Mobile Learning or mlearning is training delivered using handheld mobile devices. Mlearning provides learning materials through mobile apps, social interactions, and online educational hubs. It allows learners to access their learning materials anywhere, anytime. They can access Mlearning courses through mobile phones, tablets, handheld computers, notebooks, or even MP3 players.
History of Mobile Learning
Alan Kay gave the first concept of mlearning in the 1970s. When he joined Xerox Corporations Palo Alto Research Centre, he formed a group to develop Dynabook, which was designed to be a portable personal computer that would allow children access to the digital world. That project failed due to the limitations of the technology they had at the time.
When IBM created the first smartphone, it became a huge turning point for mobile learning. Smartphones provided a reliable platform for mlearning. The developments in the smartphone industry also lead to mlearning courses becoming more viable.
Research related to the field of mlearning have been categorized into three phases-
- The first phase focused upon devices
- The second phase focused upon outside the classroom training.
- The third phase focused upon the mobility of the learner.
Around 2005, when the research was in its second phase, a massive amount of work was completed. Out of those, four major projects are “The Leonardo DaVinci project from e-learning to m-learning” led by Ericsson Education Dublin, “The Leonardo da Vinci project Mobile learning: the next generation of learning” led by Ericsson Education Dublin, “The IST project mlearning” led by the UK government Learning and Skills Development Agency and “The IST project MOBILearn” led by Giunti Ricerca of Genoa, Italy. These projects mainly focused on the effects of mlearning like motivation to learn, engagement in learning activities, and the focus on people with special skills. These projects pushed mlearning into mainstream use.
Use Cases of Mobile Learning
Mobile Learning In Classrooms
Mlearning systems can be implemented in classrooms using handheld computers, smartphones, PDA’s, etc. It is used to encourage student-centric learning and group collaboration among learners using different apps, video features, and interactive displays.
Mlearning resources can be used instead of bulky books and outdated presentation technology. It is much more interactive and engaging for learners than traditional modes of teaching. If a device has WIFI capabilities, it can access on-demand information. Mlearning systems allow learning both inside and outside the classroom.
Mobile Learning for Distance Learning
Mlearning systems using mobile devices can be used to deliver a fulfilling learning experience for distant learners. It can be used to communicate with learners about their course information, results, cancelations, etc. Mobile devices can facilitate communication between the learners and the teacher or between learners. Mlearning systems allow learners to immediately relieve their doubts and trainers to get instant feedback about their courses. Trainers can also monitor the real-life progress of the learners, which will help them to adapt and personalize the courses according to the needs of the learners.
Mobile Learning in Podcasting
Lessons can be recorded to create podcasts, which can be used to review those lessons at a later time. Listening and reviewing these lessons, again and again, will help learners better understand the things that were taught. Research by Callaway & Ewen in 2009 says that university learners who download podcasts lectures achieve substantially higher exam results than those who attend the lectures in person.
Mobile Learning at Work
Mobile learning for work can be defined as, “processes of coming to know, and of being able to operate successfully in, and across, new and ever-changing contexts, including learning for, at and through work, through mobile devices”. It can come in many forms:
Learning for work: This can be described as just-in-case learning. This type of mlearning course usually includes training courses and other learning activities that prepare the learners for work-related tasks that may arise in the future. Compliance training is delivered through mlearning systems to reach employees who are geographically mobile.
Learning at and through work: This is commonly referred to as just-in-time learning. This is mostly used in informal settings in the workplace. Mobile phones are used by the employees to solve different problems that may arise during work. Some examples include accessing informational resources, videos, simulations, and scenario-based learning.
Cross-contextual learning: It helps bridge the gap between work settings and formal education formats. It has the most significant potential for work-based mobile learning. It involves facilitating and substantiating learning through questions, assessments, or documentation. The materials created using these methods are later used in more formal educational formats. The integration and reconciliation of work-based learning and formal education determines the value of these mobile phone-mediated learning practices.
Dr. Marcus Specht predicted the mobile learning usage so beautifully by saying, “The learners of the future will demand the learning support that is appropriate for their situation or context. Nothing more. Nothing less. And they want it at the moment the need arises. Not sooner. Not later.”
Advantages of Mobile Learning
1. Can be accessed anytime, anywhere:
Learners can access the materials at their convenience. They can access the materials anytime; they don’t have to adhere to a fixed schedule. And they can access the courses anywhere, which means that they won’t be confined to a classroom. Similarly, trainers can also communicate with the learners on the go. They can provide study materials, clear doubts, or administer tests.
This means that learners are free to learn at a pace that is best suited for them. This results in a more engaging and productive session.
2. Suitable for the digital age:
In this day and age, where even toddlers have smartphones, mlearning makes a lot of sense. For millennials who have grown up around technology, learning through their handhelds would be a much more enticing option than conventional methods of learning. Mlearning courses are tailored to the millennial mindset. It also makes learning much more accessible.
3. Dynamic teaching methodologies:
Mobile learning is best suited for visual learning using images and videos. The dynamic content generally found in mlearning courses makes them more engaging for the learners. It effectively keeps their wandering minds in check. Mlearning also allows for easy implementation of experimental learning and dynamic content in the classroom. This means the replacement of the old, outdated teaching methods with cutting edge teaching systems.
4. Learning can be personalized:
Mlearning is flexible, which means that it can be adapted to the needs of the individual learners. Unlike the printed books, which cannot be amended very quickly and very often, the content for Mlearning can be rapidly updated by the trainer. Learners can use their personal devices to access course materials, tests, etc. that have been tailored according to the learners’ abilities and progress. This is helpful since learners are diverse.
5. Lesser dropout and a higher level of content retention:
The content is presented in a mobile-friendly way in mlearning courses where the big lessons are broken down into small chunks. Keeping the content in nugget format leads to retaining the attention of the learner thereby resulting in a higher completion rate of the course and greater levels of retention of the content.
According to a recent study on Mobile digital education for health professions by Dunleavy et al. (2019), which combined 29 studies containing 3175 learners, found out that mlearning is as effective as traditional learning in terms of improving learner’s knowledge and skill. Mlearning is now being used across the world. Due to its flexible nature, mlearning courses have become popular across different industries and across diverse learners. And with new developments in handheld technology coming in every day, it is not hard to guess that mlearning courses will continue gaining popularity over time.
Although, whatever the technology be, the end goal should be an effective transfer of knowledge. Also, we need to understand that a course is not an excellent one, simply because it is delivered on a mobile device. It is just that mobile device provides a platform to disseminate the right content at the right time to facilitate the desired learning outcome. So, to conclude in the words of Donna Abernathy, “Relax, the’ represents the backstage delivery technology. Learning and performance are still big stars.”