The “m” in mLearning means More

When you go to a conference on Mobile Learning or attend a webinar, you pretty much know the drill; the Presenter spends most of his or her time going through a long list of challenges we face as an eLearning industry considering the move to mobile learning (mLearning).

And it’s always the same challenges, what are we going to do with our existing eLearning since Adobe Flash doesn’t work on iOS devices? The screens are too small on smartphones for us to do anything worthwhile, connections on mobile devices aren’t reliable enough, there are too many devices to target all of them, and on and on.

It’s a bit depressing in my opinion.

I’m not minimizing the importance of these challenges, but I strongly believe each of these constraints are actually a good thing, because they force us to focus on solutions and find new ways of doing things. And when we do this, invariably innovation follows.

As I prepare for my presentation at mLearnCon in June on “The Mobile Learning Paradigm Shift: Thinking Mobile First,” my goal is to not only make a case for why we need to embrace these challenges and think different about mLearning, but also, I want to use my talk as an opportunity to discuss why we need to be excited about the amazing possibilities mobile brings to developing Learning.

I happen to think that mobile will enable us to do much “more” than what we have been able to do with eLearning on Desktop.

For one thing, mobile devices “are full of sensor superpowers” as Josh Clark, put it so nicely in his recent article entitled Nielsen is wrong on mobile.

I also agree with Josh when he says:

“The notion that you should create a separate, stripped-down version for ‘the mobile use case’ might be appropriate if such a clean mobile use case existed, but it doesn’t.”

In the context of mLearning, I also believe that we should not approach designing for mobile with the mentality that we need to create learning experiences that are stripped-down version of their eLearning counterparts on the Desktop.

I happen to believe that the reason why Facebook continues to find that their mobile users are two times more active than Desktop-only users has a lot to do with these sensor superpowers, namely the built-in cameras in smartphones. It’s so easy to take a picture anywhere and then publish to Facebook with a couple of taps using your smartphone. Obviously, you can’t do that using your desktop. One can also make a case that Facebook paid $1 Billion for Instagram because of how important they consider mobile going forward.

Speaking of Facebook and mobile, I absolutely love what Joe Hewitt has to say about his experience in developing an iPhone app for Facebook

“I spent a year and a half attempting to reduce a massive, complex social networking website into a handheld, touch-screen form factor. My goal was initially just to make a mobile companion for the mothership, but once I got comfortable with the platform I became convinced it was possible to create a version of Facebook that was actually better than the website.”

My point is that we need to stop looking at mobile in general and mLearning specifically as having to do less, but rather we need to embrace the future as an opportunity to deliver more to our learners in every way.

So say it with me a few times, the “m” in mLearning means “More!”

See you in June at mLearnCon 2012.

  • Anonymous

    Hi RJ…..Even though we actually fall in the category who have voiced the same concerns that you think are depressing……its a great post. Agree these constraints will eventually lead us to innovation and probably that innovation is under way with everyone working at it (Articulate with Storyline..Lectora with Beta..Adobe with Shadow)…its just that till then how do we handle this shift.

  • I think we need to find a way to get flash working on iOS, I use my iPad a lot but I hate not being able to access flash objects. It is annoying enough that I will be seriously considering an android tablet next time round. 

    • Have you tried using the iSwifter app..its avaiable on App store (for free I guess) and you can play all your flash content from it. runs great

  • cfidurauk

    Completely agree that the FaceBook iApp is a fundamentally better tool than the desktop app. I also like how Joe Hewitt stopped trying to smush a desktop app into a mobile format and just re-thought the app. Nice!

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