What’s holding mLearning back?

Why mLearning is the answer, not the problem

There is no denying that mobile learning (aka mLearning) is in the spotlight. The sheer number of conferences, webinars, industry experts, and general buzz around mLearning testifies to this attention.  Companies like Apple, Samsung, and Amazon have driven learning to turn mobile.

Yet there seems to be a disconnect between the hype of mobile technology and the traditional eLearning that resides on a desktop. Despite all this momentum around mLearning, many corporate and federal eLearning markets are at a loss as to how to hop on the mLearning train.

Although mLearning is just now exploding, CourseAvenue has seen it as the future of eLearning for some time now. We have been monitoring the mLearning marketplace for years. We remember when mLearning focused on fitting content on a postage-stamp-size Nokia screen. We stayed away from this movement.  It just didn’t make sense to us.  Now, thanks to the development of tablets and smart-device technology, we believe the answer to mLearning has arrived.

Tablets (and by that, we mainly mean the iPad) changed everything.  There has been a lot written about the iPad’s form, features, price, and trendiness. In our eyes, this makes it the perfect fit for education material. Add in the many other, largely Android-based, tablets and the improvements made in the size and media support in smart phones, and the buzz around mLearning has never been higher!

Despite the hype, it is easier to see mLearning as a problem for many than as the solution that it is. It is not a simple task to morph desktop-centric eLearning to mobile-friendly device (No, you can’t just do a “SaveAs” to go from desktop to mobile.)   So the conversation often turns to pointing out the obstacles, in which people bemoan the tension between flash and HTML or the difficulty in making the same program work on every device. The problems are not difficult to highlight. 

Yet where are the solutions? We don’t see a large-scale rollout of mLearning, especially at the corporate or enterprise level. While we have seen some successful mLearning, what we have seen has largely been program-specific. In some respects, successful mLearning has been the exception rather than the rule.  Put another way, we have not seen a complete enterprise level transformation.

Mobile learning is not a problem to be overcome. If we work with it, it is the perfect answer to everything we are trying to do in the industry! It is a gift from heaven for usability and accessibility of learning. It’s our job to figure out how to capitalize on this solution for others.

Consider how the majority of eLearning is accessed today across an enterprise:

A learner logs on the LMS and then selects and launches a given course title.  Their progress is tracked and potentially scored, their completion status is noted, and their transcript records are updated accordingly.

Mobile learning needs to fit into this model.  Attempting to change this model to fit the current state of mobile learning technology is an extremely steep hill to climb.  While mobile devices enable a number of interesting new options (e.g. proximity learning,), without addressing the existing infrastructure and providing a reasonable transition, mLearning will struggle.

It is somewhat surprising to us that we have read so much about what mLearning isn’t or what one should NOT do with mobile-delivered content. Without delving into what it is not or what it might not be, we have surmised what people DO want based on discussions with our customers, friends, family, and industry leaders.  And that is…

The ability to breakaway from the desktop and use their mobile devices for learning.  With years and years of content built up in LMS’s, piles of CE credits to attain, and super powerful devices in their hands, the practical reality is people want to take their eLearning wherever they are, on whatever device they happen to have at the moment.

We have built CourseAvenue’s Enterprise Mobile Solution around this principal – enabling a mobile workforce with cross-device, seamless access to content.  As we are readying our product for release, we thought we should share our thought on the gap between buzz and practicality. To make learning most usable and accessible in our world today, we need to rid our industry of this gap.  So given this all this, what is holding mLearning back, and what can we do about it?

In the coming posts, we will outline the following:

  1. The “people don’t want to take a 2-hour long course on their phone” half-truth
  2. LMS infrastructure challenges
  3. Reliance on SCORM/dependence on Java
  4. Device-specific solution “templates”
  5. The Flash issue…
  6. Cross-device complexity

We want your feedback on our thoughts on mLearning! Please respond to these polls. They will only take you a moment.

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About CourseAvenue

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4 responses to “What’s holding mLearning back?”

  1. nerdinsider says :

    Reblogged this on nerdinsider.

  2. Matthieu Esteve says :

    Thanks a lot for this very interesting article!

    You report that it is difficult for organisations to implement mLearning in real settings and that mLearning is often seen as a problem rather than a solution. I’m as excited as you are about mLearning, even if I try to remain objective … Actually I really think that mobile devices are a special technology. Their features give us the opportunity to enhance our training programs with technology, in directions and in areas that were not accessible before. Mobile technologies are powerful and can be brought deep in the workplace. This is to me the big point.
    So when you want to implement mLearning, it is quite difficult to consider it as just a little training bonus. When you consider bringing mobile devices in the game, a lot of questions comes in quickly, linked to learning strategies, instructional design, user interface, technology, social networks …
    In my opinion, mLearning is not a problem but can offer new and wide solutions … such solutions always require some time to tame them.

    I don’t really agree with you on one point, when you say that mLearning has to fit the LMS-centralized delivering and tracking model. In my opinion the good old SCORM course don’t fit into mobile devices. We should use more lighter and various learning objects to build a mobile course, or in other words, a mobile learning experience. I think that the usual tracking model (learner, score, completion, time … for a unique big .sco) don’t fit into mobile context too. I would prefer a solution like the Tin Can Projet from the ADL, I find their way of thinking the future of SCORM brilliant. Their Learning Record Store is to me a better solution for tracking mLearning than the usual LMS way.
    I will read your future articles with interest to know more about your point of view on that question.

    Thank you for sharing your experience with corporate mLearning programs and your knowledge of user’s expectations.

    I stay tuned for the next articles!

    • CourseAvenue says :

      Appreciate your feedback and insight. We are echoing what we are hearing from our corporate and Federal customers which is basically that they have so much invested in this infrastructure, the notion of setting it aside is a non-starter for the folks we talk with.

      Re: good old SCORM course don’t fit into mobile devices…

      Why? Per our Mobile Learning Cartoon people want to integrate mobile devices into their lives and for better or worse, LMS’s are in peoples lives. If “new mobile” means creating a parallel universe for training records that’s a tough game to sell. As noted below, a good old Tin Can ;) implementation may look darn close to a good old SCORM course…but uses http to communicate to “the tracking system” versus a Java frameset (which SCORM uses).

      Re: Tin Can Project from ADL…
      This looks fine, but with iPads selling by the boat load…daily – how long before this concept is commercialized and in place for the masses. For what its worth, its ironic that Tin Can is http-based, just like AICC. Also – as seen here: http://beta.projecttincan.com/LRS/usage/ – Tin Can recognizes the need to integrate and co-exist with an LMS. Quoting the LRS documentation: “Since an LRS is meant to be a component with limited but well defined capabilities, we expect that in many cases it will be desirable to integrate an LRS into an LMS, and that it will be beneficial to define expected behaviors for such an LMS. ”

      We look forward to keeping the dialogue going!

      Thanks again – CourseAvenue

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