There’s an online version of just about everything.
Activities that normally occur in person, like shopping, watching television, and reading books are now all available online. All you need is a device and connection to the internet.
Digitalization has even reached the realm of education. Who would’ve thought?
The innovations involved with eLearning have opened up endless possibilities for educators to distribute materials and assess performance, and for pupils to access information and complete assignments outside the boundaries of an ordinary classroom.
Mobile learning, also referred to as mLearning, takes that convenience to the next level by making all materials accessible on a mobile device.
What is mobile learning?
Mobile learning is a form of distance education where learners use their mobile devices to access their educational content. By using mobile devices, learners have continuous access to the materials, information, and resources they need to learn.
Essentially, mobile learning refers to any learning that is done on a mobile device.
By implementing mobile learning technology, educators can extend the distribution of knowledge beyond the typical parameters of a classroom or other restrictive environments. Not only can this lead to the chance to reach more learners and offer flexibility, but it also presents the opportunity to create and implement new and engaging learning experiences.
Mobile learning vs. electronic learning
Both mLearning and eLearning have wiggled their way into the world of education. And not just school classrooms.
Chances are, if there’s something new you want to learn, whether it be calculus, German, or leadership skills, there’s an option to obtain the information using mLearning or eLearning, or both.
eLearning and mLearning technology both hold prominent places in the field of education. While they both work to the advantage of the learner and the institution offering the information, there are some differences between the two methods.
Here’s where they differ:
The assessment: Typically, mLearning assessments happen immediately after a lesson, while eLearners are given a bit more time to sit on the information.
The device: eLearning is typically done on a desktop or laptop computer, while the point of mLearning is to access information or conduct assessments on a mobile device, such as cell phones or tablets. The device on which things are being accessed will also affect the way the sites are programmed. Because mLearning is happening on mobile devices, the graphics and overall look of the site need to be a bit simpler.
The time: Because of the nature of their associated devices, the time that learners take to study information and complete assignments also differs. mLearners are more on the go, starting and stopping at any time. On the other hand, eLearners using laptops or desktops sit with the information for longer periods of time.
The information: Information given in eLearning courses tends to be more extensive with the purpose of offering the learner an entire course on the topic. mLearning is designed to give specific pieces of information relevant to that present moment.
The context: A lot of mLearning platforms are used to reinforce information that has already been established. With eLearning, the instructor will likely be presenting the information for the first time.
Neither program is necessarily better than the other, but there are circumstances where one is better suited for the learner, the educator, and the extent of the information at hand.
Mobile learning use cases
When you think of mLearning, you probably imagine students working on a tablet in their classroom.
While mLearning is definitely used in those areas, these different styles of learning aren’t just for your average elementary, middle, or high school classroom anymore. New advancements in education and development are used in other areas as well.
Along with education, here are a couple other use cases for mLearning programs.
Once a “nice to have” in education, mLearning is slowly but surely establishing itself as a “must- have” in classrooms all over the world. Teachers are starting to combine the power of being physically present and engaged in a classroom setting with the fast and convenient capabilities of mLearning programs by using smartphones, tablets, and tools for assessing student performance.
Mobile devices can be used to overcome limitations that the utilities of the outdated classroom present. Audio and video lessons can replace impossible-to-update textbooks, Wi-Fi capabilities offer on-demand access to any information students might need, and the virtualization of contents can provide an outlet for students to keep learning outside of the classroom.
With the growing presence of distance learning, which is education that occurs when students might not be physically present at school, mLearning has become an important tool in an educator’s arsenal.
Mobile devices can offer interaction between students, allowing for easy collaboration from just about anywhere, as well as teachers and students, which enables teachers to adjust their lessons based on student feedback.
While you are expected to enter a job with at least a little bit of knowledge of the position, there’s still plenty to be learned as your career progresses.
mLearning offers convenient training and professional development methods for businesses. Training courses, compliance exercises, and simulations can all be done on mobile devices, preparing both new and existing employees for the job they have ahead of them.
Here are some examples of industries and how they use mLearning.
How they use mLearning
To train employees on situations they might encounter when dealing with a customer
To test employee knowledge of benefits and side effects of drugs so they can present factual information to clients
To help healthcare workers gain experience and make mistakes in a virtual setting, rather than in real life
Sales & Marketing
To train employees on how to offer value demonstrations, interact with customers, and make snap decisions based on their feedback or interest levels
To prepare new employees for the particular practices of that business
To offer simulated experience troubleshooting problems and handling dangerous incidents in the workplace
Professional development is highly valued by a lot of businesses, and offering educational opportunities in regards to a person’s particular position is becoming increasingly important to job candidates.
mLearning can also be used to offer courses that go beyond the bare minimum of what employees are expected to know for their role in an organization.
mLearning has a heavy presence in education and business. But even outside of those areas, there are plenty of opportunities for people to use mLearning to better themselves with self learning.
