With the number of mobile internet users officially overtaking desktop users in 2016, and more and more people working away from the office, mobile learning isn’t just the future for eLearning providers — it's already here. But with every exciting new frontier comes new technological challenges to adapt to and best practices to take onboard.
Mobile learning or m-learning is ‘anywhere, anytime learning’, using a portable, hand-held device. It’s a logical avenue for eLearning providers looking for new ways to connect with learners when and where they want to learn, as well as those looking to offer a deeper, more dynamic experience for existing learners.
To make the most of mobile technology in education, eLearning modules must cater to the greater flexibility and consumability of content that learners expect on the mobile platform. In this piece we break mobile learning best practices down further.
Advantages of mobile learning
Freed from the requirement for the bulky desktop, as well as a fixed time and location for lessons, m-learning is the ideal fit for 21st-century lifestyle for a number of reasons.
The advantages of mobile learning include:
- Flexibility and convenience — the learner is free to choose when, where and on what device they engage with the material, as it’s accessible anywhere an internet connection is available. For example, users can interact with mobile learning apps on their daily commute or revise course materials on a tablet in between meetings.
- Improved engagement, retention and completion rates — mobile learning tools are designed to fit in with the learner’s busy life. Offering content in bite-sized pieces, rather than being overloaded, m-learning makes it easier and more likely for students to stay engaged and committed to completing the course by completing the course content in easy chunks or ‘bites’.
- Self-directed learning — the learner can set their own pace and style to maximise results. Content can also be revisited to further embed learning, enabling deeper and more likely retention of the course content.
6 mobile learning best practices to improve outcomes
1. Utilise a range of media on mobile
Video, podcasts, written content, animation, even virtual environments — the possibilities for m-learning are endless. M-learning providers should offer a variety of media all functioning together to develop more of a storytelling approach.
Using a variety of media in your m-learning course content offers an interactive and engaging environment. Providing multi-platform learning through an eLearning app increases engagement and caters to a more diverse range of learners as well as accessibility levels.
2. Employ social interactions on mobile
With so many of us just the tap of a button away from our social media networks, it’s not surprising that mobile learners expect an element of social engagement on this platform. Mobile learning should channel features of social media, which is recommended as a way of future-proofing your course content.
The accessibility and convenience of m-learning means that the learning experience doesn’t have to end when the webinar or session winds up. Using social tools, such as forums or ‘group chats’, the learners can engage in discussions with other participants. Insights can be shared amongst the group and questions answered, thus helping to reinforce each lesson through a collaborative approach.
Retention rates can also increase through social learning. Group projects and other collaborations can help introduce a sense of cooperation and community among learners — no matter the geographical or cultural distance between them.
So what does this look like in practice? Collaborative learning tools include learning circles and grouping learners in cohorts to share experiences and learn with and from one another. This could include group projects, connectivity with social networks, facilitated forums, and more.
3. Competitive online assessments and quizzes
Studies have shown that games can improve knowledge acquisition and heighten users’ ability to employ these concepts in real world scenarios. Gamification of a mobile learning app or course can be greatly effective in retaining learners as they remain motivated and challenged throughout the course.
Incorporating game mechanics as an incentive for learning can help propel learners to master a certain skill or lesson for the end reward. It provides a fun alternative to reading blocks of text or listening to hour-long lectures, and makes for higher engagement engagement and longevity throughout the mobile learning course.
This can be done in the form of providing goals and rewards for reaching certain levels of difficulty within the materials, dynamic polling, quizzes, a leaderboard, or even a ‘streak’ for every day in which the user engages with the course content, for instance.
4. Utilise a clear structure
When learning through bite-sized chunks of content at a self-directed pace, the need for a clear, easily understandable course structure is paramount so learners can dip in and out of the course and skim its materials as time allows. This is the essence of microlearning: where digestible bursts of information enable learners to quickly achieve objectives.
By closely reviewing our projects and interviewing learners, we know they really prefer to have short content pieces as part of a clear pathway or learning journey. So aim to break down large modules into 5 to 15 minute chunks of content, and encourage learners to revise key ideas through repetition and revising.
Make sure there’s a logical, easy-to-follow path through the learning materials so that learners stay on track, however limited the time available. It also means opting for a clean, non-cluttered design making touchscreen interactivity intuitive and user-friendly.
5. Tailored feedback
The move towards self-directed learning doesn’t mean learners don’t want the feedback and support of more traditional educational options; tailored feedback should be on offer throughout the program at each progression. Corrective and confirming feedback is key for building engagement with the learning experience and a sense of efficacy with the content.
Ideally, your m-learning offering should provide immediate feedback when learners make an error, or even inform them of an alternative approach or problem-solving method that may be better for their needs. Correcting mistakes as they occur is ideal.
6. Blend mobile performance with other forms of learning
Last but not least, a mobile interface doesn’t negate the need for more in-depth content. Blending mobile media and technologies with other forms of learning means that every learning style is catered for and students can engage in the breadth and depth best suited to their needs.
One-on-one coaching, follow-up webinars, lists for further reading, and even links to relevant documentaries or Youtube videos can all play a part in the personal development process and make the learning experience the best that it can be.
Ultimately, just because learning is going mobile doesn’t mean that the finely honed best practices of learning design principles no longer apply. Rather, it’s about giving these practices and principles new life on the mobile learning platform.
It also means catering for users of all abilities. Download our free eLearning accessibility checklist — fully updated for 2017 WCAG 2.0 requirements — to make sure your learning materials can reach and teach the largest audience possible. Click the image below to get started.