The Practice of Mobile Learning

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I tend to look at mobile learning in two distinct contexts – first as a tool to meet a learning need, second as a learning content delivery platform. While these two contexts are implicitly linked, it helps to look at them separately to understand how mobile technology can actually benefit learning. This post looks first at the context of learning need.

When I think about mobile learning, I like to refer to Dr. Conrad Gottfredson’s Five Moments of Learning Needs:

• When Learning for the First Time
• When Wanting to Learn More
When Trying to Remember
• When Things Change
• When Something Goes Wrong

If we were to use mobile learning to meet these learning needs, we’d find that it fits best into the last three. (In theory, you could use it for all though.)

When trying to remember – Mobile technology can perform very well as learning aids. Mobile devices’ ability to search and access content that helps in remembering makes it an excellent learning aid. Just a few years ago such just in time access to information was not possible, mobile technology fits the niche for such learning situations perfectly.

When things change – In a workplace that’s rapidly changing, employees are expected to keep their knowledge and skills in line with that change. This demands continuous learning. ELearning remedied the situation somewhat by providing computer based training but it was bound to the desk, or the computer itself at the very least, while the change that led to the learning need wasn’t necessarily confined to the desktop. Mobile devices offer an opportunity to change that – their nature as personal communication devices leads to them being carried on the person and at almost all times. This means any content associated with change can be made available through that device regardless of the learner’s location and time of day. Learner can quickly access information related to the change meeting their learning need.

When something goes wrong – The most demanding of all learning needs is the situation in which something has gone wrong. Typically, at such times learners are under pressure to come up with answers, to fix things and restore normalcy. Learning at this time mostly restricted to accessing information about the type of problem encountered, its varied solutions, and troubleshooting while implementing those solutions. Again mobile learning fits this situation perfectly, by allowing learners to access information through a device carried on the person, irrespective of location and time.

It’s important to note that when I’m referring to content, I’m not pointing to conventional elearning, but more of knowledge units that document the varied knowledge the enterprise generates and manages using a knowledge management system. Mobile devices will soon be able to seamlessly integrate with such knowledge systems providing up-to-minute information from across the enterprise. Powerful semantic searches will let learners access the information needed to fix ‘when something is wrong’.

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