Mobile learning. It was supposed to be the “next big thing”, at least judging from the trade press articles and the headlines in major news outlets.
Nowadays though, you don’t hear about it as much. Is it still a thing, or was it just a fad?
Read on to find out.
Not dead yet. Or ever.
First of all, yeah, it’s very much still a thing.
It might not be as much in the news, but that’s actually a good sign in this case. See, back when modern smartphones and tablets were still a new thing (that would be around 2008-2012), mobile learning captured the headlines because it was a new thing too.
As mobile learning established itself, it stopped getting as many headlines because journalists like to move on to the next hot thing.
Mobile on the rise
What we see now is a transition to the post-PC world, in which mobile learning will become either the main kind of eLearning available, or a majod addition to eLearning, simply because most devices will be mobile devices.
That doesn’t mean that PCs will cease existing, just that mobile devices (phones, phablets, tablets, netbooks) will get increasingly more powerful in hardware and software, until they replace laptops for the majority of us (think of how the desktop PC eventually got eclipsed by much smaller and initially less capable laptops ― like they one you’re most likely reading this post on).
Access to fast 4G and 5G networks will only accelerate that trend (there are already countries that offer reliable 40Mbps 4G internet access for your smartphone ― I know because I’ve tried it, and it was awesome).
All the available stats confirm the rise of mobile computing. For example mobile data traffic doubled globally in the last two years, and is expected to grow 8 times what it is now until 2018 ― a compound annual growth of over 50%.
And it’s not just because of existing users consuming more: a billion mobile devices and connections were added in the last couple of years. In fact the number of mobile devices with access to the internet is said to already exceed the world’s population.
This phenomenon is especially impressive in developing countries, were 70% of the world’s population lives, and were people might not have a landline or a computer at all, but almost everybody has a mobile phone with at least rudimentary access to the internet.
As mobile marches onwards, things do not look as good for the old guard, with sales of desktop PCs and laptops slipping as much as 9% annually for the last several years. Of course it could be because modern PCs are finally fast enough to last several years, but even if that’s the case, a slowing down market attracts less investments than a booming one.
Trends in favor of mobile learning, aka m-learning
Besides the growth of mobile computing (which could just mean people playing Candy Crush Saga on the train), there are several factors that have helped increase adoption of mobile learning itself.
First of all, enterprises and learners seem to love it, at least according to several surveys conducted in 2013 and 2014, which show that most enterprises (over 70%) have already implemented basic mobile learning programs that they plan enhancing upon in the coming years.
Combine that with the sentiment expressed by the overwhelming majority of mobile leaners that the mobile format enhanced their learning and enabled them to complete more training, and the future looks rosy for mobile learning.
The increase in the number of remote workers also helps, as commuting time is a good fit for mobile learning, especially in places with good public transport.
In London UK, for example, commuters spend an average of 56 minutes per day traveling according to a recent study by Randstad Financial & Professional, with the mean commuting time across all UK cities being around 35 minutes. Short targeted courses, delivered by mobile, could help train this workforce on the move.
The increased speed and capabilities of mobile devices makes for a more compelling learning experience compared to earlier smartphones and tablets. A modern day iPad or Android tablet runs circles around the first models, and offers many more features to both native and web based applications.
Last but not least, there’s the BYOD (bring your own device) trend, were employees are allowed to bring the same mobile devices they own and use all day to the workplace (as opposed to older, tightly regulated by the IT department office provided devices).
The increase in specs combined with BYOD, translates to ever more powerful options for mobile learning, options that are available to employees at their workplace, commute and home alike.
Conclusion, or how I learned to stop worrying and love the phablet
Mobile learning is here to stay. It’s desktop learning one should be worried about, but then again both are just different delivery options for eLearning, which is not going anywhere.
Besides, a modern LMS platform (like our excellent eFront) can serve both desktop and mobile learning versions of your courses with the same ease. Especially since our new eFront is fully responsive for mobiles and desktops alike.
If you want to learn more about mobile learning, or are planning to integrate mobile learning in your business, we’ll be glad to hear from you.