What is mobile learning (and why should you care)?


Did you know that smartphones outnumber PCs by 2.5 times? No? Well, the smartphone revolution is well and truly here.  So the question for people in the learning and development industry of what mobile learning really is has never been more pertinent.


Defining mobile learning 

The webopedia definition goes like this: "Mobile learning (m-learning) is education (learning) via the Internet or network using personal mobile devices, such as tablets and smartphones to obtain learning materials through mobile apps, social interactions and online educational hubs. It is flexible, allowing students/learners access to education anywhere, anytime."

An important point is that it's not called mobile learning simply because you have to learn on your mobile phone for the mobile learning definition to apply; this is a common misconception. In our view, and one that has become increasingly prevalent in recent years, it's equally relevant to consider the mobility of the learner, i.e. the ability to learn anytime, anywhere.

As Kukulska-Hulme (2010) puts it"Early definitions of [mobile learning], which focused predominantly on the attributes of mobile technology, have given way to more sophisticated conceptualisations suggesting that mobility is the central issue (Winters, 2006). This denotes not just physical mobility but the opportunity to overcome physical constraints by having access to people and digital learning resources, regardless of place and time."

So it's equally about the mobility of the learner and the context in which the learner operates as the means of consuming learning. Naturally, the two are closely interlinked as the notion of 'anytime, anywhere' is much more relevant when you are using a smartphone.

Seen this way, someone who picks up their phone to learn for 10-15 minutes on the commute to work and then resumes from her laptop in the office, is also a mobile learner. We believe a mobile-first mindset is crucial to success but it's important to think about learning in a device agnostic way.


As we all are now more than ever on the move, providing learning at the place of need becomes increasingly vital. As such, a seamless learning journey becomes necessary. 

According to Google and comScore, we spend an incredible 6 hours per day on our mobile phones, computers and tablets, with mobile usage making up half of that time!

A majority of consumers are multi-platform (57%) and will often be multi-screening, accessing sites from different devices. 1 in 5 are using two devices at the same time according to Google, so it’s really important to provide the same consistent experience across screens!

So, in an effort to really narrow down the definition of mobile learning, we'd put it this way: "Mobile learning is the concept of using technology to learn at the point of need".


Why is mobile learning important?


We've covered this aspect in an insights paper and we'll sum up the main reasons why mobile learning is important here again:

  1. By 2020

    1. 50% of the global workforce will be mobile

    2. 50% of the US workforce will be made up of freelancers

    3. 50% of the global workforce will be made up of millennials (this grows to 75% by 2030)

  2. The installed smartphone base is 2.5X greater than PCs

  3. Completion rates are 12% higher on mobile than desktop and mobile learners study 40 minutes more each week!

  4. 70% of us use our mobiles for learning but only 12% of corporate learning is mobile-enabled

As the above illustrates, the composition of the global workforce and the way we work are rapidly changing.

Learning and development opportunities are the most important consideration for millennials when choosing a job – even more than flexible working or salary considerations. Millennials use their smartphones for all their needs, and they expect the same convenience from on-the-job training and communication tools.

The current model of corporate training and communication is just not ready for this shift. Existing solutions rely too heavily on face-to-face training or on clunky e-learning solutions that can't be easily accessed via mobile. They’re often hard to use, considered boring and hence suffer from low completion rates, low efficacy and an inability to measure ROI. 

Josh Bersin makes a good case for how the learning environment is changing in his Learning In The Flow Of Work paradigm.

How do you succeed with mobile learning?


We have written a longer post on this in the past and here is a useful summary of top 10 tips:


1. Clearly communicate the value of your mobile platform

If your learners can’t see how a new training tool will help them, why would they use it?  


2. Make it easy to get started...and to keep learning

Learners will decide in 4-5 clicks whether the mobile learning platform is worth the effort. Reduce friction in all stages of the onboarding journey and make it easy to resume learning once logged in.


3. Design your mobile learning for mobile

Mobile learning is not simply shrinking existing desktop e-learning to fit a smartphone screen. Think about how you and your learners use a mobile phone and then build on that to create an interactive and engaging mobile learning experience.


4. Replicate familiar mobile behaviours

What are the mobile apps that your learners use the most? Replicate familiar actions from these apps to create an easy to use, intuitive interface. 


5. Use a light-hearted, conversational tone

The words ‘Corporate Training’ set off alarm bells for most people. Use interactivity, a conversational style, and a dash of humour to challenge these perceptions.


6. Keep it concise, keep it relevant

In the words of Josh Bersin, “today’s employees are overwhelmed, distracted, and impatient”. In our experience, the sweet spot for a mobile training course is between 2 to 4 minutes long.  


7. Use videos

We all love videos, so make sure your mobile and online learning initiatives incorporate them. The “keep it concise” rule applies here too: attention spans won’t stretch to more than 2 minutes.  


8. Use micro-learning to make learning a daily habit

For micro-learning to be effective in terms of behaviour change and driving business results, it has to be done regularly. Josh Bersin provides a great explanation of micro-learning here (Yes, we’re big fans).  


9. Encourage, and enable, ‘binge-learning’

Make it easy and compelling for people to keep going with their learning by lining up the next short lesson (think Netflix).


10. Experiment with notifications and elements of gamification

It’s natural that engagement wears off with time. Use your mobile learning app to send notifications to bring learners back, but bear in mind this can get annoying. Don’t be annoying. 


At EduMe, we put business impact at the centre of our approach.  If we partner with you, we’ll work together to clearly link your microlearning initiative to business objectives, so that ROI can be measured. Our approach is described in more detail in this blog post.

Get in touch to find out why companies like Uber are using EduMe and why Learning Technologies Awards and The Learning Awards consider us a trailblazer in mobile learning.

Send us an email on hello@edume.com or sign up for a free trial below!


Happy Learning!

The EduMe Learning Team