Developing a Learning Culture

Hold the Phone: Why Mobile Learning Limitations are NBD

Mobile learning naysayers are more than happy to point out that smartphones–while great for playing Candy Crush and uploading pictures to Instagram–simply aren’t cut out for eLearning. The screens are too small; the battery life is too short; and overall, desktop wins when it comes to in-depth eLearning modules.

But the limitations surrounding mobile learning aren’t that big of a deal. As long as your organization isn’t giving mobile learning the desktop treatment, there’s no reason that smartphone and tablet-based eLearning shouldn’t be part of a healthy and effective training strategy. The next time someone tries to take some of the wind out of your mobile learning sails, remind them that the few drawbacks are well worth the positive effects of just-in-time learning.

“Battery life is too short…”

While it’s true that mobile learning is subject to a user’s battery life, it’s unlikely that a mobile learning application would be open and utilized so long that it would effectively drain a day’s worth of cellphone battery. In most cases, users would pull out their phones, find the necessary information, and then put their phones away.

If the mobile learning module does require extended periods of viewing, such as a video or animation, media should be kept short and sweet (think less than five minutes) to ensure that mobile learning is as quick as it is accessible.

“Mobile has limited interaction with the learner…”

When compared to a traditional desktop module, physical actions might be limited on a smartphone. With a larger screen and a mouse, you can instruct learners to drag and drop, click through, choose radial buttons and stay engaged through action.

But don’t count out mobile learning as passive: By using the tools you do have, it’s possible to create a physically engaging course for high levels of interaction. Using a phone’s location services, for example, could cause users to move to a certain area, or a phone’s mic could become a catalyst for speaking and answering questions. At the same time, high-quality animations look great on a high resolution screen. Think beyond click, drag, and repeat, and mobile phones can become interactive machines.

“Connectivity and screen size are an issue…”

Some eLearning pros might contend that the problem with mobile learning is that it’s subject to connectivity and screen size. But those issues only become concerns when instructional designer treat mobile learning as compressed desktop learning. Desktop and mobile learning should be treated as completely different training applications, and there’s a time and a place for each.

Modules that need high levels of connectivity–streaming a tutorial, for example–or larger screen sizes to be effective should be kept to desktop applications. Mobile learning works best for quick bites of learning that can be compressed into less time and a smaller screen.

After a second look, the limitations posed by mobile learning aren’t roadblocks as much as they are minor bumps. Thinking beyond the traditional custom eLearning application proves that any potential issues can be solved by ensuring that mobile learning gets the treatment it deserves.