones, need to be deterred from accessing online content that is considered illegal, such as illegal downloading and sharing of files, or inappropriate. Among other reasons, these sites with attackers normally use to spread harmful software. Access to online communication platforms, such as chat rooms, can be exploited by malicious users to conduct offensive actions. Additionally, access to social media sites needs to be managed as it could obstruct or affect the process of learning.

Software and hardware systems and security policies can be used to tackle this challenge. However, in the context of mobile learning, this mechanism can be ineffective, given that learners can use their devices outside the premises of the institutions. Therefore, other protective measures should be put in place and installed in the phones on top of the normal mechanisms of controlling access to an institution’s wireless connections. This option requires sufficient administrative efforts to constantly install and update software in devices and respond to user complaints. Several stakeholders, including service providers, mobile operators, and the government, can help in improving the effectiveness of these protective measures by providing extra monitoring and security mechanisms and setting regulations, laws, and policies related to a particular problem.

Cloud Education

Cloud computing has emerged as a viable option in the educational realm. For instance, educators can now share several large files with their learners through cloud services such as Dropbox. Some of the advantages of cloud computing to mobile learning include unlimited storage capacity, the ability to retrieve data in the event of stolen or lost devices, reliable, nonstop and automatic data backup, real-time access to materials from anywhere, and ease in sharing information among gadgets. Nevertheless, cyber-security stakeholders have expressed concern that cloud computing may compromise the privacy and security of sensitive information externally stored and administered. Their concerns gained attraction after attack incidents like the April 2011 security outage at Sony PlayStation Network. Even worse, cloud computing in mobile learning introduces complex privacy and security fears since no one has total control of the entire infrastructure where cloud services run. These issues arise because of the diverse legislations encompassing the platform, given that providers operate globally and the heterogeneity and complexity of the systems involved. Therefore, even if the cloud provides some confidentiality measures that safeguard customer data, the storage of learner’s data presents unique precautions that need to be in line with global privacy and data protection laws and regulations.

Another issue touching mobile learning and cloud education is safeguarding information in a cross-institutional environment that collaboratively supports mobile learning activities. Specifically, due to the complexity and heterogeneity of privacy and security guidelines across institutions, systems that facilitate learning and teaching have proved ineffective since they provide little access to data administration. For example, because of the poor support given to types of tasks in various stages of the educational process, security models in place at multi-university consortiums hinder the learning process management.

Content Copyrights and Intellectual Property Rights (IPR)

Apart from resources purchased by an institution, most of the materials used in mobile learning, including audio, video, pictures, and text, are created by various stakeholders, such as individual hobbyists, learners, or teachers. However, in most cases, to ensure that learners get quick access to resources when internet connectivity is inaccessible or the mobile service is of poor quality, education materials may be pre-installed in the phone. This option may necessitate safeguarding of IPR and copyrights on a case-by-case basis. But, some educators or learners may be ignorant of or may fail to pay attention to the consequence of sharing and using materials that have intellectual property rights.

Recommendations to Address Multiple Mobile Learning Legal Issues

Privacy and security concerns are the major legal issue affecting mobile learning in realm of adult education. To enhance privacy as well as security in mobile devices, various digital identity features should be installed. Specifically, upon registering in mobile learning systems, each learner should be given a distinctive digital identity. Thereafter, hand devices should be listed as a single entity connected to the user’s digital identity. Mobile learning systems should be designed to manage the relationship between users and various gadgets registered under their digital identity. From a technical perspective, these schemes can improve the privacy granted to students since only the learning system is in a place to know the association between a learner’s digital identity and the identities of the gadgets that they use during mobile learning.

In electronic learning platforms, students work under a single login, and all their activities within the forum can be connected and recorded. This features compromises user privacy since learners can easily be profiled, especially after obtaining data regarding classes that a learner attends, their activities within a group or class, consistency of attending classes, extent of their learning, and their test outcomes. Another threat to the privacy in e-learning is that their contribution is kept in the system longer than it is required, making it even easier for students to be identified. Generally, privacy matters are not adequately addresses in the current e-learning environment. Problems identified in e-learning are also inherent in mobile learning platforms. Such challenges can be addressed by making improvements to the Learning Management Systems.

