It’s hard to believe, but once upon a time doing research required much more time and effort than it does today. Now most of us carry entire libraries of information in our bags or pockets. For many of us, LBI—life before the Internet—seems like a faraway memory.
The steady development of innovative mobile devices brings exciting opportunities for mobile learning, also known as “mlearning.” Tablets, gaming consoles, smartphones, and other types of handheld units all offer mlearning opportunities. What makes mlearning especially powerful is that it enables easy access to relevant information on demand and on the go.
The concept of mobile learning has already become ingrained in the minds of the youngest generation. (Just observe the baby who can’t get a magazine to “work.”) Although “digital natives” are easily catching on to mobile learning, it’s not gaining widespread traction in schools yet; with limited budgets, it’s not always possible to implement schoolwide mobile learning programs. Still, 40% of teenagers have smartphones and the number is growing. Think of the possibilities!
For students who do have access to mlearning resources, here’s how they’re using them:
- Taking notes at school using mobile apps
- Reinforcing learned content through podcasts, videos, and other supporting resources
- Taking on-the-spot quizzes to measure knowledge
- Exploring interactive graphics, charts, and timelines online
Mobile learning is also very promising for businesses. In his “Five Steps to Mobile Learning” article in Learning Solutions magazine, Brian Taliesin reports that by 2013, mobile workers will account for 35% of the workforce worldwide. Naturally, mobile workers will need more mobile ways to learn as the remote workforce continues to expand.
The International University Consortium for Executive Education (UNICON) recently issued a report that outlines some of the promising benefits for business-related mobile learning:
- Just-enough learning: Provides relevant, easily understood content for time-crunched professionals.
- Just-in-time learning: Offers convenient, flexible information exactly when it is needed.
- Just-for-me learning: Allows access to content on mobile devices in flexible ways, which makes it appealing to many different types of learners.
- Collaborative learning: Facilitates working together through use of texting, as well as knowledge-sharing and question-based forums, which can strengthens interaction between participants and instructors.
Like with students in school, the possibilities for workplace learning are enormous. Imagine a forklift driver with easy mobile access to a loading plan, which was updated after his shift began. Or emergency responders who need up-to-the-minute details that helps them maximize their effectiveness on the job. Or a retail sales rep who can order products for customers on the spot. Some of these technologies are already in place, but there is much more room to grow.
Mobile learning doesn’t need to be intensely interactive to be effective. Remember, the focus is to give learners the information they need when they need it an in easily accessible format. That can mean simple text-based instructions, a how-to video, a map, or a reference drawing. For content managers and instructional designers, it’s important to keep in mind that mobile learning usually draws form existing resources. The strategy is to pull together the most relevant information and organize it in a way that maps to how and when the learners need it. Build in practice opportunities to help reinforce learned content.
What mobile learning resources have you used? What do you find most exciting for the future of mlearning?