# What is Mobile Learning?

We all take the capabilities of mobile devices for granted. What’s more, we have this built-in expectation that “online” also means “mobile,” always at our fingertips, right? A learning experience is no exception. In this article, you’ll learn how mobile technologies can create more effective and engaging learning.

Mobile learning, or simply mLearning, is anywhere and anytime learning that is supported by mobile devices, that learners use to access content. There are two parties to this definition:

a) Learners and,
b) Devices

As for the (b) issue, that one’s easy. Devices enabling mobile learning are the same gadgets we all have in our pockets: smartphones and tablets. We use them in so many ways that they have become extensions of our personalities; it’s only natural we have started to use them for learning as well. With mLearning, students can study assigned lessons, video lectures, and take tests right from their devices.

One thing to keep in mind is that, the word “mobile” also refers to learners. For many people, such as field workers and sales representatives, being mobile is an integral part of their job. For others, commuting or business travel makes up a large part of their time. With mobile learning, people are bound to neither certain locations nor specific schedules anymore.

# How is mLearning Different from eLearning?

The use of a mobile device as a platform for content distribution isn’t the only characteristic that distinguishes mobile learning from eLearning. eLearning courses can often be taken via mobile devices, so this fact alone doesn’t make these courses “mobile.” What are the other differences?

# Different purpose

While eLearning is supposed to be a full-fledged alternative to classroom sessions, the purpose of mLearning is more support and diversification of the learning process. You provide learners with instant access to small and independent chunks of information, and they study it on the go or whenever they have a free minute.

Let’s take the learning of languages as an example. If you need to teach a grammar tense, you’d probably like to do it in a structured way to give your learners a holistic view of the topic. So, an eLearning lesson would do absolutely fine for that.

But with mobile learning, the learners can brush up their knowledge, do some exercises or watch a short video. They can also turn to this topic at the moment of need, say if they’re writing an email, and aren’t sure of the correct usage of the tense. All of these make mLearning a booster for any type of learning that ensures higher retention and involvement.

# Different length of a lesson

To get an idea of how long the lesson should be, think of the context where the learning happens. Traditional online courses are usually taken on a computer or laptop at a desk, often right in an office where there’s a good Wi-Fi connection. The average eLearning lesson can vary from 15 to 90 minutes, depending on the environment for learning.

Content developed for mobiles should be broken into smaller units—3 to 5 minutes—that are easier for the learners to access on a smartphone. Of course, some people can also sit at the desk with their smartphones on hand, but it’s more likely they’ll use it as intended — for being mobile. This way, the length of a unit should allow the learners to study while waiting in line or in-between work tasks.

# Different output method

While eLearning doesn’t require special software to run a course and can work right in a browser, mLearning needs an app in two versions, at least: for iOS and Android devices.

As we already said, eLearning courses can be viewed on mobiles with the help of mobile browsers. So, leaving aside the need to zoom in on the content, why would we need an app?

Since native mobile apps are designed for a device, they have access to operating system resources and features that web applications do not. Mobile apps make the user-experience generally smoother, with access to the camera, audio inputs, barcode scanners, and other built-in sensors. mLearning apps can also include features like the ability to take courses offline, save progress, and run processes in the background.

In a nutshell, mLearning isn’t a smaller portable version of eLearning; it’s a completely different learning medium that affects what the training content will be.

# Is Designing mLearning Courses Similar to Designing eLearning Content?

The short answer is No. The natural design constraint for mobile devices is smaller screen size. This leads us to two things that should be considered before the development process begins.

# 1. The input method

eLearning content is designed for using a tiny mouse pointer, while mLearning content is manipulated by a finger. This means that all the clickable interface elements need to be larger, so it doesn’t create an additional challenge for learners to tap a button or a link.

# 2. The amount of on-screen content

A desktop screen size can be anywhere from 19 to 34 inches. In comparison, mobile phones are about 6 inches. This way, you can’t afford to lose pixels on fancy elements and should include only what matters most. The golden rule here is one screen, one idea. When developing mobile courses, you only have space for what matters most

# Can I use my existing eLearning courses for mLearning?

If you want your courses to be viewed on mobile devices, they should be published in the HTML5 format. So, the answer to this question mostly depends on the capabilities of the authoring tool you use, but technically — yes, you can.

The tendency is to create mobile-first content. So, while you can quickly convert existing courses into the course for mobiles, to provide learners with a better experience, at least, try to comply with the basic requirements for mLearning content we’ve mentioned above:

• Content can be provided in small chunks;
• It doesn’t include too small elements;
• One screen, one idea.

# What is the difference between adaptive and responsive design?

While the differences between screen sizes only increase, there are still just two approaches to address the issue. Perhaps you’ve heard about adaptive and responsive design.

• Adaptive designuses a few layouts for multiple screen sizes. There can be layouts for smartphones, tablets, and desktops; each of which is made beforehand. When a learner opens a course, the system detects the screen size and shows a specific layout. If you know for sure which devices (and their sizes) your learners use and there won’t be new models with different parameters in the future, the adaptive approach is an adequate solution.
• Responsive designuses a fluid layout. No matter what screen size your learners have, that same layout automatically responds to that screen size: it scales and moves elements and adjusts functionality. You don’t have to make a list of devices your learners use nor create multiple layouts, as the design will smoothly shrink or grow — just like Alice in Wonderland!

# What Tools Can I Use to Develop mLearning?

Lastly, we look at the components of mLearning:

• an authoring tool,
• a learning management system,
• and an app.

So, what does each of the components do?

An authoring tool allows you to create courses, presentations, video lectures, assessments, and simulations that you want your learners to study. It should be able to publish in HTML5 format.

A learning management system serves as a command center where you upload training content, assign it to learners, monitor the statistics, and create reports.

A mobile application is there to ensure a smooth learning experience for the end-users. They install it from app stores on their devices and use it to study the assigned materials.

Accessed: 03 December 2020

##### Author: tashreeq

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