mLearning: Definition, Peculiarities, Perspectives

Technological progress has changed not only the way we relax and work, but also the way we study. Today we more often hear about the adoption of new technologies at schools, colleges, universities, and other educational institutions.

Both students and teachers can't imagine their work without the Internet and other digital assistants.

And the notions of eLearning and mLearning are becoming too common in educational sphere. Nevertheless, many still think that these terms mean the same and use them as synonyms. However, that's not the right approach.

The eLearning term refers to the technology-based educational process. It includes any kind of learning and teaching using various digital communication means, gadgets, the Internet. It means that if you use a flash drive, a CD disk, Wikipedia or some video material in your study or teaching, you use eLearning techniques.

To tell the truth, the education processes in developed countries have recently become electronic in some way. That's why we can call today to be the era of eLearning.

There are disputes amongst industry experts in how mLearning should be defined. Actually, there are several approaches to the mobile learning definition:

- in terms of devices and technologies mLearning is seen as a way to provide or to obtain education content using PDAs, smartphones, tablets and other mobile gadgets.

- in terms of the mobility of learners and the mobility of learning mLearning focuses on the mobility of the learner, interacting with portable technologies, and learning that reflects a focus on how society and its institutions can accommodate and support an increasingly mobile population.

- in terms of the learners’ experience of learning with mobile devices - Mobile learning is also defined as "learning across multiple contexts, through social and content interactions, using personal electronic devices”.

What makes mLearning different from eLearning?

Thanks to the use of advanced mobile technologies, mLearning is different from eLearning which uses technological tools in ordinary educational programs.

1) It is more personal and fun. Use of digital means in eLearning is one of the main tools for personification of study. However, personification in mLearning reaches its top. Thanks to mobile solutions, e.g. various educational mobile apps, people can choose the schemes, topics, materials to study by themselves and mLearning becomes more fun as people pick only the educational materials that are interesting to them.

2) mLearning is spontaneous. Thanks to mobility of such gadgets as tablets and smartphones people can get an access to educational apps and resources anytime at any place. Have a minute? Let's read an article.

3) mLearning is shorter in duration. Due to business schedules people don't always have much time to devote to studying. And educational mobile solutions they give people the opportunity to study for short periods of time.

4) mLearning is just-in-time learning. People find out the necessary information the very moment they need it and apply it in practice without a delay.

5) mLearning engages users to contribute and share. Just like any other social mobile solutions, mLearning solutions encourage users to contribute to the development of the project and to share their study results with other people within the network.

What features should good mLearning solutions have?

When it comes to the development of mobile educational solution, it is very important to remember that such solution has 2 different sides:

1) the educational aspect (the course itself which is worked out by professional teachers and educators)

2) the technical part of the application/solution which is developed by programmers.

What requirement should mLearning solution meet?

1) User role and profile. Any mLearning solution should be developed for the definite target audience. Both, educators and developers should picture the portrait of the users, their age, interests, etc.

2) Learning on the move. The educational course should take into account that people will study mainly on the go. Lessons shouldn't be very long. The information should be portioned and presented in pieces.

3) Interface design should be modern, fresh and it should take into account the peculiarities of perception/habits of the target audience. The mLearning solution's layout should be clear and simple so that users could get an instant access to the materials.

4) The mobile solution should support various media types, starting with ordinary images and ending with the most innovative technologies such as 3D videos and video conferencing.

5) Collaboration support. Today it is almost a must-have for all consumer-oriented mobile applications - to provide users with a possibility to communicate and collaborate.

What new technologies can be applied in mLearning?

Mobile technologies are developing very fast and in fact almost all recent developments in mobile sphere can be applied in mLearning. For example, the most advanced mLearning solutions can boast of the support of such technological functions:

  • Location aware learning
  • Point-and-shoot learning with camera phones and 2D codes
  • Sensors and accelerometers in mobile devices in behavioral based learning
  • Games and simulation for learning on mobile devices
  • Augmented reality on mobile devices
What are mLearning perspectives?

The perspectives of mLearning are far-reaching, and its potential effect on the future of education is profound.  In the following few years we will observe the rapid growth of mLearning technologies which will be widely used at schools, colleges and universities. mLearning will evaluate simultaneously with the mobile gadgets development adopting new and new formats. 

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