Mobile Learning – Here Are Some Benefits and Challenges to Consider
by Mark Sivy
Mobile learning is not intended or expected to be THE answer to current issues surrounding education. It must also be remembered that mobile learning is a subset of e-Learning and it is synonymous online learning (see my previous post titled Introducing Mobile Learning). Beyond a formal definition of mobile learning, think of it essentially as on-demand, in-the-moment learning through social and information connections made using mobile digital devices such as smartphones and tablets. It is NOT simply online learning on a mobile device. An example would be a gardener-intern using a smartphone to identify an unknown plant parasite and find the most current information about natural means of pest control. From my perspective, mobile learning allows us to address memory lapses, fill knowledge gaps, or support a more formal learning which is or had occurred in a traditional or online learning scenario.
Some benefits of mobile learning are that it can:
- Occur on readily available, easy-to-carry portable devices.
- Fit into personal needs more easily and quickly than traditional or online learning.
- Be self-directed and self-paced, thus allowing learners the opportunity to speed up, slow down, and review content at an individual pace or as needed.
- Improve self-esteem and self-efficacy.
- Decrease training costs.
- Empower the learner to take more responsibility for their learning.
- Accommodate personal preferences.
- Can be learner-centered by diversifying learning activities.
- Allow learners to overcome geographic barriers.
- Compensate for personal restrictions, challenges, or limitations.
- Facilitate immediate learner collaboration and communication.
- Be used to create peer community and support which enhance learning.
- Allow for broader learning opportunities and course options at a lower cost to the learner.
- Enable global awareness, community, networking and resources.
- Provide tools which allow for tracking, analyzing, reporting, and improving instruction and learning.
On the other side, some challenges of mobile learning are:
- There is a problem developing learning content and programs across multiple operating systems, screen sizes, and device capabilities
- Learners who procrastinate or are poorly self-motivated be disadvantaged and less likely to succeed.
- Non-verbal communication such as body language, facial expressions, and eye contact will typically be missing.
- Addressing policies, procedures, compliance requirements, technology application updates, and business updates.
- Barriers can exist initially for learners due to the need for new skills which are associated with using technologies and new ways of learning.
- It is more difficult to interact or communicate with individuals who tend to be unresponsive.
- Learners may miss face-to-face social contact and interaction, can feel isolated, or may need in-person instructor-learner interaction.
- Subject matter experts or instructors may not always be available on demand.
- Slow or unreliable network or wireless connections can present issues and frustration.
- It often requires a difficult change in attitudes and beliefs by leaders, learners, instructors, and instructional designers.
- There is a reduction in opportunities to develop oral communication skills and other social dynamics.
Reflection Point – “Instructional designers need to run, not walk, away from classroom-thinking and get to the point of providing short, quick business focused learning points that are easily accessible when and where our learners need them. This means leveraging new technologies to deliver non-traditional instruction.” ~ Karl Kapp