What is Mobile Learning?


The pervasiveness of mobile devices is changing the way humans interact with information and their surroundings. Smart devices, including phones, tablets, and watches, are now capable of acting as miniaturized computers; their storage space and processing power has increased dramatically with each subsequent release. Mobile learning, or m-learning, leverages this technology to make learning portable, meaning a learner can have access to materials virtually anywhere. The first wave of m-learning came in the form of apps, which are small, low-cost software extensions to devices. Proving to be a hotbed of development, numerous educational apps have been created, including: language learning apps, math and science tutorials, and more. Since their release, mobile apps have become adopted into the mainstream, seemingly plateauing the trajectory of m-learning. Although recently educators have witnessed the revival of m-learning through a subsequent demand for more online learning opportunities and an increase in BYOD initiatives across institutions. Overtime, m-learning continues to gain traction in education because it is particularly useful for learning as it enables people to learn and experience new concepts wherever they are, often across multiple devices.

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(1) How might this technology be relevant to the educational sector you know best?

  • I think that mobile technology...i.e. access to the learning experience mediated via mobile devices is a trend that will continue to gain traction. I think that it is less about the technology or platform and more about the affordance that such technologies offer in terms of access at a time and place that is convenient to the student.
  • Mobile learning has great potential especially in developing countries, where cost/affordability is a concern. Ease of use is also a strong factor. It is also possible that mobile devices are used for certain aspects of teaching and learning such as communication and classroom management. Mobile technologies is already becoming an important media and will continue to - nacha_sockalingam nacha_sockalingam Aug 9, 2016 - helga helga Aug 9, 2016
  • While our institution serves high percentages of under-represented students, approximately 96% of them own a mobile device, often instead of a laptop or computer. Whether we like it or not, we will need to adapt our technologies to these populations if we wish for them to learn. It's not perfect, but it may be the only way to reach some populations. - deone.zell deone.zell Sep 18, 2016 deone.zell Absolutely Universities should adopt a mobile first strategy - it is the great unifier - staff and students both adept in use -digital capability is already here - we need to unlock it. - DaveP DaveP Oct 2, 2016
  • Students are utilizing a variety of devices in their learning. Our surveys still see a majority of the students owning a laptop (85%), however, it also shows that students own an average of 2,6 devices and have them connected to our networks at one time. As more and more web options for traditional PC based software become mainstream, I believe we will see the trend towards tablets (IPads, Android) being used as a primary device will rise. - lkoster lkoster Sep 19, 2016 (- rneuron rneuron Sep 27, 2016)
  • Affordability is a key factor for 1:1 BYOD projects, libraries and shared services could help during adoption processes - Jorge.bossio Jorge.bossio Oct 1, 2016 !!!!

(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

  • There is a need for content to be created in a responsive format, so mobile technology can best be leveraged. Also not ALL is comfortable or practical for the end user to access on a mobile device (ie bandwidth or connectivity in remote areas that have little or not internet connection - this have been especially relevant to VET environments that are remote in Australia or even VET being taught in the prison system that does not allow for mobile device usage). Though the affordances are many we do still need to be aware of how and why students are accessing via their mobile devices and design accordingly with accessibility being paramount. - yvette.drager yvette.drager Aug 29, 2016
  • "Smart devices, including phones, tablets, and watches, are now capable of acting as miniaturized computers" All of these things ARE computers, and have always been so from launch - only their capabilities have expanded. As for "miniaturised" this seems and oddly old fashioned view, not in keeping with the rest of the topics here, and the nature of the Horizon report - even I am not old enough to remember computers that filled entire buildings... I also struggle with the term "Mobile Learning" - see below. - damian.mcdonald damian.mcdonald Sep 16, 2016
  • Assessment components are not being built into the learning tools- games, simulations, apps. Until these technologies are able to provide the faculty with real time , or downloaded evidence that the learner has learned it will be tough to get faculty to adopt them. In addition as stated with other tools, because assessment is now very much a reality because of US Department of Education requirements, the designers, and developers will need to tie competency achievement with activities that are associated with a game, app or other relevant mobile learning devices. (- rneuron rneuron Sep 27, 2016) - niki.whiteside niki.whiteside Oct 5, 2016
  • I think is important to differenciate between (a) use mobile devices in learning spaces (i.e. classroom) and (b) learn while "being mobile" ... 1:1 tablets in the classroom projects are examples of the first, and duolingo could be an expample of the second. - Jorge.bossio Jorge.bossio Oct 1, 2016
  • Successful use of mobile devices in higher ed has to incorporate how these devices are already being used in informal learning and related aspects of student lives (see, for instance, the Pew Report on smartphone use (2015) - http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/04/01/us-smartphone-use-in-2015/ ), and factor in John Seely Brown's view of mobile devices as "curiosity amplifiers" - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B4FPH-Oo1iM .- rubenrp rubenrp Oct 2, 2016

(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on higher education?

  • I feel that mobile learning will not really be a standalone technology. This will be in combination with other technologies such as RTC and Cloud Computing. - nacha_sockalingam nacha_sockalingam Sep 9, 2016(- rneuron rneuron Sep 27, 2016) - niki.whiteside niki.whiteside Oct 5, 2016
  • There may be some hesitation from some PSE instructors to utilize m-learning due to the multi platforms and devices available which might lend themselves to specific technical issues which may be unfamiliar to instructors and IT departments not willing to support - bsmith bsmith Sep 9, 2016 - lkoster lkoster Sep 19, 2016
  • M-learning platforms, in my experience as a teacher, work well for accessing information however, there continue to be difficulties with real-time text collaboration. - bsmith bsmith Sep 9, 2016 The technology that needs to be developed is the one that lets every educational program run on any device, any time. (- rneuron rneuron Sep 27, 2016)
  • Nacha's right - surely mobile learning is a concept that uses "portable" technology as a delivery method, rather than being a technology in itself? Also, is it truly "mobile learning" if the user is actually learning using a device whilst sitting on the sofa at home? Perhaps "Remote Learning" would be a better fit? Then again, if they are learning on a device on a sofa on campus... - damian.mcdonald damian.mcdonald Sep 16, 2016
  • As we move closer to all cloud based programs (ie. not requiring a PC/MAC), devices like Chromebook become an inexpensive alternative for students who can't afford more expensive devices. We have been looking at Cloudready (software that allows you to take an old computer run Chomebook OS). The opportunities for students to take old laptops, convert them and run everything they need off the cloud helps open the door for access for all. Here's an article that explains more - http://www.computerworld.com/article/3036161/cloud-computing/cloudready-convert-old-computer-into-chromebook.html - lkoster lkoster Sep 19, 2016
  • Increase in collaboration and participation are key results of using mobiles in the classroom - Jorge.bossio Jorge.bossio Oct 1, 2016 - niki.whiteside niki.whiteside Oct 5, 2016

(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?


Please share information about related projects in our Horizon Project Sharing Form.