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What is mobile learning (m-learning)? Benefits, limitations, and more.

Mobile learning is the key to effective learning and development today. Is your organization struggling to keep pace with its learning needs or engage young learners? A mobile learning strategy is an ideal solution.

Danielle Agass
mobile learning

If you’re new to mobile learning (or “m-learning”), or if your organization is considering launching a mobile learning program, you’ll have a few questions. We’ll break down all the benefits of mobile learning, for you and your employees. Plus, we’ll look at best practices to get the most out of your mobile learning strategy.

What is mobile learning?

Mobile learning refers to training content designed to run on mobile devices. Your company’s trainers (or employees) create learning content and share it with others via an online platform. The learners at your company then access the content on their mobile devices.

Considering how much we rely on our smartphones and tablets today, mobile learning is a must-have for any modern business. Without it, your company will be out of touch with its learners’ preferences. Now that we know what mobile learning is, let’s look at some mobile learning benefits.

Advantages of m-learning

If you’re an employer or L&D professional, you know how challenging it can be to provide up-to-date, on-demand training content. It’s also challenging to keep learners engaged. This is where mobile learning can bring major benefits — for both employers and employees.

Mobile learning benefits for employers

Here are the main benefits of m-learning for employers:

  • More engaging
    It’s appealing to younger learners (millennials) who will soon comprise a majority of the workforce.
  • Less downtime
    Mobile learning encourages self-study. Learners access and use training content on their own time. This means your company can set aside less downtime for training purposes.
  • Lower costs
    Modern cloud-based mobile learning platforms are more cost-effective than conventional e-learning platforms. For both creating and maintaining content. This is because they don’t need local hosting or extensive IT infrastructure.

Mobile learning benefits for employees

Employees also enjoy many advantages of mobile learning. Here are some of the main benefits:

  • Easy to access
    The main benefit is the ease of access. Now, your employees can get the training materials they need while they are on the move. As long as they have an internet connection, they can simply log in to their learning platform and access the knowledge they need.
  • Microlearning
    Mobile learning is compatible with the new trend of “microlearning“. This provides your employees with the training content in small, bite-sized portions. With busy schedules, modern learners prefer this to lengthy training sessions.
  • Interactive learning
    It promotes an interactive learning experience. Learners can use their touchscreen to easily navigate through training content and take part in interactive assessments and other high-engagement learning activities.

Choose the right authoring tool

Our experts created the ultimate guide to help you select an authoring tool that fits your organization’s needs.

Limitations of mobile learning

M-learning comes with both advantages and disadvantages. While it opens up lots of new possibilities, there are also potential setbacks. While we’ll cover the best practices later, here are a few limitations of mobile learning to take note of:

  • Connectivity issues
    Mobile learning requires an internet connection. This can be a problem if your employees work in remote locations where connections may be patchy.
  • Compatibility issues
    If your e-learning platform does not give you the option to (automatically) optimize content for viewing on a mobile device, then it can lead to frustration. Learners need to be able to view and intuitively interact with content using all the features their smartphone offers.

Mobile learning strategy

Now that you know what mobile learning entails and the benefits it can bring your business, let’s talk about how to set up a mobile learning strategy. Here are some steps you can take:

  1. Define your business goals

    Mobile learning can be used to achieve a variety of goals. That’s why it’s important to first identify what your business wants to achieve and how mobile learning will help you. From there, you’ll have a clearer sense of what types of mobile learning content to create.

  2. Get to know your audience

    While more and more people are owning smartphones and becoming mobile-ready consumers, it’s still important to do your research on who your targeted audience is and why mobile learning is the best way to communicate with them. Once you’ve identified your audience, gather information on their habits like whether they use smartphones or tablets more, what they use their devices for, and how often.

  3. Choose the tools you will use

    Once you know who you’re creating content for and why, you can start determining what tools you’ll need to deliver your strategy. For example, you might want to use an LMS’s built-in authoring tool. You could also use a separate authoring tool like Easygenerator that automatically optimizes content for mobile viewing.

Mobile learning best practices

Next, it’s time to create effective content. Here are some mobile learning best practices you can apply:

  • Think about mobile screen sizes

    It’s easy to get lost in the creative process of designing a course on a desktop or laptop screen. But be mindful of how much smaller mobile screens are and how that affects a learner’s experience. Previewing your content in mobile view regularly will help you keep it in check.

  • Create user-friendly content

    Creating user-friendly content seems intuitive when it comes to digital content in general. Still, remember that user experience varies greatly between desktops, tablets, and smartphones. Consider testing your content across these different devices by scrolling through them and even rotating mobile devices for landscape previews.

  • Keep course content short

    Mobile users have a much shorter attention span than those scrolling through a laptop or desktop screen. Keep your courses short with concise copy and bite-sized information. Similarly, keeping your graphics simple can make for an easier scrolling experience too. This doesn’t mean you should rush the content design process. Instead, it’s about creating short content that still makes for a meaningful experience.

  • Enable offline viewing

    As mentioned previously, mobile learning requires an internet connection. At the same time, one of the major conveniences of mobile learning is the ability to access content anywhere. Enabling offline access to your content will allow mobile users to continue benefiting from the m-learning experience even if they’re disconnected from the internet. One way you can do this is by making your content downloadable in a PDF.

  • Learn from your learners

    The content optimization process doesn’t necessarily end as soon as it’s published. You’ll likely continue gaining insights on how your learners experience your mobile content, and it’s important to be ready to tweak it as needed. Leveraging data on your learners’ activity—like through an LMS or an authoring tool’s learner report features—can help paint a clearer picture of your user experience. For example, activities like whether a learner completed a course and, if not, where they clicked out can shed light on how easy it is to interact with your content on a mobile device.

M-learning vs. e-learning

We know that m-learning occurs on mobile devices. But besides that, how is it different from e-learning?

In short, there are a few key differences distinguishing one from the other. Here are the main ones:

  • Different devices

    As we’ve covered, mobile learning is intended for mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. This not only affects the size of the screen content appears on but also how accessible it is. An m-learning user could be leaning back a couch, scrolling through their phone. An e-learning user, on the other hand, is most likely sitting at a desk, where their laptop or desktop computer is sitting.

  • Amount of information

    For the same reason, the amount of information a learner gets from m-learning vs. e-learning varies. Mobile learning content is usually delivered in bite-sized chunks of information, making it easier for someone using a small screen to process key takeaways quickly. While e-learning content can also be delivered concisely, it’s more suitable for full courses that provide a more thorough overview of a subject, divided into multiple chapters or sections.

  • Amount of time taken to apply learning points

    E-learning modules tend to last at least 20 minutes, while m-learning content should be consumable in half the time. This makes m-learning better suited to provide quick pieces of information in a learner’s exact moment of need, and therefore, a suitable format for Performance Support. Ultimately, this means m-learning users are more likely to apply their newly acquired knowledge much sooner after learning it than an e-learning user can.

Bottom line: Mobile learning is a must

Despite possible setbacks (which can easily be overcome if you choose the right software), the benefits of mobile learning are too powerful to ignore. If your company is ready to fully modernize its learning and development activities, then it’s a must-have. It gives you a fast, cheap, and interactive way of educating the workforce of the future. These are young learners who are used to accessing on-demand information on their smartphones and expect to do that at work too. Just remember to choose your platform or authoring tool wisely, and soon you will be benefiting from all the advantages it has to offer.

Learn how to create an m-learning strategy.

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About the author

Danielle Agass is the Content Marketing Manager at Easygenerator and has been writing ever since she could pick up a pencil. A Brit by birth, she moved to the Netherlands in 2018 with her husband and their cat, Ron.

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