What is Mobile Learning

According to Gartner, almost 2 billion mobile phones shipped in 2015, compared with only 270 million PCs.

Ranjit Atwai, Gartner’s research director, says, “Users continue to move away from the traditional PC (notebooks and desk-based) as it becomes more of a shared content creation tool, while the greater flexibility of tablets, hybrids and lighter notebooks address users' increasingly different demands.”

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As Atwai’s comment implies, mobile-based learning is about much more than simply the device; it’s also about new learning contexts and strategies. According to Daniel Burrus, CEO of Burrus Research Associate Inc., mobile learning constitutes much more than responsive design. He believes, “Mobile learning is a bigger deal than most organizations realize. It represents an amazing disruption and opportunity in how we educate.” This disruption results from the opportunities for collaboration and real-life learning offered by mobile technologies. For example, Mike Sharples, a mobile learning expert, suggests mobile enables “exploration and conversation across multiple contexts amongst people and interactive technologies.”

How to Implement a Mobile Learning Strategy

Learning and development organizations are eager to capitalize on the new capabilities offered by mobile learning solutions. However, before investing wholesale in mobile learning technology, it’s essential to establish a strategy for the new modality. For example, TrainingZone recommends determining the devices you will support, the IT infrastructure you will need, and whether to implement a BYOD policy. Without an effective strategy in place, you risk failing to meet learner expectations and being unprepared for the future.

Consider the following questions before you embark on a mobile learning solution.

Is your company ready for mobile?

To assess your company’s readiness for mobile, answer the following questions:

  • What are the business drivers that necessitate mobile?
  • Does your culture already embrace mobile? Does it embrace the features mobile enables, such as sharing, commenting, and community building?
  • Does your mobile solution need to integrate with existing training experiences?
  • Are there security issues that need to be addressed before you implement your mobile solution?
  • What are learners’ attitudes toward mobile? Will they use it? If not, how can you need to implement a change management plan as part of your mobile learning strategy?
  • Has your executive team bought into the solution?
  • Does mobile fit within your organization’s overall learning strategy?
  • How will you choose the specific device to support?
  • What measures of success will you use to justify spending for this

Who is the audience for your mobile solution?

Not all learning audiences will benefit from mobile. In general, mobile learning technology is most helpful for audiences who are dispersed or work in the field, who are tech savvy, or who could benefit from on-the-spot performance support. Mobile can also be effective when an entire audience uses a particular device. For example, the entire sales force uses iPads.

Develop a learner profile and design mobile interactions for each unique audience.

What types of content work best on mobile?

Organizations new to mobile learning often assume their current content can be easily repurposed for mobile. This isn’t true. Instead, your content must be optimized for this new learning environment. This means designing content around the constraints of mobile, such as small screens, unpredictable networks, and touch-based forms of interactivity. In addition, it means appealing to distracted learners who are completing other tasks while interacting with the learning content.

Use the following guidelines for developing effective mobile content:

  • Chunking into short (5-10 minutes) learning modules, so learners can focus on a single concept
  • Presenting content on a spaced basis to encourage retention
  • Using technology to your advantage by building forms of learning that work well on mobile—such as a game rather than a long presentation
  • Including more video, simulations, geo-located activities, etc., that are easy to interact with on a small screen
  • Limiting the use of activities that require text entry and including instead touch- and swipe-based activities
  • Creating a minimalist UI with adequate spacing

Advantages and benefits of mobile learning

Mobile solutions bring numerous benefits. Here are a few examples:

Extended learning environment. Most people carry their mobile devices with them everywhere they go, so mobile learning extends potential learning opportunities, enabling anytime, anywhere learning.

Analytics. Mobile learning extends the amount of learning data available. For example, Experience API (xAPI) allows learning organizations to evaluate a broad range of training experiences, not just elearning.

New design approaches. Because of the constraints of mobile devices, and mobile learners, mobile learning requires new training approaches, such as micro learning, and new blends of activity presentation.

Instant access. Mobile content is available to learners anywhere, anytime, making it particularly beneficial as a just-in-time performance support tool.

Increased user-generated content and collaboration. Mobile devices are designed to support collaboration and user-generated content—build your mobile learning solution around the unique features of these tools.

Disadvantages and cautions related to mobile learning

The following examples of high-impact mobile learning solutions highlight the variety of ways that mobile can add value for organizations that are ready for it.

Adding a Realistic Context to a Training Environment. For CVS Pharmacy, Allen created an HTML5 course for the iPad to simulate a hand-held tool used for ordering within the pharmacy. This course gave learners realistic scenarios that provided context for the tool’s use. The fact that the course was built in HTML5 was also a benefit in that, if necessary, the course could be taken on a PC.

Creating an Interactive Tool for Internal and External Audiences. For JetBlue, Allen created an interactive site map for their New York location. JetBlue wanted to provide a tool for visitors and employees to familiarize them with the site and its amenities (conference rooms, restrooms, reception, etc.).


Need to create an engaging training program that gets results? Learn more about AllenComm’s custom training solutions.

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