Mobile: What is mLearning, Really Part 1


There are many new technologies that are starting to take hold within the Learning community. mLearning is interesting because it ties them together.

These technologies are:

  • Performance Support – This is a way of delivering content that is not specifically training, as we have referred to it. It brings information to your learners closer to the point of needing it – in the workflow.
  • Mobile Apps – These are the programs that run on the device.
  • Analytics (Experience API/Tin Can) – This tool allows you to identify who is using your content, when and where they are using it, and eventually provide you a better understanding of how learners are using your content.
    mLearning encompasses the use and delivery of these items.

We Got It Wrong!

Every so often, as an industry, we latch onto a technology or methodology and we don’t get it quite right. mLearning is one of those methodologies. Several years ago, when it first became popular, we all rushed to push PowerPoints and Captivate presentations to everyone’s phones and tablets. As time has passed, we have had some better insight into what mLearning really means.

As an industry, we are backpedaling and looking at how we are using mLearning as a tool.

So, it’s time to rethink how we use mobile devices to deliver learning content and the types of content we deliver in that medium.

How Do You Use Your Mobile Device?

This article is working on the assumption that you have a mobile device of some sort. That would be a smart phone, a tablet, or an eReader (a Kindle or Nook).

Before you can consider how to deliver content on these devices, it is a good practice to understand how you use your machine. When I ask this question of others, here are some of the answers I get:

  •  Take photos
  • Texting
  • Email
  • Surf the web
  • Make calls
  • Watch videos
  • Play games
  • Facebook
  • News
  • Read Articles
  • GPS/Maps
  • Listen to music

My expectation is that if you think about how you use your device, you will find that your usage is very similar to these responses. Why is that?
Simple. These are the types of activities our devices are designed for.

You don’t hear people saying they take courses or watch presentations.

Let’s examine this a little closer… People do use these features in educational manners or as some might term, performance support (Oh! There’s that term). For example, people do read blogs, check into Facebook groups, use maps and their GPS to find their way around, listen to podcasts that are informational, view informational videos that explain how to do things, take photos to help them remember things or share things with people who are not with them at the moment of an event, ask questions and receive information via texting, and they look up information on the web.

Most of these activities meet the criteria for performance support. It is information presented to you in the moment you are in need of it.

Some other things that meet these criteria might include using the notes applications, the calendar, the calculator, and your devices PDF reader.

On top of all of these features, there are actually three things that make your mobile device an ideal delivery platform.

  1. Your learners probably already have one. You don’t have to provide this device for them to benefit from it.
  2. They don’t need you to train them how to use their device. As a matter of fact, most devices are so easy to use, that a three year old can sit down with it and use it to watch videos with very little assistance. A nine-year old can play games and operate a tablet device better and more efficiently than many adults.
  3. These devices are mobile. Therefore, they can go most anywhere you need them to be and they typically live inside the owner’s pocket.

Here’s the Idea!

When you deliver content in a mobile environment, deliver the kind of content these devices are good at delivering and in the format we are all already familiar with using.

Using the Index Finger has Changed the way we Interact

Scientists have found that touching a screen has fundamentally changed the way we interact with a machine, compared to using a mouse. There is an intimate connection that happens when you touch something to create an interaction versus moving a mouse and then clicking to create the on-screen interaction. A mouse creates a space between the interaction and the brain. When you touch the screen, there is no space between the screen and the brain – it’s a direct connection. This changes how we process the information, retain the information, and connect with that information.

Activity to Stretch Your Mind

It’s easy to talk about all this information. Let’s take it to the next level and provide you a take-away?

Think about the environment you work in today and identify one idea you can develop around one of these ideas. Then, try to build that.

How can you use the:

  • Camera?
  • Notes app?
  • Geo-Location?
  • Web Browser?
  • SMS Tool (Texting)?
  • YouTube or other video offering?
  • PDF reader?
  • Video Camera?
  • Social Media connectivity?
  • Media Player (Podcast)?

Read the Part 2 of this article…


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One Response to “Mobile: What is mLearning, Really Part 1”

  1. Mobile: What is mLearning, Really? Part 2 | ASTD - Central Florida Chapter Blog Says:

    […] Discussions in Learning and Development in Orlando, Florida « What is mLearning, Really Part 1 […]

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