Education and Information Technologies

, Volume 23, Issue 2, pp 985–998 | Cite as

Ubiquitous learning environments in higher education: A scoping literature review

  • Mari Aulikki VirtanenEmail author
  • Elina Haavisto
  • Eeva Liikanen
  • Maria Kääriäinen


Ubiquitous learning and the use of ubiquitous learning environments heralds a new era in higher education. Ubiquitous learning environments enhance context-aware and seamless learning experiences available from any location at any time. They support smooth interaction between authentic and digital learning resources and provide personalized learning opportunities. The research area surrounding the ubiquitous learning phenomenon is highly specific and the criteria for ubiquitous learning environments have not been systemically described. The aim of this scoping review was to identify criteria for ubiquitous learning environments, and to summarize the relevant knowledge in this research area. The purpose was to identify research gaps and help map the scope of ubiquitous learning environments in higher education use. A systematic literature search was conducted in 2016 by searching nine international databases and grey literature. The searches retrieved 889 original studies. After filtering the titles, the abstracts (n = 78) and full texts (n = 30) were screened. Seven eligible studies were included in the final review. The study meets high scientific quality standards and guidelines for scoping literature reviews. The data was extracted and key themes were formalized. The original extracts were listed under sub-categories and final categories were defined. An inductive content analysis was used for the analysis. The results defined the criteria for ubiquitous learning environment as context-awareness, interactivity, personalization and flexibility supported by learning management systems, functional objects, wireless networks and mobile devices. All the studied learning environments were developed for specific purposes to support learning in specific contents. Components and outcomes varied between the environments. The results of the scoping review summarize the knowledge in this narrow research area, and have identified gaps in the existing literature. The review illustrates the scope of used ubiquitous learning environments in higher education contexts. It also raises the need for transparent research presenting practical implications for generalizability of future development processes.


Higher education Learning environment Scoping review Ubiquitous learning 


Author contributions

MV, MK and EH were responsible for the study design. MV and MK performed the literature review, data collection and analysis. MV was responsible for drafting the manuscript. MK, EL and EH made critical revisions. All authors contributed to the final approval of the version to be submitted.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interests

No conflict of interest has been declared by the authors during the development and evaluation process involved in this review. No ethical issues have been noted.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mari Aulikki Virtanen
    • 1
    Email author
  • Elina Haavisto
    • 2
  • Eeva Liikanen
    • 3
  • Maria Kääriäinen
    • 1
  1. 1.Research Unit of Nursing Science and Health ManagementUniversity of Oulu, FinlandOuluFinland
  2. 2.Department of Nursing ScienceUniversity of TurkuTurkuFinland
  3. 3.Biomedical Laboratory ScienceTampere University of Applied Sciences, FinlandTampereFinland

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