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The term m-learning ("mobile learning"), has different meanings for different communities, covering a range of use scenarios including e-learning, educational technology and distance education, that focuses on learning with mobile devices. Mobile learning is defined as "learning across multiple contexts, through social and content interactions, using personal electronic devices” [1] (Crompton, 2013 p. 4) In other words, with the use of mobile devices, learners can learn anywhere and at any time.[2]

M-learning technologies include handheld computers, MP3 players, notebooks, mobile phones and tablets. M-learning 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. There is also a new direction in m-learning that gives the instructor more mobility and includes creation of on the spot and in the field learning material that predominately uses smartphone with special software such as AHG Cloud Note. Using mobile tools for creating learning aids and materials becomes an important part of informal learning.

M-learning is convenient in that it is accessible from virtually anywhere. M-learning, like other forms of e-learning, is also collaborative. Sharing is almost instantaneous among everyone using the same content, which leads to the reception of instant feedback and tips. This highly active process has proven to increase exam scores from the fiftieth to the seventieth percentile, and cut the dropout rate in technical fields by 22 percent.[3] M-learning also brings strong portability by replacing books and notes with small devices, filled with tailored learning contents. In addition, it is simple to utilize mobile learning for a more effective and entertaining experience.



Arguably the first instance of mobile learning goes back as far as 1901 when Linguaphone released a series of language lessons on wax cylinders. This was followed up in later years as technology improved, to cover compact cassette tapes, 8 track tape, and CDs[4][dubious ]

1970s, 1980s[edit]

In 1968 Alan Kay and his colleagues in the Learning Research Group at Xerox Palo Alto Research Center [PARC] propose the Dynabook as a book-sized computer to run dynamic simulations for learning. "The Dynabook would carry an encyclopedia of information inside its circuits and plug into readily available networks containing the sum of human knowledge. Anybody from grade school up would be able to program it to do whatever was wanted. And there's no reason it would even have to be a book; it could just as well be a wristwatch, or woven into a T-shirt."[5]


In May 1991, Apple Classrooms of Tomorrow (ACOT) in partnership with Orange Grove Middle School of Tucson, Arizona, used mobile computers connected by wireless networks for the 'Wireless Coyote' project.[6] Universities in Europe and Asia developed and evaluated mobile learning for students. Palm corporation offered grants to universities and companies who created and tested the use of Mobile Learning on the Palm OS platform. Knowledgility created the first mobile learning modules for CCNA, A+ and MCSE certification using the core tools that later became LMA.


The European Commission began to fund the major multi-national MOBIlearn and M-learning projects.

Companies, specializing in these three core areas of mobile learning were formed.

  1. Authoring and Publishing
  2. Delivery and Tracking
  3. Content Development

Conferences and trade shows were created to specifically deal with mobile learning and handheld education, including: mLearn, WMUTE, and IADIS Mobile Learning international conference series, ICML in Jordan, Mobile Learning in Malaysia, Handheld Learning in London, and SALT Mobile in USA. In 2003, "Hello China" pioneered the use of mobile phones for large scale training by sending words to learn to the mobile phones of participants throughout China.

By mid-2000's mobile learning started moving beyond school and into the workplace. Vocational colleges in the UK (FE) sent trainees into the workplace armed with PDAs (the precursor to smartphones), and companies themselves began offering mobile learning and performance support to employees. In 2007 the MoleNET initiative in the UK was allocated £6m of funds which went to 30 FE colleges, to support mobile vocational, and at-work training. Further funding followed over the next 3 years, consolidating the role of mobile in "beyond school" learning.

2010 and beyond[edit]

As a large number of smart mobile devices came onto the market, m-learning developers faced a decision as to which devices (smartphone or tablet) and operating systems they would target.

Apple, Android and Blackberry were, for several years during this decade, the three most popular operating systems. Blackberry OS is enduring a diminishing prominence. Clearly, the Apple iOS and Android operating systems are premier and attract the most activity among both developers and users. Multi-device learning design is becoming increasingly important as learning designers set out to design once and deliver to all three operating systems as well as a variety of device sizes.

2011 and 2012 saw the increasing availability of multi-device authoring tools such as Captivate, Articulate Storyline, Lectora and GoMoLearning. These tools allow e-learning courses to be delivered to a variety of mobile operating systems and devices as well as to PCs, although not all tools output to all operating systems and devices.

Analysis (costs / benefits, forecast)[edit]


The value of mobile learning[7]—Tutors who have used m-learning programs and techniques have made the following value statements in favor of m-learning.

