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Melanie Small

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Does all elearning need to be mobile?


Today’s business professional never leaves home without their smartphone; an extension of the tech-savvy’s life. But does that mean that all elearning now has to be mobile too? Melanie Small ruminates.

Mobile learning technology is fast evolving and it’s now possible - and accepted - that users across all demographics will access mobile learning content on different devices; regardless of the generation to which they belong. Mobile learning, or mLearning, is changing the educational, personal and executive learning landscape and it requires a completely different approach to instructional design, graphic and user experience design and information presentation. We live in a digital age and individuals require content that interacts with all types of portable technologies - anytime and anywhere. This is not just about devices though; it is about learners being increasingly mobile and the new workforce lubricating the shift to mobile learning. Just as there was a shift from instructor-led learning to elearning, so there is now a difference between elearning and mLearning.

Mobile learning is associated with learning across multiple contexts providing diversified types of activity using a range of electronic devices. There is a wide range of equipment that can be used: Kindles, cameras, MP3 players, mobile phones, smartphones, notebooks, netbooks et al. It is about ensuring knowledge reaches an even wider audience in many senses and appealing to differing learning preferences and auditory, visual and kinesthetic learners.

So what are the benefits of mLearning? It is certainly being used as a hook to engage with the younger generation; dramatically creating new opportunities for effective engagement. Young people themselves are demanding more personalised access to skills and knowledge acquisition and want untethered learning. This is a great thing and it is critically important to bring new technology into the classroom for these millennials who are driving change in learning design for every generation. Mlearning is convenient, provides ‘just enough’ learning, ‘just-in-time’ and ‘just-for-me’ when the individual wants to access it – whether it be waiting in line for the concert, waiting for the next train or prepping before that all important interview.

Self-disciplined and motivated

In addition, as human beings we are naturally more engaged in settings where we have more freedom and accessing new information in this format lets us create our own menu and be more creative. That said, it does rely on the learner to be ultimately self-disciplined and motivated to acquire new information and capable of interacting with devices. The reduced human, social and cultural interaction suppresses mechanisms such as body language, productive peer-to-peer experiential learning and relationship building which often encourages the complex exchange of ideas and other softer skills - proficiency in which is critical for today’s leaders and employability overall. In some ways, the design of mLearning can counter this when it encourages collaboration and in-person connectivity allowing learners to get in touch with peers and teams that are often in far-flung locations. When it comes to mLearning it must remain a humanised experience and this is where discussion forums, blogs and tweets go beyond the instructor and encourage further interaction – providing seamless learning.

Part two will be published next week.

Melanie Small is a regional director at Lee Hecht Harrison (LHH)


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