The Question Of Why (Not) eLearning On iPads Or Tablets?

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2012 saw the re-emergence of ‘Mobile learning’ or ‘mLearning’ as “new” (ok, not really new) buzzwords in L&D and Training circles around the world. But largely in the wrong context! Mobile Learning is being loosely attributed to any learning activity that is not location bound, which is very surprising! And even more surprising is, more often than not, it is not even referring to mLearning at all! But to things like, making an LMS available on an USB drive so you can track courses while on a plane! Certainly not mobile learning in my opinion. I believe ‘real’ mobile learning is much more than just learning on a mobile device. I also believe that ”tablet” learning is neither mobile nor eLearning, but actually occupies a position between mLearning and eLearning. So let me lay out my argument for why I believe this!

Adoption of mLearning

Upside Learning has supported research bodies like ASTD (Mobile Learning: Delivering Learning In A Connected World) and Towards Maturity (Mobile Learning at Work ) to bring out independent research reports on mobile learning. Their research suggests that while the uptake of mLearning has been low (between 30% and 40% in the US and Europe); the good news is that it is growing. Several factors appear to be responsible for the slow rate of adoption – small screen sizes, low battery life, inconsistent connectivity and the largest factor by far – the vast variety of OS and device configurations to cater to! Having said that, a lot of these issues have been and are being rapidly resolved but what is becoming increasingly evident, is that the prime culprit behind ineffective mLearning is the belief that merely deploying existing eLearning on mobile devices is mLearning. This in turn leads to lower eLearning uptake, User resistance and ultimately in reduced funding for learning technologies.

But on a positive note, eLearning, even with this mistaken mindset can still lead to an accelerated drive towards mLearning (the ‘real’ mLearning) adoption. One can think of delivering eLearning on iPads (or any other tablets) as a great starting point for mLearning adoption. I see the need to deliver eLearning on tablets as a great opportunity to move towards ‘real’ mLearning in the future. Why? Because it is easily related to immediate business needs and also has a more quantifiable ROI. As I said in my previous blog post Some Thoughts On Tablet Learning (aka ELearning On iPads),

For right or wrong reasons tablet learning is the most common starting point of mLearning in the workplace. It’s acting as a bridge between eLearning and mLearning – one that’s driving the move from eLearning to mLearning. So while technically it may not be mLearning it is indeed helping mLearning adoption.

The growing need

With more enterprises and staff using tablets for business related activities, and rapid growth in enterprise mobility, it is only a matter of time before Users demand their eLearning on tablets. If the interest in this topic is anything to go by, I think it’s already time!

Pictures from my session on “eLearning on iPads (tablets)” at the recent Learning Technologies event in London

Why you should consider it?

By suggesting that eLearning on tablets is a business need, I’m in no way advocating a blind en-masse conversion of all legacy eLearning to be tablet compatible. You need to choose the right reason and find the purpose that will benefit YOUR enterprise and move accordingly. Here are some reasons that may encourage you to think about eLearning on iPads:

  • To make eLearning accessible to the mobile workforce (sales teams)
  • To enable learners to carry learning with them for just-in-time performance support (field / technical staff)
  • To supplement eLearning with support material or social/collaborative elements (just-in-time help/reference)
  • To increase eLearning uptake and use ‘down’ time spent on planes, trains, waiting at airports and train stations or just free time (most applicable to senior executives)

Summing up

While eLearning on tablets is not ‘real’ mLearning, it does open the door to the mLearning world. Think about it!

From the presentation at LT13uk. Full presentation available here –

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