Mobile Learning (mLearning) has been around for quite a while now. As a subset of Distance Learning and eLearning it has promised a more immediate and more flexible approach to those bleeding-edge providers that have wanted to deliver more complete blended training programs.
If you consider the definition of mLearning as untethered (from cords and cables) and interactive (so learners can participate from almost anywhere), you can see how the limitations of the available legacy mobile devices have kept mLearning in the emerging phase over the last decade. mLearning has often been over-hyped and under-adopted.
But there are some things stirring that may make now the perfect time to start paying closer attention to mLearning as a viable (and increasingly key) part of your training delivery arsenal. 2010 may just be the year you should jump into the mLearning fray if you've been sitting on the sidelines waiting for it to emerge more rapidly.
Several interesting trends are converging to create a perfect storm for mLearning. Some of these trends include: the explosion of mobile device adoption, growth of location-based services and location-aware networks, surge in social media adoption and participation, growth in cloud computing and the continuation of travel-reluctant companies that are embracing eLearning, mLearning and online training more and more as a way to save on training costs.
Let's just consider a couple of these trends, Mobile Device Adoption and the Surge in Social Media Use.
Mobile Device Adoption
- Apple sold its one millionth iPad on Friday, April 30, just 28 days after the device's release. More than 12 million apps from the App Store and 1.5 million ebooks have been downloaded from the new iBookstore.
- Growth of the worldwide converged mobile device market (commonly referred to as smartphones) more than doubled that of the overall mobile phone market in the first quarter of 2010, a sign the segment is in high-growth mode again. According to the International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, vendors shipped a total of 54.7 million units in the first quarter of 2010 (1Q10), up 56.7% from the same quarter a year ago. In contrast, the overall mobile phone market grew 21.7%.
- Converged mobile devices accounted for 18.8% of all mobile phones shipped in 1Q10, up slightly from 14.4% in 1Q09 according to IDC.
- "E-paper eReaders will be one of the major disruptive technologies of the early 21st century," said analyst Nick Hampshire of MediaIdeas, "it will change the nature of publishing and related print industries forever, ushering in a host of innovative ways to present, market, and distribute content."
- Gartner said that vendors could ship up to 10.5 million traditional tablets and next-generation tablet devices worldwide in 2010.
- Although Amazon doesn't disclose how many Kindles they have sold to date, they have said that millions of Kindles have been sold.
More People Interacting on Social Media Sites
- There are more than 100 million active users currently accessing Facebook through their mobile devices (and more than 400 million active users according to Facebook).
- People that use Facebook on their mobile devices are twice as active on Facebook as non-mobile users.
- There are more than 200 mobile operators in 60 countries working to deploy and promote Facebook mobile products.
- Twitter now has 105,779,710 registered users.
- New Twitter users are signing up at the rate of 300,000 per day.
- 180 million unique visitors come to the Twitter site every month.
- Twitter gets a total of 3 billion requests a day via its API.
- Twitter users are, in total, tweeting an average of 55 million tweets a day.
- Twitter's search engine receives around 600 million search queries per day.
- Of Twitter's active users, 37 percent use their phone to tweet.
- Over half of all tweets (60 percent) come from third party applications.
- LinkedIn has over 65 million members in over 200 countries.
- A new member joins LinkedIn approximately every second, and about half of its members are outside the U.S.
- Executives from all Fortune 500 companies are LinkedIn members.
Where to Start
If you've decided that now may be a great time to dip your toe into the mLearning pool, take some time to evaluate your audience and develop a goal for your mLearning effort. One great use of mLearning is to reinforce concepts from instructor-led and e-learning courses. You could get back together with the course alumni for a Q and A session a few weeks after the more formal training course is over. Learners will have had time to apply the new material they learned during the course and mLearning is a perfect format to bring the group back together for a quick check-in and follow-up session to drive the main points home. Assessments and evaluations are also another great application for mLearning. Whatever program you decide to implement, start with small learning bursts and grow your mLearning program according to the success you have with it. Let your learner community help steer the direction and cater to their current mobile skillset and behavior.
mLearning is here and it's not going away. It is undoubtedly changing and growing but now is a great time to start small and build upon your successes.
About the author: Rosie Hausler is the president and founder of Sandhill PR and Search Engine Marketing based in Seattle, WA. She has more than 20 years of high tech marketing experience and was VP of Marketing for the ViewCentral LMS (acquired by Rainmaker in 2006).