By Amirul Basharudin, Assistant Vice President, MII e-Learning
The one common device that nearly everyone has in this modern world, regardless of age and gender, is the smartphone. We have become extremely dependent on our smartphones that are literally glued to our hands. With so many of us working from home due to the pandemic, the smartphone has taken an even more vital role in our remote working lifestyle – it has become our main source of communication with our colleagues. We can be away from our computers but never away from our smartphones! Attending a webinar while cooking? Been there, done that.
If ‘everything’ is done using the smartphone, and if this remote working setup is more likely to stay, shouldn’t we consider using smartphones for learning too?
Mobile learning is a new way to access learning content via mobile devices. Currently, it is not widely used and is not yet the preferred way of learning, but organizations are beginning to buy the idea of incorporating mobile devices into their training and education programs.
We are somewhat accustomed to the various challenges that existing e-learning products create. Some may be effective in achieving learning objectives, but many e-learning content tools or designs out there are still not easily digestible. In contrast to the traditional e-learning methods, mobile learning does not give room for lengthy content and does not require long term commitment.
As it promotes bite-sized and targeted content, mobile learning is meant best suited for those who are on-the-go. Here are some main advantages and disadvantages of Mobile Learning that may be useful as a guide for organizations looking to change their mode of delivery:
Advantages of Mobile Learning
• New opportunities for learning
Mobile Learning addresses the learners’ need to be able to access information at any time of the day and access bite-sized content at their own pace. This also allows organizations to consider alternatives to traditional learning for their employees, to ensure learning content and delivery are always available, flexible, self-paced, self-directed and user-friendly.
• Using a lightweight device
Gone are the days when learners had to carry their ‘heavy’ laptops and tablets. For those who are always on-the-go, learning can be done on their smartphones, a device that they carry wherever they go.
• Real-time feedback
Mobile Learning offers real-time feedback while learning. Learners become more motivated when they can see actual progress in their journey. Organizations can also expect higher completion rates and faster results with instantaneous response from the system.
• Mobile Learning in blended learning
It is possible to use mobile devices for a blended learning approach. Course facilitators can include mobile learners in in-person tutorial sessions by asking questions that mobile learners can answer via a real-time survey on their smartphones. There are various ways to do this. Facilitators can share a link to the survey, invite participants by email, or create a QR code that can be easily captured with a smartphone camera. The key to the success of blended learning is immediate feedback.
Disadvantages of Mobile Learning
• Lack of Internet connection
The issue with internet access is not new, regardless of the mode of learning. However, considering the growth of mobile devices and continuous improvements made by service providers, lack of internet connection, poor connection quality, and restricted access to electricity will become history.
Learning via mobile devices can be very distracting when learners are interrupted by constant notifications and alert. However, if the learning content is designed to be interactive and fun, distractors will not be such a big problem after all.
• Small size
It is challenging to create content that fits various screen sizes. Detailed images may not be legible on the screen of a smartphone unless the learner is willing to move and pinch their fingers tirelessly. Authoring tools (like Storyline and Captivate) are getting better at responsive designs. However, not all content that is viewed on a 15-inch monitor can be viewed on the screen of a smart phone. For tasks that require more visualization, a bigger screen may work better.
Mobile Learning will be the new mode of learning, but it is not without shortfalls, as proven in the points above. Hence, it must be noted that Mobile Learning may not be suitable for all types of content, especially ones that are more complex or technical. For Mobile Learning to work, content designers must ensure content and visuals are truly mobile friendly, bite sized, precise and concise. Creating learning content for Mobile Learning will be more challenging than on a typical e-learning tool as it will have to be strategically designed and well planned.
Organizations may want to consider using Mobile Learning as part of a blended course. This will help employees gain most in their learning journey and provide balance for employees who are not too technologically savvy.