M-learning: New kid on the block?
Mobile learning is the most talked about topic in corporate e-learning now. Organizations are leveraging the popularity of mobile devices in order to enhance the efficacy and reach of the Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) initiative. Ambient Insight on Mobile Learning Market Forecast 2009-2014 states that Mobile Learning market is expected reach up to $9.1 billion by 2015. The world market for mobile devices reached $3.2 billion in 2010. Yet another factor that makes mobile learning more popular is the new generation workers – the Gen-Y and the Gen-Z born after 1981 and 2000 respectively. These millennials are expected to constitute a majority of the world’s workforce by 2030. As they are tech-savvy and are digitally connected, they are comfortable and prefer mobile learning technology to be used at workplace.
So, are m-learning and e-learning the same? Is m-learning just another avatar of e-learning or is it wholly new? What do the training managers have to say about this? Before we understand these in detail, let us see what e-learning and m-learning are.
E-Learning and M-Learning
E-learning is a technology-enabled learning delivered through the electronic medium. It helps interact, facilitate, and deliver content to learners in various ways such as computer-based training (CBT), web-based training, virtual classrooms and digital collaboration. Accessing an e-learning course is easy when you have a laptop. It may be difficult when the learner is on the move and does not have access to the Internet.
Mobile learning is learning delivered to mobile devices like mobile phones and tablets. A detailed meaning is that mobile learning happens when a learner is on the move and tries to access learning on mobile devices that are small enough to fit into his/her pocket or purse. Professor Mike Sharples, who is regarded as the “father of mobile learning,” states that “the focus is not so much on the device but on the mobility of the learner, and this mobility of the learner is the key factor of mobile learning.” Mobile learning thus enables users to learn on the go or when the employee is not at the workstation.
Similarities and Differences
Both e-learning and m-learning constitute self-paced learning; the use of Internet is required in both the methods; they are anytime, anywhere learning; both the learning technologies are instructor independent and are something that learners can quickly adapt to. The image below gives a clear picture about the similarities and differences between both these learning delivery formats.
M-learning: An Avatar of E-learning?
Based on an empirical study conducted by CommLab India, involving practicing training managers, it was found that training managers still perceived m-learning as an extension of e-learning. Managers saw mobile learning as portable e-learning and felt that mobile learning was in its early adoption stage, looking for wider acceptance. Most managers viewed mobile learning from a techno-centric perspective and were still grappling with issues like structure (screen size), connectivity (LMS tracking), interactivity (authoring tools), multimedia (Adobe Flash issues), hyperlinks (browser issues). These are actually typical e-learning features. Currently, the L&D managers are only trying to use e-learning features, certain common features of both learning methods and a few physical features of mobile devices. They also viewed mobile learning as a tactical extension of e-learning with only one-to-one learning (institutional) as opposed to its potential as a collaborative platform for informal and formal learning
It would take time and experience before users see mobile learning from a learners’ perspective and experience it in its true nature – personalized, spontaneous, situated, context-aware and informal.