Mobile learning is poised to be the next generation of knowledge acquisition.
Seeing that smartphones have become the most popular way of accessing the Internet (93% of US Millennials own a smartphone), that isn’t surprising.
If you’re looking to understand the landscape of mobile learning and what to expect in 2021 and beyond — you’re in the right place.
In this article, we dive into definitions, the basics of mobile learning, its benefits, cons, and how to optimize your current learning program for mobile learning.
What is Mobile Learning (mLearning)?
Also termed mLearning, the layman’s definition would be eLearning done on a mobile device. That is your smartphone and tablets.
Fair enough, but that definition doesn’t capture the essence of mobile learning. So, what’s mobile learning all about?
You see, mLearning is more than just enabling students to attend virtual classrooms through devices. Mobile learning allows education to break through the walls of a classroom or any other limitations of a physical structure.
A mobile learner can learn whenever and wherever they want.
Mobile Learning: The Basics
When stripped down to its bare bones, mobile learning is all about the following:
- Online or offline learning: Although mobile learning requires an internet connection, learners can also access the materials without being connected. Students have the option of downloading their learning materials and viewing them in offline mode if required. The teacher can still track their progress and sync it once they come online.
- Microcontent: The ability to deliver easily digestible content to learners is a significant reason why mobile learning is becoming a popular learning mode among students. Learning content can be delivered in different forms — how-to guides, checklists, quizzes, interactive videos, and eBooks.
- Social learning: With mLearning, out of sight is not out of touch. The social elements of mobile learning, such as discussion forums, chat, and the ability to get real-time feedback from experts and classmates, keep students engaged. It also encourages students to complete the course or class.
- Short feedback loops: With traditional learning systems, students must wait for months to get validation in exam results. The fluidity of mLearning programs means this isn’t the case. A student can get a certificate of completion in a few weeks if they can complete their learning materials.
Why You Should Get on Board with Mobile Learning
Adopting mobile learning is a no-brainer.
Firstly, its ability to make learning more accessible is a huge positive. Students can access learning materials no matter where they are based. If they struggle with a bad internet connection, they only need to download the learning materials and continue learning offline.
Secondly, joining a mobile learning platform allows learners to skip the limitations of a conventional classroom. For example, classes don’t get called off or postponed because the lecturer is absent. Students have real-time-all-the-time access to learning materials.
Plus, they can also develop their customized learning plan depending on their schedule or unique learning needs — no need for the blanket learning schedules and jam-packed curriculums, which are the standard with traditional learning programs.
Lastly, mLearning is the future of learning. As we pick up the pieces after one of the most devastating events in recent human history, it’s evident that life as we know it might never be the same.
Remote has come to stay, and it isn’t just with work. Learning and all we have come to accept about “standards” about the classroom and teaching will need to be reimagined for the “next normal.”
The Benefits of Mobile Learning
Implementing mobile learning at your company has tons of benefits for corporate training. Here are the top benefits of switching to a mLearning program:
- Learn on the go: With mLearning, individuals can learn at any time and from anywhere. You don’t need to stuff everyone into the company meeting room despite conflicting individual schedules. Employees can adjust their learning schedules to fit into their calendars while you track their progress. This way, they are more engaged and likely to get the most value from the learning material.
- Self-paced learning: No individual is the same. Yet, traditional learning systems expect all students to move at the same pace. This is often the pace of the “fastest” learner in class, leaving the slower ones or those who prefer to take their time frustrated. mLearning eliminates the need for this unhealthy race.
- Higher completion and retention rates: The combination of shorter feedback loops, instant certification, microcontent, and the social component motivates learners. Learners are more likely to not only complete the course material but retain more of what they learned.
- Cost-effective: A significant benefit of mobile learning is that it’s cost-effective. The educator creates the content once, uploads the learning material to the mobile learning management system, and students can access it whenever they deem fit. There is no need to worry about facilitator fees, the cost of renting a space, feeding, and other costs associated with employee training programs.
