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Over the years, the science of learning has expanded and transformed into what it is today. For centuries, humanity has been seeking to find approaches to problems so we move beyond the realm of our understanding.
Along the way, we’ve realized that institutional education, making information readily available, and using innovative pedagogical means are a few of the most useful ways to impart knowledge. The more literate people are, the better we can incorporate different viewpoints, ideas, and opinions into our collective thought. Ultimately, moving towards solving the pressing problems of the world and making it more sustainable for future generations.
Like all progressive societies in the world, education differentiates their rate of progress. Over the past decade, we have seen two major changes. The first one is the realization that classroom learning is an outdated means of education, given its limited capacity to incorporate different learning resources. The second is the emergence of eLearning platforms that seek to provide convenience to learners.
Though eLearning is still in its infancy, its subset, mLearning or mobile learning, is gaining traction.
In this article, we take a closer look at mLearning and how it can facilitate learners even further than the current distance learning market.
What is mLearning?
Currently, more than half of the world’s population has adopted smartphones. This number is set to increase, and at the current rate, the whole world will be using smartphones or other mobile technology within a decade. As a result, we can also expect mLearning platforms to take mass adoption just by looking at the trends that led to eLearning adoption, namely, faster internet speeds, better UI/UX, and increasing computational power.
The only bottleneck right now is designing a course that encompasses the vastness of eLearning with mobile technology. We’ll get to that later. First, let’s define what mLearning is.
As you might have already gathered, mobile puts the m in mLearning. What makes it a subset of eLearning is that it specifically focuses on mobile technology such as smartphones and to a lesser extent, tablets.
Though eLearning has been around for a while, its use has become even more apparent since the pandemic. Most schools and professional training have had to adapt to the eLearning methodologies by using tools that facilitate this mode of education. Platforms like Zoom, Skype, and MS teams have been instrumental in emulating classroom settings at home, but they’re not being used for their intended function. Rather than being a standalone platform for mLearning, they allow teachers and trainers to host video conferencing calls. As a result, this perpetuates the conventional passive learning modes of education and limits creative teaching methods.
However, eLearning platforms are already gearing towards fulfilling this market demand. By including active, as well as passive teaching methodologies, we expect mLearning platforms to follow suit and provide access to education anytime and anywhere around the world. Of course, this all depends on your access to technology and whether or not you have a smartphone and its accompanying infrastructure.
Why mLearning is the Future of Education?
There are many reasons that explain why mLearning platforms are gaining popularity. So much so that they may become the primary mode of education in most of the developed world.
Let’s look at the top 6 reasons for the growing interest in mobile learning:
1. Learn on the Go
We live in an extremely demanding world. Previous generations didn’t have to study as much as they have to now. The common misconception that learning stops after attaining a degree has become obsolete.
Plus, we don’t know how our career paths will pan out. We may be required to attain skills that are beyond the scope of our prior education to learn new insights into our line of work. Hence, education has become more of a lifelong process rather than being just one stage of our lives.
That being said, education is normally supported by our guardians in the early years of our lives. At some point, we have to let go of our dependency on them and rely on our own abilities. Hence, we need to look for avenues that impart education while we juggle our personal and professional lives. It has to be moldable enough to suit our needs while flexible enough to fit into our daily routine.
That’s perhaps the biggest benefit that mLearning offers in today’s fast-paced world. By allowing people to choose the most suitable timing s for learning, it distinguishes itself from conventional modes of learning. People can pick when and where they want to learn, allowing them to remain most productive and comfortable, thereby allowing them to consciously take charge of their education at their convenience. The idea also is that they can learn even if they only have a few minutes, as most people on the go often only have.
2. Better Completion Rates
An implication of taking charge of your education is higher completion rates for online learning courses. However, it has much to do with how these courses are designed and presented to prospective learners. Conventional learning institutions depend on students to fill their classrooms and seminars. The longer they can keep them there, the more profit they will generate. Education never used to be like this. In fact, higher education used to be much more accessible to people as it didn’t cost an arm and leg just to attain it.
As a result, people who consciously choose to take up an mLearning course, are more inclined to complete it. More importantly, the market is utilizing technology that the bulk of learners are most familiar with. People in the millennial demographic are now reaching an age where they require higher education to progress in their careers. The Gen Z demographic has grown up with mobile technology and is much more likely to adopt it for educational purposes. These are some of the reasons why mLearning has higher completion rates.
The other reason is that the learning can take place on the go. Sitting on a subway, riding in a car, waiting in line, just about anywhere a wireless connection is available. The more convenient the technology is, the easier it is to get learners to consume your content. It doesn’t get more convenient than pulling out a cell phone (which most people are on way too much throughout the day). Being able to use this device to gain skills and learn from anywhere with even just a few minutes here and there is an incredible convenience for many.
Our understanding of education has further strengthened the fact that not all people are the same. We all come with different perspectives and opinions in our lives that have been shaped by our circumstances and pre-conceived notions of the world. Plus, our own learning capabilities and prior knowledge factor in a teaching environment. As a result, not all learners are equal.
Some may require unlearning before they can learn new concepts. Others may need to practice improving their attention and focus. And still others may realize they need to revise the pre-requisites of what they’re learning. Some, are just naturally gifted to understand and comprehend more readily than others.
No matter what the scenario, everyone has a different pace of learning as they move along with their education. This realization is not normally taught within schools and educational bodies. Everyone has to go through the same learning environment put forward by the instructor.
By opting for an mLearning platform, one can account for the deficiencies conventional modes of education fail to address and learn at their own pace. This way, you can exhibit, explore, and improve your own learning capabilities. It allows you the freedom to remain curious and instills a new approach to learning. However, the onus must be put on learners as well to take responsibility for their education and engage with what is being taught to them.