  • It is important to bring new technology into the classroom.
  • Devices used are more lightweight than books and PCs.
  • Mobile learning can be used to diversify the types of learning activities students partake in (or a blended learning approach).
  • Mobile learning supports the learning process rather than being integral to it.
  • Mobile learning can be a useful add-on tool for students with special needs. However, for SMS and MMS this might be dependent on the students’ specific disabilities or difficulties involved.
  • Mobile learning can be used as a ‘hook’ to re-engage disaffected youth.

Benefits [2][8]

  • Relatively inexpensive opportunities, as the cost of mobile devices are significantly less than PCs and laptops
  • Multimedia content delivery and creation options
  • Continuous and situated learning support
  • Decrease in training costs
  • Potentially a more rewarding learning experience


Technical challenges include
  • Connectivity and battery life
  • Screen size and key size[9]
  • Meeting required bandwidth for nonstop/fast streaming
  • Number of file/asset formats supported by a specific device
  • Content security or copyright issue from authoring group
  • Multiple standards, multiple screen sizes, multiple operating systems
  • Reworking existing E-Learning materials for mobile platforms
  • Limited memory[10]
  • Risk of sudden obsolescence [11]
Social and educational challenges include
  • Accessibility and cost barriers for end users: Digital divide.
  • How to assess learning outside the classroom
  • How to support learning across many contexts[12]
  • Content's security or pirating issues
  • Frequent changes in device models/technologies/functionality etc.
  • Developing an appropriate theory of learning for the mobile age
  • Conceptual differences between e-learning and m-learning
  • Design of technology to support a lifetime of learning[13][14]
  • Tracking of results and proper use of this information
  • No restriction on learning timetable
  • Personal and private information and content
  • No demographic boundary
  • Disruption of students' personal and academic lives[15]
  • Access to and use of the technology in developing countries[16]
  • Risk of distraction [2]


Over the past ten years mobile learning has grown from a minor research interest to a set of significant projects in schools, workplaces, museums, cities and rural areas around the world. The m-learning community is still fragmented, with different national perspectives, differences between academia and industry, and between the school, higher education and lifelong learning sectors.[17]

Current areas of growth include:

  • Testing, surveys, job aids and just-in-time (J.I.T.) learning
  • Location-based and contextual learning
  • Social-networked mobile learning
  • Mobile educational gaming
  • Delivering m-Learning to cellular phones using two way SMS messaging and voice-based CellCasting (podcasting to phones with interactive assessments) [17]
  • Cloud computer file storage [8]

According to a report by Ambient Insight in 2008, "the US market for Mobile Learning products and services is growing at a five-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 21.7% and revenues reached $538 million in 2007. The data indicates that the demand is relatively immune from the recession."[18] The findings of the report indicate that the largest demand throughout the forecast period is for custom development services, content conversion, and media services and that the healthcare sector accounts for 20% of the total US market for mobile learning.


Technologies currently being researched for mobile learning include:[19]

  • Location aware learning
  • Point-and-shoot learning with camera phones and 2D codes
  • Near Field Communications (NFC) secure transactions
  • Sensors and accelerometers in mobile devices in behavioral based learning
  • Mobile content creation (including user generated content)
  • Games and simulation for learning on mobile devices
  • Context-aware ubiquitous learning
  • Augmented reality on mobile devices
  • Mobile performance support


Smartphones are one of the platforms used for mobile learning.

While many think of mobile learning as delivering E-Learning on small form factor devices, or often referred to as E-Learning “lite”, it has the potential to do much more than deliver courses, or parts of courses. It includes the use of mobile/handheld devices to perform any of the following:

  • Deliver education materials and promote learning
  • Faster communications and collaboration
  • Conduct assessments and evaluations
  • Provide access to performance support and knowledge
  • Capture evidence of learning activity

Today, any number of portable devices can quickly and easily deliver and support these functions. Cell phones or smartphones, multi-game devices, personal media players (PMPs), personal digital assistants (PDAs), and wireless single-purpose devices can help deliver coaching and mentoring, conduct assessments and evaluations (e.g., quizzes; tests; surveys and polls; and certifications), provide on-the-job support and access to information, education and references, and deliver podcasts, update alerts, forms and checklists. In these ways, mobile learning can enhance and support more traditional learning modes, making it more portable and accessible. Mobile devices can also serve as powerful data collection tools and facilitate the capture of user created content.[19]

New mobile technology, such as hand-held cellular based devices, is playing a large role in redefining how we receive information. The recent advances in mobile technology are changing the primary purpose of mobile devices from making or receiving calls to retrieving the latest information on any subject. "Numerous agencies including the Department of Defense (DoD), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Intelligence community, and law enforcement are utilizing mobile technology are utilizing mobile technology for information management." [20]


The use of mobile learning in the military is becoming increasingly common due to low cost and high portability.


