Mobile Learning 101

Our preferences have changed over time. Remaining connected is a priority, whether it be for social purposes or work. And between work, and managing a social life we want time for personal growth, and development!

Learning through mobile devices though not exactly a panacea, is certainly the most feasible solution in many ways in today’s times. To possess a wi-fi enabled mp3 player, a smart phone, or a feature phone is the norm. To have a couple of smart phones ( one from work, and a personal one), a netbook, and perhaps an ipad, or tablets as released in the future would be sign of ‘in touch with times’. Advances in technology (3G and 4G) networks, newer apps on a daily basis, and an appetite for mobile devices are now able to meet the business drivers midway, and thus provide a strong platform for growth and adoption of mobile learning (mlearning).

However, the adoption is slow, and that is partly due to misconceptions related to mobile learning.


• It is device dependent: again, not necessarily, unless the subject matter, and learning design demand specialized features, e.g., if your mobile solution requires VOIP, or is a distributed simulation or is a location-based learning exercise, a point and shoot, or a scavenger hunt based learning where there may be a need for a built-in camera. However, if you are looking at standard audio, video, interaction features, or a sms based solution (provided it is enabled as a service in the plan), most devices available in the market will meet the requirements (use/non-use of Flash is certainly to be remembered!).  Browser based deployments may eliminate requirement for specialty ‘Apps’ or other capital expenditures.

• There will be capital expenditure: no, not really. Specialists in education, and technology would work with you to understand the business and learning drivers. They invest in infrastructure, and build service capabilities so that you do not have to.

• You may have to work with mobile operators: no, you would not have to. Your educational, and learning partner will invest in learning design research, technology research, and invest in infrastructure after having studied the state of the market, and therefore you would not have to worry about it (they would also think about coverage by a mobile operator when considering solutions!).

How to find success with mobile learning?

• Identify immediate audiences that could benefit from mobile learning- sales force, process technicians, project managers, marketing & advertising professionals, and HR professionals may immediately benefit from ‘Just in time’, ‘Performance Support’ type learning initiatives. Identify the requirements, or use experts to help you do that.

• Partner with experts- Experts in this area understand prevailing standards, and ensure that design, and deployment adheres to those standards. Standards in question are

  • Content Design ( Instructional and Visual) standards- Flash does not work on iphones. HTML5 though excellent as a learning object development tool, is still developing. However, innovations galore, and with the right instructional design, usability considerations, and appreciation of available content development tools, and technology appropriate content design standards would be considered from the outset.
  • Technical standards (devices used by your entire audience may vary significantly)- Devices differ, and so what works on one device may not on another (flash based learning modules will not work on iPhone), location aware functionalities may not be available on all devices.
  • Learning Environment/LMS- Choice of the learning environment and requirement for tracking of learning interaction, and completion are a primary requirement in most cases. Selecting an appropriate learning environment which is either mobile friendly, has native apps, or a platform that ‘pushes’ content to the mobile device are critical to the success of a mlearning initiative.

• A compelling business model- Expertise drawn from in-house resources, and strategic partnerships with content, technology, and related services providers will jumpstart your mlearning initiative. Strategic partnerships also ensure commitment, quality, and can potentially help in building a long-term product strategy. Commitment of partners ensures advice, and risk mitigation by experts, thus leading to a successful mlearning initiative.

Ambient Insight, June 22, 2008, Web site: