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Is mLearning a Good Fit for This Project?
mLearning (or mobile learning) is quickly becoming an important part of the education industry. The constant development of mobile phones, smartphones, and tablet devices boasts unlimited potential; and the way that people are using these devices means the lure of mLearning has never been bigger.
Whether you’re waiting for a bus or waiting for a haircut, the ability to access study material at your own convenience can be a great motivation to learn new information.
With the popularity of mobile devices continuing to soar, it comes as no surprise that more and more learning practitioners are choosing to add mLearning to their eLearning programs; but, remember, mLearning is NOT simply eLearning on a mobile device.
It is important to know that simply "converting" eLearning material to the HTML5 compatible mobile platform, is not always a good decision. Despite both mLearning and eLearning having similar goals of engaging learners with the learning experience, the usage patterns comparing eLearning and mLearning show us that people accessing mobile devices use them in a completely different manner to the way they use laptops and other computers.
People tend to use their phones and tablets regularly throughout the day but for short periods of time. If we compare this to the usage of laptops, we can see that laptops are not used half as often; but, when people are on them, they spend longer amounts of time on them.
If people use the devices in such different ways, do you think the same, unedited content will work as effectively? The portability, versatility, and convenience of mobile devices will only work successfully if the correct learning types are applied.
When should we use mLearning?
The success of mLearning comes down to three things: technical standards; course design; and, of course, the learning material. These cornerstones allow mLearning to be tailored to fit many areas of education.
Splitting the content into bitesized chunks of material is essential; files should always be condensed to avoid long loading times, as a fast paced mobile experience is critical.
Complementary audio and video files can be effective on mobile devices, although the size of the screen is the main factor in deciding how suitable video content is.
In order to gain the best experience, learning solutions should display large text with little or no scrolling required.
Going through warm-up exercises beforehand, or consolidating foundational knowledge, has been proven to give learners the edge when attending a lesson. Pre-class assignments can be used to generate feedback in order to pinpoint areas of study during lesson time. This method of learning is at home on mobile devices and can improve, and be used to customize, the learning experience.
Quick practices are what mLearning delivers best; after all, people are using their phones to have quick bursts of learning. The ability to load resources quickly and jump straight into them is the very reason mLearning has become so popular.
Short quizzes and practice sessions can back up the original material without adding the stress of another lesson. Try to condense your material into small units that can be opened and closed easily throughout the day.
It is rare for mLearning to be the primary delivery platform for learning material, it is more often used in a blended approach. mLearning is not here to take over from eLearning, it is here to add to the experience; and we can see this in blended learning. An example of this is the ability of an instructor, or online course, to be paired with a high quality resource. The content can be an extension of a package or support. It could provide access to tutors or act as promotional material for short quizzes on a topic.
One great example of eLearning and mLearning working together is the Duolingo website and app where fully explained online lessons are matched with mobile practice exercises. This free language learning duo has been praised by both Apple and Google Play, check it out here: https://www.duolingo.com/
Blended programs rank high in both results and satisfaction, and this gives them a "best of both worlds" feel. Blended learning really reaps the benefits of mLearning and can expand face to face lessons with reminders and quizzes.
Another type of learning material that is greatly suited to mobile devices is "Spaced" mLearning which we use at Werdermann eLearning to help students to retain information AFTER the initial learning experience. Rich content questions are sent out on a regular basis over a length of time, acting as refreshers in order to reinforce the learning topic.
Most studies peg post-course knowledge loss at between 70 percent to 90 percent within three months of a training event. Spaced mobile learning addresses the very technique behind the learning experience, bridging the gap between short-term and long-term memory. With average completion rates of over 70 percent, the technology has proven to be extremely successful.Learn more about the science behind SPACED MOBILE LEARNING here.
When should we avoid mLearning?
With mLearning being the buzzword that it is recently, there is a temptation to jump in regardless of whether it will benefit you. First, ask yourself this: If you are creating a new tool, that you think is cool, does it actually meet your learners’ needs? There has to be more than beautiful aesthetics and the impression that you’re being "modern"; it is ESSENTIAL that the end goal is to be the best learning solution.
We should always be looking to enhance the learning experience; but, sometimes, by interfering, we can make it worse. We can cause distraction, the exact opposite effect of what we are trying to do.
To put it plainly, longer courses are unavoidable at times; some topics just require sheer bulk, and they are NOT suited to mLearning. Learning on a mobile device is designed to be done in short sessions - squinting at a short screen for any length of time is not improving what you already have. Any courses that are longer than 10 to15 minutes and/or require scrolling are best served on larger screened desktop devices.
Another serious consideration is that accessibility is not one of the strengths of mLearning; so, when accessibility is a MUST, mLearning is not appropriate. A combination of HTML5's limitations, the size of the screens, limited text options, and touch screen interfaces means that applications can be difficult to use for students with a variety of disabilities.
The Bottom Line
In the end, each type of learning requires a different approach, from writing your material to creating the course. All of the three cornerstones discussed above should be considered in your planning before deciding whether to implement mLearning for a project.Remember, the whole concept behind mLearning is to enhance the learning experience, for it to be an asset to the resources already on offer. In order to be successful, you must make sure that the mobile offering provides clarity and serves as a benefit to enhance the original material. Do not be tempted to add mLearning based on the buzz surrounding it - ensure that it will prove to be a beneficial addition to what you already have.
Created by Ben Kelbrick, Writer. Mar. 1, 2014.