When I first moved to Chicago, my mom asked me a series of questions to ensure my success as an Adult Human in a City.
Did you get your electric turned on?
Did you get your gas turned on?
Did you get your phone line turned on?
I guess I take for granted my generation’s dependence upon and infatuation with ever-changing technology. Landlines? Come on, totally a thing of the past. Of course, as we know now, cell phones have become a mainstay in our culture. Everyone has a mobile device—it’s no longer an indicator of who’s “cool.” (Although I should mention my dad had a bag phone in the 90s, which was very cool.) In fact, cell phones are so popular that the technology research firm Gartner estimates that by 2018, 70% of mobile professionals will conduct work on their personal smart devices. As a result, it makes a lot of sense for the e-learning industry to adapt to and plan accordingly. If the party’s happening on mobile, why should we continue to develop exclusively for desktop?
Don’t worry. The first-class business simulations, gamified corporate training, and custom courseware will always exist for your computer. But with the changing of trends and preferences by learners, we feel compelled to keep up. So first things first: What exactly are we building for your phones, and how will that help you?
WHAT IS MOBILE LEARNING?
Mobile learning is e-learning that is compatible for your mobile device. You would launch the mobile course by going to a web browser, just as you would on desktop. It is typically meant to be supplementary content, and according to Capterra, it is “meant to provide training resources at the point of need.” M-learning, as it’s sometimes called, aims to be convenient, focused on brief interactions, and is typically used by those working in the field. It provides instant access to material for learners, increases retention of learned material, and increases the total quantity of learning. In other words, it's a pretty good option.
WHAT ISN'T MOBILE LEARNING?
Here’s where some confusion may arise. It might be best to think of this in terms of the old “a square is always a rectangle, but a rectangle isn’t always a square” adage. M-learning can be performed via an app, but an app isn’t necessarily m-learning. An “app,” or mobile application, shares many of the same attributes as m-learning. It is also meant to be convenient and focused on brief interactions. But the app is designed to be a platform for performing tasks or digesting information and, inherently, has no direct purpose.
As an education manager at your place of business, you might think that if your learners need their content to be mobile, then that product will necessarily be an app. If your intention is for your learners to merely travel with or have access to a course at any given time, however, then you are actually in need of m-learning. M-learning enables your learners to have a robust pool of integrated knowledge at their fingertips. It gives them a complete, high-fidelity, interactive experience whenever they need it. Remember: Any educational product that you roll out should keep the needs of your learners at the forefront, and if they need mobile access, then so should you.
ALL THIS FOR A PHONE?
The first generation iPhone came out on June 29, 2007. I remember elbowing my way through a line that wrapped around the entire building—I was trying to buy a burrito from the store next door. I saw a friend of mine camped out, seemingly having been there for hours. I asked what he was doing, and he said he was getting the new phone from Apple. My initial reaction was relief; I didn’t want to wait in this line for my burrito. But my next reaction was All this for a phone? How much of a difference could a special phone really make, anyway?
But now my understanding of technology has changed, both as a content producer at an e-learning company, but also as a consumer of information in the 21st century. People want to access the highest quality possible at their convenience. M-learning accomplishes this. So yes, I now understand: All this for a phone, indeed.