What is Mobile Learning (m-Learning)?
Written by Shalini Saxena on 12 September 2017
In the past two decades, mobile phones have become an inseparable part of our daily lives. Mobiles are like a 24*7 buddy, which absolutely fulfill the ‘I’ll be there for you’ criteria. Yes! You rely on your smart gadgets for anything and everything. Whether it’s connecting with friends, sending work emails, finding routes or modes to commute, ordering food/grocery, banking, surfing, or even LEARNING new things – your phone does it all for you! Mobile Learning or mLearning is the term used to describe a sub domain of eLearning scenario in which content is delivered on handheld devices, such as smartphones, tablets, e-book readers, etc.
The Fine Line Between eLearning And mLearning (#Difference)
Though eLearning has been around for quite some time, the advent of mLearning can be marked around five years back. With phone screens getting larger, phablets becoming common and preferred laptop sizes smaller - the difference between the two modes is blurring. Here’s a quick look at what still keeps them diverse:
- One major difference between eLearning and mLearning is that the later includes portable platforms, which can be used on the go or at the places where access to regular computers is difficult.
- In terms of structure, mLearning is much more flexible and informal compared to eLearning.
- The educational content provided for mLearning is concise and broken into micro-lessons while that for eLearning is comprehensive with detailed topics/modules.
- With so much digital content in our lives, our attention spans have reduced and mLearning needs to understand this. While the time duration for a typical eLearning module is 1 hour, the content is broken into smaller packets for mLearning.
- mLearning offers a personalized learning experience at the expense of wireless internet connectivity.
Increased Digital Literacy (#Stats)
With the tech-savvy generation taking charge, personal pocket devices have been deeply ingrained in our routine practices. View it as the latest development in the eLearning industry or just another trending term - you can’t deny that mLearning has brought brilliant progress in eLearning. Constantly lowering prices of portable devices has made it affordable for a larger chunk of the population. Thus there’s a sudden increase in the digitally literate audience making use of mLearning tools and apps.
Sources: Michaels & Associates, eLearning Industry, Training Zone, BrainShark
Three Cheers To Anywhere, Anytime Learning (#TheGood)
The greatest advantage which mobile technology brings in is ubiquity – it gifts users the ability to virtually learn from anywhere at any given time. For instance, school kids can travel with their parents without compromising on their learning and college students can earn a degree learning remotely. The student can be anyone from an 8-year old kid to a senior citizen and course can be anything from a simple ‘Counting Exercise’ to a seasoned ‘Entrepreneurial Advice’. mLearning has touched all the spheres of knowledge, and ‘mobile-first’ strategy has become an implicit approach for many. Besides this, mLearning serves many other advantages on the platter:
- Learn on the go - You can carry powerful learning tools in your hand wherever you go and learn whenever you want. Education is crossing all the physical and economical boundaries, reaching out the less-privileged ones with massive open online courses (MOOCs).
- JIT (Just in Time) Learning - Students have access to information when they actually need it with the advantage of looking up online. So the ones who really want to learn, won’t be deprived of the rightful knowledge.
- Absolute Control - Not all the students grasp at the same pace, with customized knowledge applications it is possible for people of different age groups and backgrounds to discover their real potential.
- No Slacks - It goes much beyond digitizing the educational channel, mLearning literally brings knowledge to your pocket and all the answers are practically a click away. With portability and immediacy, students can resume a course from where they left.
- And all the good things - Flexibility, accessibility, and personalized learning experience have added a feather on the cap. Notifications act like a gentle reminder about the availability of a new course, quiz or result which keeps the user aware and updated. Attributing to its quick approach with concise content, mLearning has registered better completion rates and higher retention.
With high creativity quotient and excellent instructional design, mLearning has fixed its seat in the eLearning market and there are is no doubt that it is here to stay. Despite uncountable advantages, some limitations like screen size, limited functionalities and distractions linked with phone continue to hinder the growth and absolute accomplishments of mLearning goals.
Challenges Of mLearning (#TheTechnical)
While mLearning is constantly evolving and the mLearning market on a global scale is expected to reach $53 billion by the year 2018 (Source: Ambient Insight), it has some limitations too.
- Meeting required bandwidth for non-stop or fast streaming is difficult.
- Catering multiple standards, different screen sizes, and various operating systems hinder development.
- Content security or copyright issues from the authoring group are a primary concern.
- Smaller screen size, need for constant connectivity and reduced battery life are the issues which overshadow the benefits.
- Number of file/asset formats supported by specific devices vary, which is a huge obstruction.
- User interface design has always been important, but with mobile as the delivery platform the bar is set much higher.
Offline mLearning (#Specifics)
Offline learning refers to having access to content without internet connectivity.
- Offline Content - Content can be downloaded or synced with the device when the learners have connectivity. And from the next time learners can access the content without connectivity. That’s the icing on the cake!
- Uninterrupted Learning - The offline feature makes the process truly ‘uninterrupted’ in every sense, by overcoming the biggest drawback of network interruption.
- Good For Assessment - Offline mode of mLearning is the best fit for pre or post training assessment, mostly vital to course completion.
- Additional Value - With no dependence on a data connection, it practically cuts down all the cords attached. Buffering or waiting for the page to load results in the user losing interest, which can be prevented by taking content offline.
But offline access has few constraints too:
- Content Update - Once disconnected the content updates won’t be synchronized, thus update continues to be a major challenge faced.
- Security - As the data is downloaded or cached for later use in the portable devices, there’s a risk of content theft.
CloodOn e-learning platform is responsive and optimized to work on mobile devices:
- CloodOn mobile app can cache course content and assessments for offline reading.
- Once the app reconnects to the network it syncs the data, allowing learners to finish the assessment process at their convenience and get the scores when it connects again.
With CloodOn Mobile Learning 'uninterrupted learning' is ensured.