Mobile Learning: Definition, Examples, Advantages and Disadvantages
What is Mobile Learning?
Mobile learning, also called mlearning, is education or training that is conducted on and delivered through portable devices like smartphones and tablets.
What Influences Mobile Learning?
While mobile learning gained traction in the early 2000s, the idea of making portable tools dates back to the 1200s when the Chinese invented the abacus. Mobile tools appear throughout history, with items like the Geiger counter (hand-held radiation detection; 1928), Texas Instrument’s original calculator (TI-30; 1976), and the BlackBerry (albeit a very primitive one; 1999). The iPhone debuted in 2007, and ever since, companies, universities, app developers, and people themselves have been developing programs, books, games, and tools that can be used on mobile devices.
But how does that relate to learning and development? Here are a few key items that influence mobile learning.
The shift toward micro-learning and creating learning that can be digested in bite-sized “chunks” has been a heavy influencer of mobile, even though this concept exists largely due to the shift to mobile itself.
Mobile learning stands to become the primary means for delivering this type of learning. Mobile also makes delivering of many kinds of content possible (videos, slideshows, copy, instructional guides). As videos, slideshows, and chatrooms become a greater part of learning, the demand for mobile learning will only increase.
E-learning has, in many ways, revolutionized learning, and with training and development programs incorporating technology into their programs, mobile learning has become a focal point. This is most helpful in university classroom, manufacturing companies that require anytime access from anywhere, and large corporations that need out outline procedures and instructions that can be accessible from many members of the company.
A Millennial-Dominated Workforce
Mobile learning appeals to the millennial workforce and future workers who will also be raised on technology. With this generation and those that follow being raised with instant-access to information, the ability to pick up any device and get answers in seconds will be key. Social platforms like Twitter, Vine (RIP), and YouTube have vastly changed how individuals get their information and seek out learning and entertainment.
Responsive design means that the interface will adapt to multiple device sizes, whether it’s a desktop computer, laptop, smartphone, or tablet. Responsive design goes hand-in-hand with mobile learning, and will only become more important as learning trends continue to shift toward mobile learning. Courses MUST be responsive in order to be user-friendly.
Mobile Learning Advantages
Mobile learning can create a new dynamic for learners, as formal on-boarding programs can now be supplemented with on-the-job, instant-access learning chunks.
Mobile learning advantages:
- Learning can be accessed anywhere and at any time
- Mobile learning caters to the shift toward micro-learning
- Information is more readily accessible when needed for on-the-job training
- Learners can collaborate through online forums and chats
- Mobile can incorporate all learning styles
- Appeals to millennial learners
One of the key advantages to mobile learning is that the courses can be accessed anywhere and from multiple devices. This means training doesn’t have to stop after onboarding. Smartphones and tablets can be brought into manufacturing warehouses and corporate stores, and even carried in transit with workers, giving them access to learning and guidance they need.
This also facilitates interaction during lessons and training, the opportunity to provide instant feedback and Q&A, and the ability to put out new learning content that automatically populates to learners.
While there are many advantages to mobile learning, there are some disadvantages.
Mobile Learning Disadvantages
For as many advantages there are for mobile learning, there are also disadvantages, like technology limitations, battery life, and distractions.
Mobile learning disadvantages:
- Battery life, device failure, updates, and crashes are all a concern
- Courses and learning objects MUST be responsive design
- Internet access and overall connectivity
- Mobile devices mean more opportunities for distraction
- Responsive design and device and software compatibility
- Multitasking might not be the best for learning retention
- Cost of devices
Mobile learning can both complement and conflict with formal education, but the key concern with mobile learning is technology-related, from batter life to crashes and compatibility.
Video: 4 Tips for Mobile Learning Design and Delivery
In the below six minutes-ish video, we walk through some key things to keep in mind when designing learning for mobile.
Infographic: Making the Move to Mobile-Ready Content
The below infographic outlines relevant data and statistics and how to make the change to mobile learning.
- A Day in the Life of a Mobile Knowledge Worker
- Delivering Learning to an Increasingly Mobile and Flexible Workforce
- 6 Best Practices to Effectively Deliver Mobile Learning Content
- 4 Tips for Mobile Learning Design and Delivery
- Making the Move to Mobile Ready Content
- How Can Learning and Development Engage the Modern Learner