By the end of last year, I came across several reports stating how mobile devices are going to take the world by storm and how organizations are looking to implementing mLearning in their organizations in the following year and so on. Here are some statistics that were widely circulated.
- There were nearly 6 billion mobile phone subscriptions worldwide by the end of 2011 (ITU, 2011)
- 375 million tablets are likely to be purchased globally by 2016. (Forrester, 2012)
- The US market for Mobile Learning products and services was $958.7 million in 2010 and with a five-year compound annual growth rate of 13.7%, revenues are expected to reach $1.82 billion by 2015. (Ambient, 2010)
- Sale of tablet computers are expected to outsell PCs as early as 2016 (NPD, 2012)
- 51% of companies planned to do more mLearning in 2011 (eLearning Guild, 2011)
Despite the initial euphoria, mLearning has not been widely adopted in organizations. A blog published in Eduriser points out that many businesses who have adopted mobile learning have not performed up to potential. The blog reasons out that it could be due to economic, technological factors, content-related factors or poor user response to the initiative. Yet others have adopted it as a one-off initiative on an experimental basis.
Assuming all these issues are overcome in the years to come, it is unlikely that mLearning will shut down eLearning in organizations. Here are my reasons:
- M-learning does not suit all audiences and may not cater to varied learning preferences and learning styles of individual learners. Some employees might not be comfortable operating on a device which has a limited screen size. They may still like to use their keyboard and mouse to navigate around the course.
- Just-in-time learning or creation of tools for performance support works best for mobile devices. A full-fledged knowledge transfer may not be possible as learning modules cannot be beyond 5-7 mins duration. Content has to be crisp and to the point which will work great to reinforce learning rather than a stand-alone learning material.
- There are many design restrictions (browser & software compatibility issues) due to which it is difficult to implement learning design strategies for maximum impact. Organizations still will have to depend on eLearning courseware for such knowledge transfer.
Many skeptics have pronounced the death of radio after television became a common phenomenon. However, reality proved otherwise. Radio and television coexist serving different purposes and different audiences at different locations! Same is true with mLearning; it is an additional means of knowledge transfer. E-learning and mLearning can complement each other but cannot replace each other.