Mobile learning, also known as mLearning, is defined as the need and ability to learn through virtual media, such as personal electronic gadgets, social interactions, and content.
Devices that can be used for mLearning include smartphones, tablets, laptops, and digital notebooks. It focuses on the learners’ freedom of movement and their interaction with technology. In this case, simplifying learning by using mobile tools is what constitutes this informal learning setup.
What Makes mLearning Better than Conventional Classrooms?
MLearning is better than conventional schooling in different ways.
While there are several notable features of mobile learning, one feature that tops all the rest is the added convenience for mLearners. This way, you get to learn without having to change your schedule or compromising other important activities, irrespective of where you are and what you do.
What’s more, mLearning supports instant sharing and transferring learning content; this also allows to use an instant feedback system. Feedback is important because it encourages effective learning by giving a prompt assessment.
From a learning perspective, different studies show that mLearning is far more effective than conventional learning approaches. This is mainly because of things like convenience, peace of mind, and feedback that it offers to the learners. Actually, the mLearning process is proven to raise exam scores by about 50 to 70% while cutting dropouts in technical fields by 22%.
Apart from the above-given reasons why mLearning stands out, another important feature attached to this approach is the use of gadgets for education. In today’s world, everyone is more likely to read and learn using digital devices rather than reading paper books. This is exactly what mobile learning takes into account.
Learning through digital gadgets lets learners have more space for exploring and asking questions. This method is much cheaper than conventional classroom learning setups as educators and learners don’t have to pay for venues, electricity bills, and other relevant expenses, let alone the environmental impact of reduced paper consumption.
History of mLearning
Alan Kay is the name behind the introduction of the mLearning concept in the 1970s. He got into Palo Alto Research Center of the Xerox Corporation and teamed up with a few other workers to bring ‘Dynabook’ to life. Dynabook was a handy personal computer that was meant to teach children through an improved digital approach. However, this device failed to impress because of a lack of technological backing in that era.
It wasn’t until 1994 that IBM Simon, the first smartphone ever, was introduced by Mitsubishi Electric Corp; this device was quite similar to Dynabook. Promoted as a handy personal communicator, this smartphone heralded an absolutely new era during which hundreds of similar devices were introduced by various manufacturers. From then on, nobody ever stopped producing ‘smartphones’.
To simplify the introduction to mLearning, it has been divided into three phases. These include:
This phase revolves around the use of mobile devices, such as smartphones, tablet computers, and laptops. Here, educators work to plan lessons that can be easily delivered and accessed through digital gadgets. Even when they can’t work with all sorts of devices, they can focus on at least one device with specialized applications that support mLearning. They should be highlighted and communicated to the learners, too.
Phase 2 is focused on learning in settings different from a typical classroom. This can include things like field trips, visits to museums and places alike. Today digital gadgets support strong Internet connection and this is what educators can take advantage of during such visits in order to communicate with their students without using teaching materials like black/whiteboards or even desktop computers.
The third and the last phase focuses on the mobility of learners. Today, mLearning has become a globalized learning approach. It has gained popularity in regions across the world including Asia, Europe, Australia, Africa, New Zealand, North America, and Scandinavia which have already attained remarkable achievements in this area.
The Importance of mLearning
Now that we know everything about the concept of mobile learning and its history, let’s look at the uses and benefits of mobile learning and a few notable challenges that mobile learners face. The concept of mLearning is not new anymore. Numerous schools and other educational institutions are trying to adopt this technology to be able to better educate learners through laptops and mobile phones. This approach not only is effective and handy, but also fun, and this is why it encourages learning among people of all ages. That is why so many educational applications are introduced and made available to educators and trainers every day.
Uses of Mobile Learning in Education
Creation of Mobile Learning Materials
The easiest way to educate and learn through mobile learning is by developing learning materials/content. These can be anything from videos and audios to texts and infographics. Learners can be given assignments to complete after studying the materials.
This approach of online education is comparatively less interactive but allows users to take enough time to grasp what is being shared, unlike highly interactive sessions. This is known as an asynchronous approach of mLearning, i.e. where the educators and learners are not directly in contact.