Classroom applications combine the use of handheld computers, PDAs, smartphones or handheld voting systems (such as clickers) with traditional resources. (Tremblay 2010).

Class management

Mobile devices(such as a Pocket PC) in the classroom can be used to enhance group collaboration among students through communication applications, interactive displays, and video features.[21]

  • Existing mobile technology can replace cumbersome resources such as textbooks, visual aids, and presentation technology.[22]
  • Interactive and multi-mode technology allows students to engage and manipulate information.
  • Mobile Device features with WIFI capabilities allow for on-demand access to information.[22]
  • Access to classroom activities and information on mobile devices provides a continuum for learning inside and outside the classroom.[23]

In an experiment to make learning mobile through the use of tablet computers, 32% of 8th grade students at Stone Middle School found that they were more engaged in the classroom and had a better understanding of course material.[24] In a literature review conducted by FutureLab, researchers found that increased communication, collaboration, and understanding of concepts was a result of mobile technology applications.[23]

Blended learning[edit]

Blended learning combines brick-and-mortar schooling with online delivery of content and instruction. Mobile devices provide support that enhances teaching and learning in a virtual classroom environment.

Class management

Mobile devices are used both in the brick-and-mortar setting as well as in the online setting to enhance the education experience.

  • The mobile phone (through text SMS notices) can be used especially for distance education or with students whose courses require them to be highly mobile and in particular to communicate information regarding availability of assignment results, venue changes and cancellations, etc. It can also be of value to business people, e.g. sales representatives who do not wish to waste time away from their busy schedules to attend formal training events.
  • Mobile devices facilitate online interaction between instructor and student, and student to student.
  • Blended learning takes the classroom out of a traditional brick-and-mortar setting. Students become part of virtual communities used for collaboration. Blended learning transitions away from a traditional teaching environment to a customized and interactive web platform for the user [23]

Podcasting consists of listening to audio recordings of lectures. It can be used to review live lectures (Clark & Westcott 2007) and to provide opportunities for students to rehearse oral presentations. Podcasts may also provide supplemental information to enhance traditional lectures (McGarr 2009) (Steven & Teasley 2009).

Psychological research suggests that university students who download podcast lectures achieve substantially higher exam results than those who attend the lecture in person (only in cases in which students take notes) (Callaway & Ewen 2009).

Podcasts may be delivered using syndication, although this method of delivery is not always easily adopted (Lee, Miller & Newnham 2009).


  • Learning in museums or galleries with handheld or wearable technologies
  • Learning outdoors (e.g. On field trips).
  • Continuous learning and portable tools for military personnel.

At work[edit]

M-learning in a work place can be very different from a schools context. Although employees do occasionally attend face to face training events, the majority of work based learning happens on the job, often at the moment of need. Because of this, m-learning is being used in a wider range of modes:

  • On the job training for someone who accesses training on a mobile device.
  • Just in time training to solve a problem or gain an update.
  • Performance support. Immediate access to tools to streamline a work-task
  • Reference guides and ebooks
  • Checklists

Due to the very diverse training needs across a large organisation, self-serve learning is more comon than is found at the school, or college level. Mobile is seen as an effective way to reach a large number of employees easier and more effectively.[25]

Lifelong learning and self-learning[edit]

The use of personal technology to support informal or lifelong learning, such as using handheld dictionaries and other devices for language learning, is an approach that is not to be overlooked.

Mobile technologies and approaches, i.e. Mobile Assisted Language Learning (MALL), are also used to assist in language learning. For instance handheld computers, cell phones, and podcasting (Horkoff Kayes2008) have been used to help people acquire and develop language skills.


  • Improving levels of literacy, numeracy, and participation in education amongst young adults.
  • Using the communication features of a mobile phone as part of a larger learning activity, e.g.: sending media or texts into a central portfolio, or exporting audio files from a learning platform to your phone.
  • Developing workforce skills and readiness among youth and young adults.[26]


Mobile devices and personal technologies that can support mobile learning, include:

Technical and delivery support for mobile learning include:

  • 3GP For compression and delivery method of audiovisual content associated with Mobile Learning
  • GPRS mobile data service, provides high speed connection and data transfer rate
  • Wi-Fi gives access to instructors and resources via internet
  • Cloud computing for storing and sharing files
  • Mobile web and Mobile Appsfor the dominant content formats for Smartphones

