The myth-busting team is back to bust myths and chew some gum. And we’re all out of chewing gum.
This week we’ll examine 6 common myths about mobile learning, beginning with…
1. Mobile Learning is all about being mobile
Names don’t always tell the whole story (if they did we wouldn’t need books and movies — we’d just ask for the names of the characters).
While “mobile learning” seems to be about doing eLearning while being mobile (e.g. while commuting to work on a train), that’s not really required.
People can (and do) engage in mobile learning from their sofa at home, from the beach, at a cafe and generally everywhere. The “mobile” in mobile learning is more about the devices that you access your eLearning content with than about where you do it or whether you’re on the go while doing it.
Which brings us to our next myth:
2. Mobile learning is merely using a smartphone to do eLearning
That’s sort of correct (although the smartphone can also be a tablet or even some future wearable device), but again it doesn’t tell the whole story.
While you’ll indeed use a smaller mobile device to do mobile learning, that doesn’t mean that you’ll be doing the same kind of eLearning that you’d do using your laptop.
The smaller screen, (possibly) slower connection and touch based interaction, call for a different approach to the amount of eLearning content you show and how you present it.
Then there’s the fact that people view mobile learning in a more casual fashion (compared to the ceremonial and purposeful sitting behind a desk to complete some eLearning course module), which also calls for a lighter touch.
With these things in mind, we can say that to do justice to mobile learning you don’t just deliver eLearning content as is to mobile devices. Rather, you adapt it for them.
3. Mobile learning is not really learning
There’s this idea (well, myth) that you can’t properly do eLearning on a small screen and that mobile phones and short learning sessions are not adequate for teaching purposes.
This is wrong in at least two ways.
First of all, have you checked smartphones lately? Information density, especially on the flagship models with “retina” (Hi-DPI) displays, rivals our office monitors of yore. And screen sizes are only getting bigger. Depending on your target demographic you could pack a lot of material on a single, small screen.
Then again, you probably shouldn’t. See, eLearning is not about the density of transmitted information, but about how well that information is absorbed by your learners (see also our previous point about mobile learning needing material that works well with the medium).
There are several mobile learning guidelines and tricks that you can use to allow your learners to benefit from the advantages of mobile learning, letting you use the small screen and the short focused sessions to their advantage.
4. You have to have a native mobile app
While there are several excellent native mobile learning applications out there, you don’t have to offer one to your learners.
Merely giving them web-based access to your mobile learning portal is perfectly adequate.
In fact, unless you’re going to create something really special, that needs to talk to the phone sensors and take full advantage of its capabilities, there’s no reason to go native.
Mobile browsers, while not as full featured or fast as their desktop counterparts, are still quite capable and mature, and should be able to cover all of your mobile courses’ needs.
As for monetization, a web page allows you to use your existing subscription scheme, without giving a 30% cut to Apple (as is the case with subscriptions and purchases paid through the App Store). And of course your web page will work just as well on Android, Windows Phone and whatever platform appears in the future.
5. Mobile learning needs special infrastructure
Not really. If you have an existing LMS that serves your eLearning portal, it should be able to cope with mobile users just fine without further expenses.
As long as you serve your mobile learning courses as web pages, you don’t need any special hardware, software or further expenses to cater to mobile devices.
You can either serve your existing courses with a responsive, mobile friendly theme that will make them presentable in smaller screens, repurpose your desktop-focused content by formatting it for mobile devices, or even create entirely new courses with mobile learners in mind.
6. It’s an either / or proposition
There is no rule saying that you or your learners have to be fully committed to mobile learning.
Of course you could offer mobile only courses, but you could just as easily allow your students to access their courses from both their desktop and their phones.
You could also use mobile learning as a complementary side-channel to your desktop learning offering; just something to keep your learners occupied while outside and bored that gives them bite sized chunks of information taken from your full course material.
Mobile learning, in the end, is what you make of it, and this also depends on what the needs of your learners are (obviously, e.g. teenagers learning a foreign language will have different schedules and mobile use habits compared to enterprise employees completing a certification course).
So here we you have it. Half a dozen myths busted. The myth-busting team shall take a rest now, but watch this spot, as we’ll be back with more eLearning-related myths to bust next week.