Research Spotlight: Mobile Learning Perspectives
April 27, 2016 • Sharon Vipond • Mobile
Mobile learning (a.k.a. mLearning) is a topic
that continues growing and evolving at astonishing rates. In our newest eBook, Mobile Learning Perspectives, I begin
by acknowledging that in today’s world, mobile is more than pervasive; it is
ubiquitous, universal, even omnipresent. In fact, Larry Page,
former Google CEO, may have said it best: “We are no longer
living in a mobile-first world; we are in a mobile-only world.”
Wide Variance in
Author and educator Cecelia Munzenmaier, my co-contributing editor, begins with the observation that a
recent Towards Maturity benchmarking survey found wide
variances in the way mLearning is being implemented (see References). In
top-performing organizations, 83 percent of respondents reported they were using
mobile devices for learning. These companies typically describe mLearning as
being “embedded” in their culture. However, among respondents as a whole, about
25 percent rate themselves as still “experimenting” with mLearning. These
results show broad agreement that organizations need to use mLearning, but there
are wide variations in practice, and not everyone has a strong record of
It doesn’t matter where you are now, or your past
record of implementation success. We focus these mobile learning resources on
three fundamental capabilities that are essential to everyone’s success:
- Assessing how mLearning can
specifically benefit your organization
- Planning an effective
mLearning strategy that works for the needs of your organization
- Implementing best practices
in developing mobile content that help you avoid common mistakes and obstacles
The authors featured in this eBook are managers
and practitioners with strong, hands-on experience in mobile learning
development. They present their best thinking on five fundamental questions
about how to realize the potential benefits of mLearning.
1. What can
mLearning do that other types of eLearning can’t?
The answer, for Paul Clothier, starts with the
users. In “Right Time and Place: mLearning Use Cases,” Paul discusses examples
of effective mobile solutions and then suggests questions you can use to
develop your own use case scenarios. At the time he wrote the article, Paul was
a chief learning guru at TapLearn, a consultancy specializing in mobile
learning content solutions. He is currently a director of training and mobile
learning specialist at Apple.
In “Challenging the Infinite Monkey Theorem:
Mobile Performance Support,” Steven Loomis argues that the greatest advantage
of mobile learning is that it allows you to embed learning content in the
environment. He also details the advantages that mobile options have over
traditional hard-copy materials and paper-based references (Table 1).
|Table 1: Traditional hard-copy materials and references vs. mobile options
Materials/tools we give students
Advantages of a mobile option
contain the content covered in your class or course. They may also provide
extra scaffolding or supplementary information that wasn’t part of the class
Mobile devices connect to the Internet and
can have dynamic content. Use of movies, audio, and interactive elements can
add extra support and expand on your classroom content.
lists and contact information
contain factual content related to contact information.
Built-in mobile features can trigger phone calls, SMS,
and email. This information could be dynamic so that it adjusts to changes
within the organization. Skype and FaceTime options are available now to
enable video conferencing. Other options include GPS and location information
that could map directions.
contain blocks of data organized to support searching and scanning activities.
Here, users need to access specific information quickly and easily.
GPS, scanning, and recognition features within
these devices can push or pull information to your students based on their
immediate environment. Networks, databases, and mobile computing power can
greatly amplify your students’ search capabilities.
or process guides
These job aids provide
step-by-step directions on how to perform a procedure or task.
Video, AR, and interactive content could be included
with your procedural guides to provide greater detail and guidance on these
These job aids
support the need to document a list of items or tasks that users must
complete for a complex process. These checklists ensure the accuracy and
completeness of a given task.
When checklists are completed, mobile
devices could trigger emails, alerts, or other notifications.
These job aids
allow you to input data and perform calculations.
You could automate calculations and cluster analysis. This
could allow you to create custom material handouts or send data to other
tables and flowcharts
These job aids
walk you through several conditions or decision points. Your inputs here will
guide you to a set of recommendations.
Completing these job aids will generate
automatic recommendations. This activity may trigger prepopulated process
flows or initiate other actions based on your inputs.
Steven then goes on to recommend three
strategies for making the transition to mobile performance support. Steven, who
began his career in the QA department of an educational video game company, has
developed performance support tools and training solutions for the legal,
banking, and health care sectors.
2. How can we think
strategically about mLearning?
Beyond making sure your authoring tool supports
HTML5, and making sure you have either a BYOD (bring your own device) policy or
a mobile-usage policy in place, what else do you need to be ready to deploy
mobile learning? In “Five Tips: Are You Ready to Deploy Mobile Learning?,” Stephanie
Ivec identifies five things to think about as you plan and implement a mobile
learning strategy. She writes for the Lectora eLearning blog (www.trivantis.com/blog), eLearningIndustry.com, and HR.com.
