Mobile learning – Why and how

Well, if I have to simply put it, I would say that more and more people are using mobile devices such as tablets and smart phones and prefer access to easy and just-in-time (JIT) learning. Hence it makes logical sense for the learning organization to provide learning on mobile devices (m-learning).

How would you define mobile learning (m-learning) though? Mobile learning is actually any kind of learning intervention which could be carried out by use of mobile device and using wireless technology. And to create that intervention and support the learning through mobile devices it is very important to have the right adaptable learning content available on the mobile devices. There are several factors which make it a compelling case for delivering learning content and applications on mobile devices. A recent 2011 e-Learning Guild survey reports that about 70% of respondents are using their personal mobile devices for business applications. That means they are using their devices for browsing web, connecting to social networks, playing games and learning. Also there has been a significant increase in the number of employees who travel and work from outside their base offices and just-in-time information can help them overcome many challenges. Mobile learning provides convenience and flexibility to access information at any time and any place. It helps employees make use of their downtime, be it at a hotel, airport or while waiting for a client meeting to start. Not just corporate employees, mobile learning is a great avenue for anyone who needs to access any kind of information at any place and time.

The goal of mobile Learning should be to enhance the learning experience while providing learning content to learners. If delivered in right manner it can be an excellent tool for anything and everything learner would need, be it a streaming online content or on-the-job training materials or real-life simulation scenarios. Companies can also push out updates, offer reference materials via wikis and blogs, and provides collaboration through social networking, coaching or mentoring.

Mobile learning is not just repackaging of existing e-learning content and making it available through mobile devices. There are various challenges associated to the application and content delivery when it comes to mobile devices. The biggest challenge is availability of varying platforms and formats with no formal standardization to ensure the automatic adoption of apps or content on these devices. Also issues around content bandwidth, its security and integration with corporate systems such as LMS, LCMS and other systems create barriers in rapid deployment and adoption by organizations.

There are various organizations including learning content providers, application software providers, LMS systems providers who are doing great work in this area to enable and support mobile learning. These organizations are using some straightforward and simple but effective approaches which are helping them to be somewhat successful in overcoming many of the barriers.

One of the approaches many successful organizations are taking is to target their learning environment and/or content to specific mobile devices and not trying to support every possible device available. They have selected specific devices based on accessibility for their audience and of course popularity and adaptability to help them focus and support on key devices. Another key strategy is to focus on high performance just-in-time content and not design and create long full-fledged courses. Keeping the application designs for mobile tools simple and intuitive is another important strategy to enable mobile adoption. Users always like to use the experience which is simple and straightforward, has required functionality and eliminates any type of complexity. This type of interface on mobile tools provides easy and efficient access to the learning.

Some organizations while focusing on specific devices try to take advantage of inherent features of device itself to provide easy accessibility and interactivity. For example: Apple products such iPad and iPhone have lot of inbuilt features to make content interactive. Some organizations are also trying to provide collaborative learning environment by integrating the learning environment with social networking applications. These are all great techniques and strategies which are helping organizations to integrate the learning with the social and informal learning culture most of us have become part of and also keeping it interactive and fun.

Of course industry has long way to go, but there are some great and promising technological enhancements happening in the area of mobile learning which is for sure going to change the shape of it.