4. Bite-Sized Learning Increases Retention
Another benefit of mLearning courses is that they can be tailored to fit the requirements of learners. Considering there are no boundaries to what we can include in a particular course, mLearning courses can be designed based on difficulty levels. The complexity of a course is determined by what concepts are included and the approach used to cement them in learners’ minds.
One approach is to segment them into bite-sized chunks. This way, learners can not only govern the pace of their education but also build up their foundation towards more complex courses. It also leaves room to study pre-requisites and explore any sub-courses that emerge from the primary course they’re enrolled in.
Plus, mLearning course content has to be very specific and straightforward to be understood by learners. This can benefit learners who face barriers to go on with lengthy courses given their expansive nature, a multitude of textbooks and resources they have to refer to, and the immense focus they required.
Having digestible, bit-sized pieces makes it easier to learn and retain information. Granted, it takes more time to learn, but by decreasing cognitive overload, mLearning enables a more effective teaching methodology and prevents learners from short-term learning like rote memorization.
As mentioned before, institutional education is not what it used to be. We’re barely preparing people for the workforce while delivering little education regarding the realities of the world. More importantly, education has become more of a privilege rather than a right. That’s primarily due to the exorbitant tuition fees of higher education bodies.
By formulating courses on mLearning platforms, they are easier for people to gain access to them at lower prices. Again, they get to choose what they want to learn depending on their financial standing and needs. As a result, people can learn important life skills like dealing with their finances, soft skills for their job, language courses, and even cooking.
In addition, often, mLearning courses are shorter and as mentioned bite-sized which translates to more affordable learning opportunities.
Plus, it gives an opportunity for educators around the world to take charge of their living. The mLearning platform acts as a mediator between the two. Teachers and trainers get to earn from the educational courses that they design, coming up with innovative ways to teach learners so that more are attracted to them.
6. Fast Creation Times
Following bite-sized courses, another advantage that mLearning courses offer is that content to be created at a faster rate, especially if you’re developing microlearning opportunities. While it depends on the curriculum, incorporating lectures, videos, text, and animations seek to decrease the expansive nature of your course for catering to the attention spans of learners (which is likely shorter than you might think).
That means it doesn’t require that you put a heap of information into your mLearning course. Instead, you get to focus on the important concepts in your lessons. Thereby allowing you to create more content in a shorter period.
Gearing Mobile Devices with mLearning
So far, we’ve only considered what mLearning is and how beneficial it is for learners. Let’s look at how you can use mLearning platforms so that they integrate with the functionality of mobile devices. This way, you can be sure to get the most utility out of them.
Supplement Learning Modules
The good thing about mobile devices is their ability to host countless apps for supplemental learning. For instance, let’s use an example where you’re teaching your learners a new language.
It’s a tedious endeavor since learners need a lot of practice to get proficient in learning new languages. They need to improve their vocabulary, as well as apply different use cases for different words. Having flashcards helps, but it’s not possible to walk around with them all day long.
With an mLearning platform, you can create and distribute your own flashcards and utilize other educational tools for learning languages.
Students can benefit from collaborating with each other on assignments and even talk with each other in the language they’re learning. Additionally, you can provide them with texts to translate. All these practice measures are difficult to incorporate in a classroom setting as they require a hefty budget for gathering resources.
During Field Work
Learning is not limited to students in a classroom, but businesses and companies also require training their workforce. They might have operating procedures that need to be learned before implementation. They may need to look up information while working in remote settings.
A growing number of people are already using smartphones and carrying them everywhere. That’s why mLearning platforms are ideal for on-the-job training, keeping a repository of procedures, and a library of information on company policies.
Incorporating Learning Features
Some learning features are better suited for mobile platforms over classroom settings. Mobile phones are small devices that can fit into your hands easily. So it can be easier to include design features that increase usability. This also makes them easier to navigate, increasing the speed with which learning can be delivered.
Perhaps its best use is introducing mLearning games to students. Gamification is the latest trend in online learning that classroom settings cannot incorporate with the same force. It increases healthy competition amongst students and fosters an element of challenge among peers.
Your mLearning platform can incorporate custom games that seek to educate students on a particular subject. You can even include a point system within them so students can ascertain their standing and look for ways to improve in areas where they’re lacking.
Feedback and Discussions
No course is complete without providing a space for discussion and feedback. There will be plenty of students who will face challenges while learning new things. They’ll face complex concepts that test their capabilities and learning ability. Having a space for discussion with peers and the instructor greatly improves their journey of learning.
More importantly, instructors also need to hear back from their students to receive feedback on the course they’ve created.
This is where mLearning platforms shine. They can be customized to host forums and discussion threads where students can post their queries anonymously. Having them remain anonymous promotes discussion as it takes away the fear of shame and embarrassment.
From an instructor’s point of view, they can act as a moderator, outlining the rules of discussion to keep the forum a place that harbors discussions in a civilized manner.
If you’re among the set of people who don’t receive the same level of learning in the classroom, can’t sit behind a desk all day, or don’t have the focus to learn at a pace defined by someone else, then mLearning might be the best option for you. Additionally, it can be a resourceful tool for imparting education to employees. It is truly an innovative approach for making education accessible to all.
The important thing to realize is to keep it short and concise. This way, you can utilize it best. Plus, you can integrate it with your eLearning platform and learning management system (LMS) if you already have one.
For example, if you’ve designed a lengthy eLearning course, you can upload shorter instructional videos for teaching the bulk of the curriculum. Having a cross-platform system will help students to access information, track their progress, and revise from a mLearning platform that’s with them at all times. Smaller, less intensive courses can just be hosted onto mLearning platforms.
The only caveat is you’ll need a mobile device and a fast internet connection. Given the world is moving at a trajectory such that just about everyone has a mobile device and the internet, this reality may soon come to fruition.