- Device-independent: Students can access the course material on tablets, smartphones, or feature phones. The content also remains the same across all these devices. No need to bother about creating different types of content to fit these devices. The content is inherently responsive.
- Quick access to information: With mLearning, students can quickly access additional information while going through the course material. This advantage is highly beneficial as it allows learners to build a robust understanding of the subject matter.
The Downside of Mobile Learning
Yet, mobile learning isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. It has a few downsides such as:
- Learners are easily distracted: Anyone who’s tried to focus while on the Internet knows that can be an arduous task. Mobile learning is no different. Social media notifications, DMs, breaking news notifications, amongst others, make it difficult for learners to stay focused for a long time. They might also take longer than average to complete the course material.
- Poor internet issues can limit learners: If students live in areas with lousy internet coverage, it can be problematic to access the course content. This ends up disrupting the students’ learning schedule. In scenarios where the students need to participate in online learning discussions or a real-time online exam, poor Internet can be disastrous. It means the student loses out on the value of real-time collaboration or misses the exam.
- Small screens: There’s only so much one can see on mobile screens. And while optimizing for mobile screens does improve the user experience, it doesn’t take away the need to strain the eye to view parts of the text or the “digital eye fatigue” learners experience when reading large blocks of text on mobile phones. Imagine trying to solve a differential equation on your 5.8″ iPhone screen? Plus, remember the actual viewable area is less.
- Wrong incentives: The dopamine rush from instant certification can sometimes lead to the wrong incentives. Instead of trying to assimilate the course material, students speed through the course and then try to game the exam to get a certificate. This has led to the rise of websites that peddle answers to popular mobile courses at a fee.
Examples of Mobile Learning
There are different examples of mobile learning. However, it can be categorized into three:
- Synchronous learning: This is instructor-led and happens in real-time using remote work tools. Live webinars or Q&A sessions fall under this example of mobile learning. The instructor leads the training session via a scheduled video call. Students get supporting material such as eBooks to complement their knowledge after the live session.
- Recorded sessions delivered asynchronously: Here, the live sessions are recorded and repurposed into different formats (short videos, slide decks) and sent to students via email or the company mobile learning management system (LMS). Students can consume the learning content while doing the laundry or babysitting.
- Fully asynchronous learning programs: Finally, there are fully asynchronous mLearning programs such as courses that come with interactive guides, assessments, and pre-recorded videos. These courses are designed for independent learning, and learners can access the mLearning platform anywhere and at their convenience.
Optimize for Mobile Learning
Optimizing your mobile learning content programs for a mobile learning experience is key to proper outcomes. Here’s how:
- Gamification: Gamifying the learning experience increases engagement. And learner engagement aids learning and retention. Adding gamification elements such as leaderboards, badges, and rewards gets learners involved in the learning process while subliminally nudging them to complete the course material.
- Complement formal training: mLearning platforms enrich traditional training programs by acting as a complement to formal training. You achieve this by delivering these courses in bite-sized formats. That way, learners can consume the course material anywhere and anytime. You can also add interactive quizzes, memory cards, and videos to help with completion and retention.
- Social learning and collaboration: Students sometimes learn best with their peers. The social component of mLearning encourages collaboration between fellow students. They can ask each other questions, brainstorm on problems, or get feedback on their work. All these elements combine to stimulate their thinking and expand their understanding of the subject matter.
- Digestible content: mLearning content is by its very nature bite-sized and short. This means students can quickly complete the lessons. They also don’t wait too long when downloading videos and other learning content.
The Future of Learning is Mobile
The learning landscape has changed. And how and what we teach learners will need to adjust to keep up to date with the demands of the “next normal.”
With the recent advancements in mobile technology, anywhere-anytime-learning isn’t out of reach.
As the world races to a new future, employers, educators, and teachers alike must be prepared to be innovative and create learning programs that suit the future needs of their students.
So optimize your eLearning content for mLearning today!