The first smartphone made its debut in 1992. It was named Simon Personal Communicator. With it you could not only make phone calls, but also send faxes and e-mails, manage contacts and use a calendar. This year marks Simon’s 27th birthday, which means we already have the first generation of people to grow up with this technology.
But it’s not just the younger ones; we all take the capabilities of mobile devices for granted these days. What’s more, we have this built-in expectation that “online” also means “mobile”, always at hand, right? A learning experience is no exception. In this article, you will learn how mobile technologies can make learning more effective and engaging.
What is mobile learning?
Mobile learning, or mobile learning, is time and place-independent learning that is supported by mobile devices with which the learners access the content. There are two parties to this definition: a) learners and b) devices.
As for question b), this is simple. Devices that enable mobile learning are the same gadgets we all have in our pockets: smartphones and tablets. We use them in so many ways that they have become extensions of our personalities; it is only natural that we started using them for learning too. With mobile learning, students can study assigned lessons, video lectures, and take tests right from their devices.
How is mobile learning different from eLearning?
Using a mobile device as a platform for content distribution is not the only characteristic that distinguishes mobile learning from eLearning. eLearning courses can often be completed using mobile devices, so this fact alone does not make these courses “mobile”. What are the other differences?
While eLearning is intended to be a fully-fledged alternative to face-to-face events, the purpose of mLearning is more to support and diversify the learning process. They offer learners instant access to small and independent chunks of information that they study on the go or whenever they have a spare minute.
Take language learning as an example. If you need to teach a grammar, you probably want to do it in a structured way to give your learners a holistic view of the subject. So an eLearning lesson would be an excellent tool for this.
But with mobile learning, learners can refresh their knowledge, do some exercises or watch a short video. You can also turn to this topic at the moment when you need it, for example if you are writing an e-mail and are not sure how to use the tense correctly. All of this makes mLearning a booster for any type of learning, ensuring higher retention and participation.
Different duration of lessons
To get an idea of how long a lesson should be, think about the context in which the learning is taking place. Traditional online courses are usually taken on a computer or laptop at a desk, often in an office with a good WiFi connection. The average eLearning lesson can last anywhere from 15 to 90 minutes, depending on the learning environment.
Content designed for mobile phones should be broken down into smaller chunks – 3 to 5 minutes – that are easier for learners to access on a smartphone. Of course, you can also sit at your desk with your smartphone, but it is more likely that you will use it as it is intended – namely for mobile use. In this way, the length of a unit should allow learners to study while waiting in line or between work items.
Different output methods
While eLearning does not require any special software to run a course and can work directly in a browser, mobile learning requires an app in at least two versions: for iOS and Android devices.
As we said earlier, eLearning courses can be viewed on smartphones using mobile browsers. So, apart from the need to make the content bigger, why do we need an app?
Because native mobile apps are developed for a device, they have access to the resources and features of the operating system that web applications do not. Mobile apps generally make the user experience smoother, with access to the camera, audio inputs, barcode scanners, and other built-in sensors. mLearning apps can also include features such as the ability to take courses offline, save progress, and have processes running in the background.
In short, mobile Learning is not a smaller, portable version of eLearning; it is a completely different learning medium that affects the training content.