The mobile learning generation

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I recently attended mLearnCon, a mobile learning conference put on by the eLearning Guild. I learned a lot of great information about the latest trends and issues in mobile learning from the presenter and vendor sessions I attended and from the conversations I had with other attendees. Now that I’ve had time to reflect on the information I received at the conference, I’ve discovered a few common topics that resonated the most with me.

Mobile Learning vs. Mobile eLearning

One conversation I found very interesting was the difference between mobile learning (mLearning) and mobile eLearning. Initially, the majority of eLearning was simply instructor-led presentations put online to go through at your own pace. Now, we are developing much more effective eLearning because it is interactive and engaging. However, with mLearning being the new trend, we are seeing eLearning simply being ported to mobile devices with no thought put into how the device can be used to improve learning. These eLearning ports should be considered mobile eLearning rather than mLearning. Mobile eLearning definitely has its place for courses, practice, and retention, but it shouldn’t be confused with mLearning which is better suited to on demand information, job aids, and learning experiences that utilize the mobile device features.

Device Features

My three year old son has been using a tablet for almost two years. Now, when he sits in my lap while I’m working on my desktop computer, he gets frustrated when his touches and swipes on the monitor have no effect. As new generations of learners come into the workforce they are going to expect, if not demand, their mobile learning to perform the way all of their other apps do. We need to be aware that we can use mobile device features like touch, motion control, speech recognition, and location awareness to create some incredible learning experiences. However, we also need to be considerate of the learner and use these features judiciously. It won’t improve learning if features like speech recognition and motion control are tacked on just because it’s available.

The Unknown

Several presenters shared success stories they’ve had with mobile learning. Some have successfully used it for new employee training. They attributed the success to those learners being excited and engaged. Others noted that it also works well for mandatory training since you have an audience that is required to complete the training. However, it seemed that the majority of attendees and presenters were still trying to get their bearings in the ever changing mobile learning landscape. It is difficult to know how to plan and develop when there is a constant stream of new devices and new technology to contend with. As an instructional designer and developer, I’m excited by the challenge of working with all of these new possibilities.

While these three broad topics were most interesting to me, many more were discussed, and there will be many more issues we have to consider as mobile learning continues to grow and change. What is your opinion of these topics? What other issues do you see arising as the use of mobile learning increases?

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