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What is Mobile Learning?

Mobile devices are everywhere, and companies are still figuring out how best to leverage mobile technology as part of a comprehensive training program. But what is mobile learning, and when should it be employed?

Mobile learning is using a mobile technology, such as a cell phone or tablet, to consume educational content. Leveraging mobile devices to learn has become almost second nature as the sheer number of devices has exploded. Despite the proliferation of mobile technologies, there are learning situations in which devices make sense, and other situations where it may be best to stick to more traditional classroom, eLearning, or blended learning solutions.

Mobile devices are everywhere.

According to CTIA’s 2014 Annual Wireless Industry Survey, there were 355.4 million wireless subscribers at the end of 2014. While 2015’s numbers are still being crunched at the time of this writing, they are widely projected to top the US population for the first time in history. Meaning, 2015 will be the first year that mobile connections outnumber people in the US. Mobile devices are everywhere.  We use them for work, school, and play. And increasingly, we are using them to learn.

When mobile learning makes sense.

Mobile learning makes the most sense when learners need to consume educational material anytime, anywhere and cannot lug a laptop along with them or spend time tethered to the classroom. Additionally, mobile learning fits best as part of a comprehensive training program when it is used as reinforcement for material already reviewed in a more formal setting.

Perhaps the most effective application of mobile learning comes when the population of learners grows. For example, with a 100-member, geographically dispersed sales team, it makes sense to leverage mobile devices already in use for sales functions to push learning content. The mobile devices are in-hand, salespeople are using them, and required training needs to be completed. Mobile learning can be the missing component that saves valuable time and money.

 When it’s best to steer clear of mobile learning.

Despite the proliferation of mobile devices, there are times when it may be best to steer clear of mobile learning. Here are just a few instances:

  • If the training material is complex, or radically different than what learners have come to expect.
  • If there is not time to design a mobile learning experience, keeping in mind that mobile displays are small and simply duplicating an eLearning experience on a phone rarely works. More on this in a subsequent post.
  • If training involves a heavy amount of data entry-related tasks, as mobile devices are notoriously bad at facilitating data input using virtual keyboards and small entry fields.
  • If training is projected to take longer than 30 minutes, eye strain becomes a concern on smaller devices and it’s best to break up the material or seek a more robust eLearning solution.

There is no doubt that mobile device adoption will continue to rise well into the future. If training falls under your responsibility at your company, then mobile learning is a methodology that warrants careful consideration under the right set of conditions.

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