5 Ways That Mobile Learning Enhances Online Education
In the vast world of online education, there is often a fine line between beneficial components and unnecessary complications. Most associations want an eLearning system that provides the most effective learning experience for their users, one that includes advanced tools and features that are up-to-date and perform well, but they also want an eLearning system that remains straightforward and easy to use. So where does mobile learning fall in this framework? Is it a valuable addition? Is it unnecessarily complex?
Mobile Learning is a simply a form of eLearning that utilizes personal electronic devices. Reports show that smartphone ownership and Internet usage on smartphones in the U.S. has surpassed (or will soon surpass) that of desktop computers. The Ericsson Mobility Report, for example, suggests that smartphone usage could reach as much as 80% of the world’s population by 2021, with desktop ownership actually declining slightly year over year. Another report, 2015 Internet Trends by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, suggests that 51% of Internet usage in 2015 was done on a smartphone in 2015 compared to 42% on a desktop computer. With this incredible growth and upward trending for smartphones, many associations are trying to figure out if and when they should incorporate mobile learning into their eLearning platform. So let’s take a look at some of the advantages of mobile learning, 5 ways that mobile learning enhances education.
1. Incorporated Modern Learning Tools
Adhering to the contemporary trends and tools of eLearning is important for online courses to stay ahead of the curve, assuming that they have demonstrated that they actually work. Some of the more beneficial modern learning tools have been shown to work extremely well on mobile devices, such as learning via online multimedia and gamification. Since smartphone users so readily use mobile devices already for various types of online multimedia and handheld games already, both of these methods lend themselves well to mLearning and are adopted quickly.
Not only does mLearning position itself to perform on par with desktop learning, there are even some studies that suggest mLearning may actually outperform its desktop counterpart, particularly in the areas of learning via online multimedia and learning via gamification. Students in online courses have demonstrated a willingness to adopt mLearning as the primary vehicle for their courses, and the completion and achievement results have been positive as well. As more research goes into finding different ways of reaching modern students more effectively, expect to see a rise in eLearning on handheld devices.
2. Improved Continuous Learning
One of the most import advances that mLearning offers eLearning students is the ability to work on the go. Not only are the devices smaller and more portable, but the online network is usually more accessible and capable outside of one’s home on mobile devices than it is on computers, even laptops. In addition, mobile-friendly online courses advance what is already a much more flexible method of learning than in-person courses offer. The added freedom to study whenever and wherever gives participants a less structured and isolated environment, something that can be interpreted as a detriment to one’s commitment to eLearning.
The ability to continue your learning from anywhere on your mobile device also encourages lessons to be completed in bite-sized chunks, a strategy that is being employed more and more in contemporary learning models (Millward, 2005). Most importantly, however, mLearning has the potential to feel less like learning than more traditional models do, even eLearning on a desktop. It doesn’t necessarily require a dedicated time or place to learn, giving students more choice and flexibility in their studies.
3. Familiar Medium for Younger Generations
It might look weird to read this, but young adults are not nearly as familiar with desktop computers as you might think. According to the Pew Research Center, only 78% of adults under the age of 30 own computers (down from 88% in 2010), whereas 86% of those same adults own smartphones. With the ever-growing capabilities of smartphones, they are quickly becoming the only device needed for the Internet, meaning that the device familiarity gap for younger generations is likely going to continue to get worse before it gets better. Also, most of the major LMS platforms now have mobile learning capabilities, which allows them to convert old legacy online courses into more modern, mobile-friendly formats, so compatibility will continue to become even less of an issue than it is today. It appears there is nothing stopping mLearning from growing.
4. Courses Integrated in Daily Life
In today’s connected world, students want online courses that provide quick, even real time, results and instant access, as well as courses that are fully integrated and compatible with their smartphones. Similarly, course administrators want the ability to connect with their students as easily and quickly as possible, establishing a fluid and highly accessible line of communication. With mLearning, courses are able to be fully integrated with a student’s smartphone, meaning everything needed is at a student’s fingertips all of the time. This should help increase both student participation and course visibility. The course administrator can send updates, notifications, test results, forum postings and whatever else directly to a participant’s smartphone, making unread notes and unengaged students a thing of the past.
5. Creates a Collaborative Learning Environment
Another positive for the mLearning movement is a benefit for both the association and the student. Since most smartphones and smartphone users exist in a world of social media and visible online networks, eLearning, and particularly mLearning, has the potential to become a more collaborative or shared experience. Online learning, especially in the early days, suffered somewhat due to its isolated nature, but the access to these online networks encourage more visibility and a greater feeling of community for online learners. Furthermore, the ease of connecting an online course to these networks is a massive marketing opportunity for the course administrators. The ability to quickly share and promote your program through and to these social networks can really only be beneficial from a marketing standpoint.
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Millward, Lynne. Understanding Occupational & Organizational Psychology. Sage, 2005.