Interaction during Lessons
For those educators and learners who prefer interactive learning, mobile devices are the best option. This sort of learning encourages learners to ask questions and discuss other relevant topics on online forums of discussion.
This activity can also go the other way round where the educators ask questions about the lesson and the learners answer them by using their devices or by communicating on a predefined online forum. This method is especially recommended where trainers teach a large number of students.
The learners can even be asked to complete surveys after lessons so that the educators can get prompt feedback in addition to being able to analyze how effective their lessons are.
Synchronous learning is the exact opposite of asynchronous learning. In such a setting, students and teachers can communicate in real-time. This approach is preferable when teachers and students deem feedback and interaction important. Both real-time feedback and real-time interaction with students give a great impact on overall learning.
Benefits of Mobile Learning
With mobile learning, you can learn with fun from home or anywhere else you feel comfortable learning. You don’t have to sit straight up and make eye contact with the trainers just as conventional classrooms do. In such a setting, you can simply lie down in your bed with a bag of chips in your hands and watch/listen to a lecture or read through lessons. It’s no different from watching a movie, except that it is not for entertainment purposes.
As discussed before, learners today are more likely to enjoy learning through digital gadgets than paper books. You can test the same by announcing ‘we are going to have a dictation today’ in both physical and virtual classes. The reaction that you will get from the children in the mLearning setup will definitely be far better than those who study in classrooms.
The same is the case with the professional world. More employees will be happy to attend online training and sessions than sitting in the training room and act like students.
Apart from the convenience, one important reason behind mLearning being widely preferred is that the world today is all about technology and this has brought people to be comfortable during interactions that aren’t one-on-one.
Diversity in Learning Resources
With mobile learning, educators can add videos, audios, visuals, and event different text styles to make lessons seem interesting. These resources make education more fun and interesting.
Easy Access to Quality Education
Since mobile learning allows learners from all over the world to come and learn together, there is no need for anyone to worry about getting a quality education or even traveling locally or internationally to get it.
You can be in third world countries and still have easy access to quality education that developed nations have to offer without having to spend a bit on traveling and other expenses.
Mobile Learning Challenges
A Lack of Focus and Attention
It is easy for mobile learners to get distracted because of several entertainment options that come handy with digital gadgets. Whether the students are children or adults, things like games and social media can easily divert them away from the lessons being taught. Indeed, mobile education is fun. But it can never be more fun and interesting than socializing or playing games.
With that said, self-discipline and strong focus are the essentials of successful mobile learning. However, this can also be controlled by arranging live and interactive sessions with the learners, allowing short breaks, and incorporating fun activities and games into learning plans.
Increased Dependence on Electricity and Internet Connection
With mobile learning, users are fully dependent on electricity and internet connection. In fact, mobile learning is simply not possible without these two. This could be an obstruction for those who live in areas where internet connection and electricity are not readily available.
Nonetheless, despite the challenges associated with mobile learning, a majority of educators and learners are considering this learning approach these days. This means that even people in rural areas of the world are making efforts to combat electricity and internet issues in order to become mobile learners. And that simply tells how effective and interesting this learning approach is.
The Scope of Mobile Learning
Learning that is mobile-based is fl and this is what most learners seek. Mobile learning allows learning in your comfort zone; it doesn’t require anyone to let go of their regular activities and plans.
In fact, for those who fail to take online lessons can even have continuous access to learning resources like articles, videos, audios, visuals, and even text. This on-demand availability has further contributed to the success and fame of this learning approach.
These benefits of mobile learning and others, like eco-friendliness, cost-effectiveness, convenience and level of fun derived from learning, have even compelled corporate giants and growing businesses to switch from physical to virtual training setups.
Because of the continuous introduction of new devices and the varieties that are available today, the prices of mobile devices have dropped down radically over the years. This is the cherry on the top for those considering mLearning. This implies that everyone, from those who are young to the aged, can easily make a one-time investment to get years of learning and fun. Not a bad deal at all!
So, now that you know all about mobile learning, do you think these benefits are something you can easily let go of? We think not!