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Crompton, H. (2013). A historical overview of mobile learning: Toward learner-centered education. In Z. L. Berge & L. Y. Muilenburg (Eds.), Handbook of mobile learning (pp. 3–14). Florence, KY: Routledge.
  2. ^ a b c Crescente, Mary Louise; Lee, Doris (March 2011). "Critical issues of m-learning: design models, adoption processes, and future trends". Journal of the Chinese Institute of Industrial Engineers 28 (2): 111–123. 
  3. ^ Saylor, Michael (2012). The Mobile Wave: How Mobile Intelligence Will Change Everything. Perseus Books/Vanguard Press. p. 176. ISBN 978-1593157203. 
  4. ^ "Mobile Learning Community". Mobile Learning History. 2010. 
  5. ^ Rose, Frank. "PIED PIPER ON THE COMPUTER". The New York Times. Retrieved 8 November 1987. 
  6. ^ Wireless Coyote by Wayne C. Grant (1993). Wireless Coyote: A Computer-Supported Field Trip, Communications of the ACM - Special issue on technology in K–12 education, Volume 36 Issue 5, May 1993, 57–59
  7. ^ Mobile learning in Practice: Piloting a Mobile Learning Teachers’ Toolkit in Further Education Colleges. C. Savil-Smith et al. (2006), p. 8
  8. ^ a b Elias, Tanya (February 2011). "Universal Instructional Design Principles for Mobile Learning". International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning 12 (2): 143–156. 
  9. ^ Maniar, N.; Bennett, E., Hand, S. & Allan, G (2008). "The effect of mobile phone screen size on video based learning". Journal of Software 3 (4): 51–61. 
  10. ^ Elias, Tanya (February 2011). "Universal Instructional Design Principles for Mobile Learning". International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning 12 (2). 
  11. ^ Crescente, Mary Louise; Lee, Doris (March 2011). "Critical issues of m-learning: design models, adoption processes, and future trends". Journal of the Chinese Institute of Industrial Engineers 28 (2). 
  12. ^ "What’s Holding Back Mobile Phones for Education?". Stanford Social Innovation Review Blog. Standford Social Innovation Review. February 11, 2013. Retrieved August 4, 2013. 
  13. ^ Sharples, M. (2000). "The design of personal mobile technologies for lifelong learning". Computers & Education 34 (3-4): 177–193. doi:10.1016/S0360-1315(99)00044-5. 
  14. ^ Moore, J. (2009). "A portable document search engine to support off-line mobile learning". Proceedings of IADIS International Conference Mobile Learning. Barcelona, Spain. 
  15. ^ Masters, K.; Ng'ambi D. (2007). "After the broadcast: disrupting health sciences’ students' lives with SMS". Proceedings of IADIS International Conference Mobile Learning. Lisbon, Portugal. pp. 171–175. ISBN 978-972-8924-36-2. 
  16. ^ Masters, K. (2005). "Low-key m-learning: a realistic introduction of m-learning to developing countries". Seeing, Understanding, Learning in the Mobile Age. Budapest, Hungary, April 2005. 
  17. ^ a b Singh, Mandeep (2010). "M-learning: A New Approach to Learn Better". International Journal of Education and Allied Sciences 2 (2): 65–72. 
  18. ^ Adkins, S.S. (December 2008). "The US Market for Mobile Learning Products and Services: 2008-2013 Forecast and Analysis". Ambient Insight. p. 5. Retrieved June 8, 2009. 
  19. ^ a b Brown, J., Metcalf, D. (2008). "Mobile Learning Update". Learning Consortium Perspectives. pp. 3, 5–13, 17. Retrieved June 9, 2009. 
  20. ^ Chet Hosmer, Carlton Jeffcoat, Matthew Davis, Thomas McGibbon "Use of Mobile Technology for Information Collection and Dissemination", Data & Analysis Center for Software, March 2011
  21. ^ Murray, Orrin; Nicole Olcese. "Teaching and Learning with iPads, Ready or Not?". TechTrends 55 (6). 
  22. ^ a b "7 THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT MOBILE APPS FOR LEARNING". EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. May 4, 2010. 
  23. ^ a b c Naismith, Laura; Peter Lonsdale, Giasemi Vavoula, Mike Sharples (2004). "Literature Review in Mobile Technologies and Learning". FutureLab Series (11). 
  24. ^ http://www.kajeet.com/4u/education/MLM-form.html.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  25. ^ Kahle-Piasecki, Lisa; Miao, Chao; Ariss, Sonny (2012). "Managers and the Mobile Device: m-learning and m-business - Implications for the United States and China". Journal of Marketing Development and Competitiveness 6 (1): 56–68. 
  26. ^ "Youth Unemployment: Can Mobile Technology Improve Employability?". Global Development Professionals Network. The Guardian. February 26, 2013. Retrieved August 4, 2013.