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M-learning or mobile learning is defined as "learning across multiple contexts, through social and content interactions, using personal electronic devices.”[1]:page 4 A form of distance education, m-learners use mobile device educational technology at their time convenience.[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. Using mobile tools for creating learning aids and materials becomes an important part of informal learning.[3]

M-learning is convenient in that it is accessible from virtually anywhere. 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.[4] M-learning also brings strong portability by replacing books and notes with small devices, filled with tailored learning contents.


Mobile learning is the delivery of learning, education or learning support on mobile phones, PDAs or tablets. E-Learning has provided the ability for traditional learning to break out of the classroom setting and for students to learn at home. Mobile learning has enhanced upon e-learning by taking it a step further and allowing students to learn virtually anywhere a mobile signal is available.[5]

New mobile technology, such as hand-held 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 for information management." [6]


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 in the classroom can be used to enhance group collaboration among students through communication applications, interactive displays, and video features.[7]

  • Existing mobile technology can replace cumbersome resources such as textbooks, visual aids, and presentation technology.[8]
  • 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.[8]
  • Access to classroom activities and information on mobile devices provides a continuum for learning inside and outside the classroom.[9]

In a literature review conducted by FutureLab, researchers found that increased communication, collaboration, and understanding of concepts was a result of mobile technology applications.[9]

Class management

Mobile devices can be used in brick-and-mortar or online settings to enhance learning experiences.[10]

  • 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 [9]

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).

At work[edit]

M-learning in a workplace can be very different from a school's 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 common 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.[11]

Lifelong learning and self-learning[edit]

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.[12]



The value of mobile learning[13]—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][14][15]

  • 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
  • New opportunities for traditional educational institutions
  • Readily available a/synchronous learning experience[16]


Technical challenges include
  • Connectivity and battery life
  • Screen size and key size[17]
  • 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[18]
  • Risk of sudden obsolescence [19]
  • Security
  • Work/Life Balance
  • Cost of Investment[20]
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[21]
  • 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[22][23]
  • 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[24]
  • Access to and use of the technology in developing countries[25]
  • Risk of distraction [2]


Mobile learning is widely used in schools, workplaces, museums, cities and rural areas around the world.[26] In comparison to traditional classroom pedagogical approaches, mobile learning allows widened opportunies for timing, location, accessibility and context of learning.[27][28]

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) [26]
  • Cloud computer file storage[14]

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. doi:10.1080/10170669.2010.548856. 
  3. ^ Trentin G. & Repetto M. (Eds) (2013). Using Network and Mobile Technology to Bridge Formal and Informal Learning, Woodhead/Chandos Publishing Limited, Cambridge, UK, ISBN 978-1-84334-699-9. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/235929936_Using_Network_and_Mobile_Technology_to_Bridge_Formal_and_Informal_Learning/
  4. ^ Saylor, Michael (2012). The Mobile Wave: How Mobile Intelligence Will Change Everything. Perseus Books/Vanguard Press. p. 176. ISBN 978-1593157203. 
  5. ^ Rick Oller. “The Future of Mobile Learning” (Research Bulletin). Louisville, CO: EDUCAUSE Center for Analysis and Research, May 1, 2012, available from http://www.educause.edu/ecar.
  6. ^ Chet Hosmer, Carlton Jeffcoat, Matthew Davis, Thomas McGibbon "Use of Mobile Technology for Information Collection and Dissemination", Data & Analysis Center for Software, March 2011
  7. ^ Murray, Orrin; Nicole Olcese (November–December 2011). "Teaching and Learning with iPads, Ready or Not?". TechTrends 55 (6). doi:10.1007/s11528-011-0540-6. 
  8. ^ a b "7 THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT MOBILE APPS FOR LEARNING". EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. May 4, 2010. 
  9. ^ a b c Naismith, Laura; Lonsdale, Peter; Vavoula, Giasemi; Sharples, Mike (2004). "Literature Review in Mobile Technologies and Learning". FutureLab Series (11). 
  10. ^ Robinson, R. & Reinhart, J. (2014). Digital Thinking and Mobile Teaching: Communicating, Collaborating, and Constructing in an Access Age. Denmark: Bookboon.
  11. ^ 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. 
  12. ^ "Youth Unemployment: Can Mobile Technology Improve Employability?". Global Development Professionals Network. The Guardian. February 26, 2013. Retrieved August 4, 2013. 
  13. ^ Mobile learning in Practice: Piloting a Mobile Learning Teachers’ Toolkit in Further Education Colleges. C. Savil-Smith et al. (2006), p. 8
  14. ^ 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. 
  15. ^ Using Mobile Devices to Integrate Economics Simulations in Teaching Approaches Based on Direct Instruction on: International Teacher Education Conference 2014 01.10.2014.
  16. ^ Rudestam, K., & Schoenholtz-Read (2009). Handbook of online learning, 2nd ed. London: Sage.
  17. ^ 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. doi:10.4304/jsw.3.4.51-61. 
  18. ^ Elias, Tanya (February 2011). "Universal Instructional Design Principles for Mobile Learning". International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning 12 (2). 
  19. ^ 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). 
  20. ^ Cordock, R. P. (2010). The future of mobile learning. Training Journal, , 63-67. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/763160208?accountid=10868
  21. ^ "What’s Holding Back Mobile Phones for Education?". Stanford Social Innovation Review Blog. Standford Social Innovation Review. February 11, 2013. Retrieved August 4, 2013. 
  22. ^ 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. 
  23. ^ Moore, J. (2009). "A portable document search engine to support off-line mobile learning". Proceedings of IADIS International Conference Mobile Learning. Barcelona, Spain. 
  24. ^ 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. 
  25. ^ 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. 
  26. ^ a b Singh, Mandeep (2010). "M-learning: A New Approach to Learn Better". International Journal of Education and Allied Sciences 2 (2): 65–72. 
  27. ^ Feser, J. (2010, April). mLearning is not eLearning on a Mobile Device. [1]
  28. ^ Rick Oller. “The Future of Mobile Learning” (Research Bulletin). Louisville, CO: EDUCAUSE Center for Analysis and Research, May 1, 2012, available from http://www.educause.edu/ecar.