Self learning refers to the process where individuals take the initiative to identify an area where they can learn, formulate goals, and find materials that’ll help them reach those goals. This method of self-improvement includes educational practices like learning a new language or exploring ways to take care of yourself on a mental or physical level.
The desire to learn is a beautiful thing, and mLearning offers the academic databases and online learning platforms that hold the information needed to explore these areas.
Advantages of mobile learning
Simply the idea of mLearning sounds appealing - access to valuable information that furthers your knowledge from your phone? Sign me up!
While that might be enough to convince you that mLearning is the education method for you, here are a few other advantages you can expect once you implement it.
A big identifier for the idea of education is the environment in which it occurs. Classrooms, lecture halls, and libraries are all often associated with learning. Not many people see education occurring outside of those areas.
mLearning has completely shifted the idea of the modern-day classroom. Because it occurs on mobile devices, mLearning eliminates the need for education to occur in a particular place at a particular time.
All content associated with mLearning courses (readings, videos, etc.) are accessible on a mobile device, allowing the learner to easily incorporate the lessons into their day whenever and wherever they have a chance.
There are plenty of people who decide they can’t get a degree or learn a new skill because they don’t have the time. With the flexibility of mLearning, people can find more feasible ways to merge their education with their everyday lives.
A big part of mLearning is the closely named microlearning, which refers to the idea of small learning units and short term activities. It delivers small bits of information for learners to digest at their own pace, rather than large amounts of information that people are used to getting all at once.
Microlearning is the perfect education method for mLearning, as mobile devices are the primary method of learning and accessing information. Both of these approaches focus on speed and convenience. The quick and concise information the learner receives makes everything easier to digest, avoiding an overload of information and ultimately increasing retention of the lesson.
Because mLearning contents are sent directly to the mobile device of the learner, there are more opportunities for personalization. Personalized learning is actually its own approach to education, where the learning is customized for each individual’s strengths, weaknesses, needs, and interests.
When it comes to digesting information, one size definitely does not fit all. Some people might learn at a slower pace or they might require different forms of visualization.
Whatever the case may be, mLearning is a perfect outlet for educators and students to reap the benefits of personalized lessons and assessments.
Mobile learning can’t happen any other way than digitally, and when you adopt mLearning, this also allows you to gain the advantage of endless availability.
This is key for not only the educators, who can make content or assessments available at any time, but it also enables learners to do whatever they need to whenever it’s convenient for them. In some cases, people even consider mLearning as a necessity.
of learners claim that the ability to access courses on their phones is a necessity.
Lugging around a textbook is not ideal. On top of that, it’s possible that the information within might become outdated after a certain amount of time. And once it’s printed and bound, there’s no going back and updating it.
For information to be accurate, it needs to be fresh. When learning is presented digitally, like in the case of mLearning, the content is easy to update. Some topics that seem like they’ll remain the same forever, like math and science, could even use a presentation tune-up every now and then.
Disadvantages of mobile learning
While the benefits listed above are enough to make any educator implement mLearning in their school, work, or life, there are a couple of drawbacks that should also be considered.
Hardware and software issues
Software offers benefits to its users everyday, but still, it’s not perfect. Anyone involved in mLearning, educators and learners alike, are susceptible to software issues.
Systems crashing, programs being incompatible with devices, and users waiting to update to the last minute (we’ve all done this), can all hinder the mLearning experience for educators and learners.
On top of software issues, our physical devices struggle as well. After a certain period of usage, phones, tablets, and other mobile devices get worn out. Not to mention the tragedy of common hardware accidents - all devices are susceptible to things like water damage and broken keys.
Because mLearning is happening outside the typical boundaries of a classroom, the world becomes the oyster of learners. They can complete anything from just about anywhere.
\However, along with that lack of barriers comes distractions. Students can be easily distracted by the surroundings in which they choose to do their work. On top of that background noise is the world of distractions that exist on mobile devices. Social media, online shopping, and general internet browsing can all get in the way of a learner’s experience.
Lack of connection
Depending on the area in which people are accessing their mLearning materials, connecting to the internet might present an issue. Learning on a mobile device is all fine and dandy, but it’s of no use to anyone if connecting to the internet isn’t possible.
Learning on the go
It’s an unfortunate truth that our fast, busy, and efficiency-focused lifestyles put valuable matters like education to the wayside. People are looking for speed and convenience, and mLearning offers just that.
While it might give in to the need for quickness by offering information on a mobile device, it helps keep education relevant in our modern-day climate.
Mary Clare Novak is a Content Marketing Specialist at G2 in Chicago, where she is currently exploring topics related to sales and customer relationship management. In her free time, you can find her doing a crossword puzzle, listening to cover bands, or eating fish tacos. (she/her/hers)