There’s An App For That: Mobile Learning, Or M-Learning

by Sue Maden on October 20, 2011

Mobile learningYou’ve heard that tag line. As smart phones continue to soar in popularity, apps appear for everything from finding a local eatery to a bubble wrap app that lets you virtually pop a sheet of, yes, bubble wrap. But apart from these somewhat helpful to slightly entertaining apps, some good ones have emerged, too. And now many of us have grown dependent on getting information and getting things done via a smart phone app.

As these expectations grow, so do expectations of learners in the workplace. We face new challenges in the way we educate and train our workforce. People travel, work on job sites, are in regional offices, etc. We all have busy schedules. You may enroll in a live class and then find a project demands your attention and you can’t attend. How do you get the learning when it suits your schedule?

Mobile learning, or m-learning, is one answer. Do you use your smart phone or tablet computer to listen to educational podcasts or watch YouTube videos on how to fry an egg, edit photos or change your carburetor? If so, then you’ve engaged in m-learning. Learning on these devices can enhance and support traditional learning methods, making education more portable and accessible.

Suppliers of content (e.g.,vBooks, etc.) are making it easy to take advantage of their products by providing apps for iPhone, iPad, and some Android devices. These make it simple to learn advanced Excel skills or basic Autodesk while waiting at the airport for a flight or sitting on the bleachers at your kid’s soccer game.

But what about tracking your training? Are you okay with not having a record of the learning you take? Is it OK for some topics and not for others? Maybe we still need to track full-day courses or classes that earn us professional credits. But maybe we don’t care so much about tracking how many 1-5 minute how-to videos we’ve seen. Some providers of mobile content do offer ways to track, but it may not integrate with a company’s learning management system. You, the user, will have to decide if that’s acceptable, or if we have to keep working towards a solution to that specific issue.

Regardless of the challenges, I think the need is clear and it’s time for us to embrace these tools that put learning literally at your fingertips, wherever and whenever. If you’re using mobile learning tools, we’d love to know any tricks or apps that you’ve discovered that make the process easier.

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