Why Mobile Learning is Here to Stay

This article, which covers reasons why you should consider mLearning as part of your overall learning strategy, is the first of a two-part series on m-Learning. The second article covers how to create mLearning programs, and what mLearning “looks like”.

Man is taking photo of appleLearning is going mobile. That’s not a new idea any more. But, if you haven’t taken your training program mobile yet, it could be daunting to gear up for mobile learning. Or, if you have taken your training mobile in the past, new technology and advances in mobile learning design may require you to rethink your mobile learning—or mLearning—strategy.

The stats on mobile phone usage are all over the internet, and the numbers differ slightly from article to article. But no matter whose stats you choose to follow, there’s no denying that the number of mobile device users are increasing year over year. For example, claims are made that there are about 2 billion smartphone users worldwide today, and the number of mobile phone users (not necessarily broadband-enabled) today is said to exceed Earth’s current population.

So why do these trends matter to those of us in the learning industry? Before delving into why mLearning matters to us, here's a (very brief) mLearning refresher.

An mLearning Refresher

Mobile learning, or mLearning, is learning, education or support delivered on mobile devices. Mobile devices can include smartphones, tablets, notebooks, MP3 players, wireless gaming consoles, or any technology that allows the learner to leave the desk and move while learning. Typically, mlearning (like eLearning) is collaborative as content sharing can occur instantaneously. The learner can pull information down to the device as needed, or push it out to other learners and collaborators.

mLearning can be used for school and higher education, corporate training, partner or reseller training, or consumer education. Traditionally, school and higher education is taught in a very formal environment and requires the teacher and students to be physically co-located in the classroom. The perceived requirement for synchronous training and physical presence tends to diminish across the list as you move towards consumer education. However, mLearning can be, should be, and has been used successfully in all types of learning environments.

So, Why is Mobility Important?

The reasons to go mobile with training are manifold:

1. Learners are Everywhere: More people are learning remotely, and recent studies claim that employees are happier when they have the opportunity to telecommute. Even when you are talking about employees who are assigned to work within a given office building, many perform all or part of their work away from their desk (for example, at remote job sites or at the customer’s office). With advances in online education (for example, think MOOCs, which are in the spotlight today), more students are learning outside the classroom. And you certainly can’t issue a mandate to customers to come into your office to get trained on your products—nor does it make sense to do so as your sole consumer education strategy.

2. Learning is Everywhere: The ability to take your learning content to the place you want to be learning (be it at the job site or at your favorite café) allows learners to take advantage of learning at the point-of-need, during “down time”, while commuting on public transportation, or while waiting in line or at your child’s martial arts class. Learners want, and need, instant access to information and learning—without necessarily having to wait for a computer to boot up.

3. Device-Enabled Learning is Engaging: Newer devices are being equipped with geo-sensors, state-of-the-art audio and graphics, dual cameras, larger screens, integration with wearable devices, 3D imaging—and more technological advances are lurking around the corner. Therefore, mLearning has the potential to demand command of all five senses, be more collaborative, more immersive, and more relevant than learning via more traditional vehicles. All this at a relatively lower price point (often) than PCs and laptops.

4. Encourages Learning Retention: By being able to use mobile devices to extend learning from the classroom to the real world, there are more opportunities to take learning from the theoretical to the actionable. Formal and informal learning can be blended and embedded for an enhanced learning experience and greater applicability (and therefore retention) of learning concepts.

5. Enhances Productivity: From increasing training compliance by having more people complete courses on their own terms to saving costs via digitally-enabled learning, the ROI on training can increase by providing learners with learning experiences that are relevant to their needs as well as to business needs. As often as possible, link employee job satisfaction requirements to bottom-line business needs through education, and workplace productivity soars.

6. Enhances Collaboration: Educational materials that promote learning can be rapidly shared (e.g., podcasts, advice, lessons learned, forms, and checklists). Communication time lags can be reduced with alerts, status updates, voting, proactively asking for help, search, and performance support. User-created content can be easily shared (for an example, see curated content from the mLearnCon backchannel on Twitter).

Get Up and Go Mobile!

mLearning matters.

What are your plans to deliver mobile learning content? Or, how have you successfully created mobile learning strategies and mobile learning experiences? Why do you “get up” and go mobile with learning?

Gauri Reyes is a talent developer and learning leader with extensive experience in roles ranging from software management to managing the learning function in organizations. She is Principal Learning Strategist and CEO at Triple Point Advisors and Founder of the YOUth LEAD program. Follow her on TwitterLinkedIn or Google+.

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