Mobile Learning or Learning…using mobile devices?
I paused while reading a Tom Clancy novel on my Kindle Fire to check the updates on various sports, news, and blog posts. Interesting enough, one of the mobile sites I visited during my break reiterated the mantra that one must “chunk up” the content for delivery on mobile devices. Really? I was just reading a 200+ page novel on my mobile device, but apparently I can’t use it to learn something that will take me more than 30 seconds to digest. It doesn’t make sense.
Typical arguments in favor of chunking up the content say that learners using mobile devices are distracted so you need to keep the content short. Or people want short bursts of learning to fill in time when they are standing in line or putting gas in the car.
CourseAvenue disagrees with this. We believe that chunking of content has more to do with technical limitations than anything else. When mobile learning meant a web-enabled Nokia 3100, the need for smaller chunks of content to fit to the device made sense. Does this still apply on something like a Retina display iPad? We don’t think so. We believe people want access to learning – complete learning – wherever they are, using whatever device they happen to have. What this means is that one should design instructionally sound learning materials, then let today’s devices do their thing…which is quite a lot.
As to the distracted learner issue, the argument that “mobile devices make a person more distracted, therefore we need shorter content” simply does not make sense. This implies that when learning at a desk, there are suddenly no distractions. No phones ringing, no emails not coming in, no fantasy football leagues being discussed. Let’s be honest, sitting on my couch reading Tom Clancy on my mobile device is probably the least distracted I am all day. Now if the argument shifts and says that “our culture has become so distracted that they can only pay attention to sound-bite lessons,” then we need to reconsider learning altogether. Learning on mobile devices should keep the full content that people need to be best equipped to do their job while making it as accessible as possible. Accessibility should not compromise the content.
As to sneaking in learning while standing in a line, filling up the car, etc…it is not as common as people think. In almost 2 years of research on mobile platforms, we have yet to find a single person brushing up on their education while running errands. We do see are millions of devices being used for reading and generally as a replacement to the desktop. So as opposed to firing up a notebook, it’s just easier to turn on my tablet and get going. Sitting at a Starbucks with headphones on, using their tablet…sure. Learn away. Whipping out their cell phone to brush up the latest compliance topics while in line at the grocery story…not so much.
All this talk is to make the point that learning is learning – whether on mobile devices, desktops, books, or face-to-face. The “mobile learning” catchphrase is not an excuse to simply chunk up learning content to make it mobile. That suddenly makes it a separate version from the rest of the learning world. Instead, we should keep learning in its best and most complete form to achieve the best results, regardless of the device being used. This means that we need to have the technology that allows the learning content to run on any device. CourseAvenue has this with OneCourse, a technology that takes device limitations out of the picture and leaves learning as learning and makes it accessible on any device.