The following is from a Mobile Learning essay I wrote for my Graduate Certificate in Innovative Learning Design from the Queensland University of Technology (QUT).
When it comes to mobile learning, all you need is a smartphone or tablet and an internet connection. This allows learners to access educational content anytime and anywhere. Imagine a student participating in a discussion forum while sitting on a train or an environmental activist completing micro-lessons on their self-directed learning journey while chained to a tree. However, one might wonder about the challenges of typing assignments or reading lengthy research documents on those tiny screens.
“As the modern Swiss Army knife, it is no surprise that mobile devices are ubiquitous, and widely seen as a necessity. This comes with both challenges and opportunities. Like any technology, how we choose to use our devices is an individual choice. It is important that people are educated, empowered and equipped to use their devices responsibly.— Mobile nation 2019: The 5G future – Deloitte Access Economics
Mobile Learning: What Is It?
But what exactly is mobile learning? It revolves around the concept of being able to learn on the go, at any time and in any place. Mobile learning, or mLearning, has numerous advantages, including higher learner engagement and retention, enhanced flexibility, improved completion rates, and seamless integration with lifelong learning (Pandey, 2016). According to the EI Design website, mLearning is the preferred mode of learning for today’s learners. It offers several benefits, such as the ability to learn on the go, access content anytime and anywhere, and control over how and when to consume information. Learners can also retrieve content as needed, synchronizing it with their lifestyle (2019).
“Mobile First” Design Approach
A growing trend in UI/UX design known as “Mobile first” emphasizes designing with smartphones as the starting point. By considering factors like bandwidth, screen size, and processing power, designers create sleek and lightweight products that prioritize key issues and features (Xia, 2017).
This elegant simplicity in design and navigation, coupled with effective content “chunking,” aligns with Mayer’s coherence and segmenting principles (Mayer, 2008).
As an instructional designer, I agree with Feng’s perspective that learning should be device-agnostic and adaptable across different devices (2014). Moreover, it’s mind-boggling to imagine the vast range of learning activities that can be created using a smartphone’s touchscreen, camera, and accelerometer.
Image courtesy of EdApp
Multimedia tools play a crucial role in mobile learning. Engaging resources such as videos, audiobooks, and podcasts work seamlessly on smartphones, just as they do on PCs, without the need to be tied to a desk. With these tools, a student can consume required knowledge, reflect on it, and then engage in discussions with peers and teachers—an approach often referred to as the flipped classroom. Smartphones equipped with cameras, microphones, and touchscreens enable students to sketch, provide photos, or create digital recordings. Advanced technologies like augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) and gamification can offer immersive learning experiences and enhance engagement.
Gamification is another valuable aspect of mobile learning. Incorporating rewards or fostering a spirit of competition can increase students’ concentration, interest, and overall effectiveness in learning (Educause, 2011). Gamification provides instructors with creative opportunities to make their instruction livelier through contests, leaderboards, or badges that offer students recognition and and breeds a positive attitude toward their work.
Image courtesy of the EdApp Mobile based LMS
Collaboration is also essential in mobile learning. Many learning theories emphasize the importance of social learning, and mLearning provides various tools to facilitate healthy knowledge co-construction. Collaboration apps like Slack and Zoom enable discussions between peers and instructors. Participants can curate artifacts by sharing YouTube videos, relevant links, or uploading images and recordings made with their phones.
Creating a mobile learning course in EdApp
As an instructional designer, I had the opportunity to experiment with EdApp, a mobile-first LMS site, and create my own microlearning course—a mildly self-aggrandizing one, I must admit . It was incredibly simple to use, allowing me to explore different ways of presenting content, assessments, and interactions. If you’re interested, you can check out my lesson at https://web.edapp.com/#sign-up using the invite code #Awesome2021. Best of all, it’s free!
The rise of mobile learning-specific LMS apps like EdApp offers several advantages. These apps provide multi-platform digital learning experiences, rapid authoring tools, pre-designed templates, collaboration features, analytics data, and user management functionalities.
Challenges with Mobile learning
However, there are also challenges associated with mobile learning.
Technical and usability issues
Technical and usability issues can arise, such as battery life, network dropouts, slow internet speeds, and compatibility problems with applications and hardware. Moreover, the small screens and speakers of mobile devices may hinder learning in bright or noisy environments.
Privacy and harassment issues
Privacy and harassment issues are also important considerations. How do apps and LMS platforms collect and use analytic data? Are personal details like names, addresses, or payment information kept secure? Are discussion forums public or closed? It is crucial to have policies in place to protect against online bullying and abuse.
Access and equity
Access and equity are additional concerns. While 90% of Australians use smartphones (Deloitte Access Economics, 2019), not everyone has the latest and greatest model or can afford mobile data. Although Telstra’s network covers 99.4% of Australia’s population (Wiwatowska, 2020), there are still areas with blackspots and poor reception, especially in remote regions.
Mobile learning can fulfill a wide range of training needs, including formal instruction, informal learning, just-in-time learning aids, self-directed learning, and social or collaborative learning. It ensures higher engagement, better completion rates, and easy updates and deployment. Moreover, it undeniably offers cost advantages compared to traditional classroom-based learning (EIDesign, n.d.).
Mobile learning has revolutionized the way we acquire knowledge. With the power of smartphones and tablets, learners have the flexibility to learn anytime, anywhere. Engaging multimedia tools, gamification elements, and collaboration features enhance the learning experience. While challenges exist, such as technical issues, privacy concerns, and access disparities, mobile learning remains an invaluable tool for modern education.
Deliotte Access Economics. (2019). Mobile nation 2019: The 5G future. Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA). https://www2.deloitte.com/au/en/pages/economics/articles/mobile-nation.html
EdApp. (n.d.). The Mobile Learning Management System | EdApp: The Mobile LMS. Www.edapp.com. Retrieved April 5, 2021, from https://www.edapp.com/
EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. (2011, August 10). 7 things you should know about gamification. Educause. https://library.educause.edu/resources/2011/8/7-things-you-should-know-about-gamification
EI Design. (2019, January 11). Mobile learning. EI Design. https://www.eidesign.net/elearning-and-mlearning/
Fang, B. (2014, October 13). Creating a Fluid Learning Environment. Educause Review. https://er.educause.edu/articles/2014/10/creating-a-fluid-learning-environment
Gutierrez, K. (2016, December 1). Mobile learning stats that will make you rethink your training strategy. SHIFT Elearning. https://www.shiftelearning.com/blog/bid/331987/mobile-learning-stats-that-will-make-you-rethink-your-training-strategy
Mayer, R. E. (2008). Applying the science of learning: Evidence-based principles for the design of multimedia instruction. American Psychologist, 63(8), 760–769. https://doi.org/10.1037/0003-066x.63.8.760
Pandey, A. (2016, October 31). Why adopt mobile learning for online training – 10 questions answered. EI Design. https://www.eidesign.net/why-adopt-mobile-learning-for-online-training-10-questions-answered/
Valconi, R. (2018). Principles and applications of mobile learning and technologies. In Technology and the curriculum: Summer 2018. Pressbooks. https://techandcurriculum.pressbooks.com/chapter/principles-and-applications-of-mlearning/
Wiwatowska, A. (2020, June 17). Telstra vs. optus vs. vodafone coverage maps australia. WhistleOut. https://www.whistleout.com.au/MobilePhones/Guides/who-has-the-best-mobile-coverage
Xia, V. (2017, December 21). What is mobile first design? Why it’s important & how to make it? Medium; https://medium.com/@Vincentxia77/what-is-mobile-first-design-why-its-important-how-to-make-it-7d3cf2e29d00