The way to execute a mobile learning strategy at
scale is to take advantage of micro-moments, explains David James in “The Role
of Mobile in Learning.” People will want to access learning at so many times and
in so many places that L&D will need to use three ways to develop content,
he says: create, collaborate, and curate. Formerly a director of talent,
learning, and OD for Disney, David is currently a learning strategist with
“Your learners are already mobile learners,” according
to Jennifer Neibert. In “Mobile Learning for Talent Development: Critical
Questions for Learning Leaders,” she offers questions to help organizations
think strategically about how to integrate mobile learning into their culture. Jennifer
is a news writer with Learning Solutions
Magazine and principal of Brushfire Learning, which creates custom
solutions to engage learners and promote long-term performance sustainability.
3. How can we best
J.P. Medved presents a template for managing all
five phases of an mLearning project in “Mobile eLearning Design: How to Survive
Your First mLearning Project.” J.P. is a content editor at Capterra, a
privately held technology and online media company focused on bringing together
buyers and sellers of business software.
Tempting as it can be to simply move existing
content to a mobile platform, it’s best to “think of ways you can supplement
the eLearning you have rather than trying to duplicate it on a small screen,”
says Paul Clothier. In “Adapting eLearning for Mobile: Learning from Wonderful
Mistakes,” he models best practices for transitioning to mLearning, as well as
a positive attitude.
“mobile” into two categories, “phone mobile” and “tablet mobile.” When writing
about mobile devices, he is “primarily talking about smartphones, not tablets,”
he says. His perspective is that designing learning content for a tablet has
more in common with designing for laptop or desktop eLearning than for smartphones
(Figure 1). As a result, Paul’s guidelines are for “phone mobile” devices—“those
with a small screen that you typically carry with you everywhere.”
1: Content similarities between devices
4. What new
insights are emerging about mLearning?
Rick Wilson and Gary Woodill’s
article “Engineering Intelligent Content for Mobile Learning” originally
appeared in Learning Solutions Magazine
on March 24, 2011. In its final section, the authors discussed the “emerging
vision” of mLearning. We’ve incorporated the authors’ updated thoughts on the
potential of intelligent mobile content.
5. How do we know
we’re doing mLearning right?
Another area in which new insights and best
practices are emerging is quality control. We invited our authors to reflect on
how you can monitor whether you’re doing mLearning right. Their
responses give you their latest thinking on the potential of mLearning and
provide benchmarks you can use to assess the quality of your mobile
Where do we go from here?
Our purpose in creating this eBook was to reach
out to L&D professionals who see the pervasive workplace influence of
mobile and its exponential impact on almost all aspects of learning and
development. More importantly, we also wanted to provide guidance and
resources—and a solid starting point—toward gaining an in-depth understanding
of current mLearning strategies, development approaches, and best-practice
insights. Among these are additional Guild
resources, detailed references for further reading, and a glossary of terms
for those new to mobile learning strategy, design, and deployment.
In terms of “where we go from here,” let me
leave you with two data points that we discuss in the eBook:
- We have
already moved from “mobile” to “mobility.” According to Giselle Abramovich (see
References), “90 percent of the population has a connected device within arm’s
length at all times.” Mobile is no longer just a tactic for marketers—or for
learning professionals; it is a “core critical strategy,” as Steven Cook writes
at CMO.com (see References).
- “Mobile” is
becoming “digital.” We will
begin to see the distinction between “mobile” and “digital” disappear. Terms
such as “mobile teams,” “mobile strategy,” and “mobile marketing” “will start
to diminish in 2016,” Giselle Abramovich writes, as we recognize that mobile
cannot be confined to its own conceptual or technology “silo.” It remains to be
seen whether mobile learning will
also disappear as a distinct type of learning.
You can’t afford to miss the insights and
resources in Mobile Learning
Perspectives. Visit our website and download your own copy now. If
you are not a member of The eLearning
Guild, please visit our membership page
and consider joining our community. We appreciate your interest and look
forward to your comments and suggestions about this eBook. Please send your
feedback to email@example.com.
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Abramovich, Giselle. “Five Mobile Trends To Catch Up
With In 2016.” CMO.com. 28 January
Cook, Steven. “CMO’s Notebook: Mobile Not A
Marketing Segment, Says mCordis’ Becker.” CMO.com.
4 January 2016.
Towards Maturity. Mobile learning in the workplace: Practical perspectives on
implementing mobile learning. June 2014. (Requires