The application of biometrics is another important aspect that has been completely ignored in mobile learning. Biometrics can be used to combat authorized access to online learning materials using a mobile phone. Indeed, biometrics can become handy to mobile learning through enabling security features such as non-repudiation and authentication (Huszti and Petho, 2010). These features are important considering modern phones are equipped with touchscreens, cameras, QWERTY keyboards, and fingerprint readers. Fingerprint biometrics can be used for authentication purposes, especially during online assessments. Biometrics can also help track users trying to access learning materials and monitor the identity of individuals attending an online examination. Multi-biometrics can help improve the reliability of the authentication process, especially when a single biometric is insufficient. Therefore, while the use of biometrics in mobile learning is still in its infancy stage, it proves to be an effective mechanism that should be extensively researched and developed.

Indeed, cloud computing presents several benefits to mobile learning. However, several issues need to be addressed to fulfill user privacy and security. These issues include ownership, integration, assessment and security, and efforts to provide a rounded approach to cloud computing (Hirsch and Ng, 2011). Another recommendation for solving challenges associated with mobile assessments is introducing a cryptographic scheme. According to Huszti and Petho (2010), a cryptographic scheme can fulfill several security functions such as secrecy, authenticity, correctness, robustness, and anonymity. The solution also offers learners a receipt that proves successful submission and exploits anonymous feedback to provide anonymity to the student and tutor. Whereas this proposal is designed for general e-examinations, it can also be used in mobile education as it does not necessitate the presence of a Trusted Third Party.

Johnson et al. (2011) note that the existing systems designed for e-learning cannot adequately address the needs of mobile learning in a collaborative and cross-sectional environment. To address the issue, the authors developed a Role-Bases Access Control (RBAC) architecture which provides a secured infrastructure to internationally distributed mobile phone courseware. In this regard, Johnson et al. (2011) proposes a rule-based framework that identifies and controls information sharing in a global environment through RBAC management.

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Damopoulos et al. (2013) analyze the effectiveness of Digital Rights Management technology (DRM) in protecting content within a mobile learning platform. DRM is a group of access control innovation used by many parties, such as copyright holders and publishers, to limit devices and digital content after it has been sold. The authors propose that DRM can help reduce cases of Intellectual property Rights and copyright violations in the mobile learning environment.


Mobile learning is an emerging trend that has been successfully used to react to the challenges present in adult education. Most adult learners engage in daily activities that make it difficult for them to attend physical classes. As a result, mobile learning has helped advance formal learning among this educational niche. The growing trend of mobile technology can also be attributed to the growth of mobile phone and services industry as well as the mushrooming capabilities of the current phone generation. However, mobile phones for educational purposes raise legal issues touching on user privacy and the security of personal data. Institutions that have adopted mobile learning can access personal information contained in their learner’s gadgets, including their locations, communication, and contact details. A violation of personal security and privacy can lead to litigations that have significant financial implications on an institution. Other legal issues associated with mobile learning include the violation of intellectual property rights and copyrights. To address these challenges, this essay recommends adopting various digital identity features in the mobile devices used for learning. Specifically, upon registering in mobile learning systems, each learner should be given a unique digital identity. Learning systems should be designed to manage the association between users and various gadgets registered under their digital identity. Furthermore, mobile learning should incorporate more biometric features for authentication purposes.


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Damopoulos, D., Kambourakis, G., Anagnostopoulos, M., Gritzalis, S., & Park, J. H. (2013). User privacy and modern mobile services: are they on the same path? Personal and ubiquitous computing17(7), 1437-1448.

Hirsch, B., & Ng, J. W. (2011, December). Education beyond the cloud: Anytime-anywhere learning in a smart campus environment. In 2011 international conference for internet technology and secured transactions (pp. 718-723). IEEE.

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