The ‘True’ Mobile Learning

One of the most important pillars of training design is the delivery medium. When designing classroom, e-learning or online delivery the strategies are developed considering audience, need, content and the delivery medium.

However, I have found this gap when an m-learning is developed. There are many ways of delivering an m-learning, the most popular being refurbished e-learning to make it work on any mobile device.

The refurbishing enables the same e-learning content to be viewed on a desktop/laptop and on mobile devices like iPad, tabs and in few cases smart phones too.

To refurbish, the content is chunked into smaller nuggets of 10-15 minutes, flash animations are avoided and the output is developed in HTML5.

This consumes one time effort to make the content multi-device compatible.

However the question is does that really work for the learners?

Yes and No.


The learners can access the same content on desktop/laptop and maybe continue on the mobile device, as needed. The affirmation of refurbishing ends here.


Refurbishing does not work when we consider effectiveness. And the consumer often wonders why? It does not work because:

  • The refurbished content is essentially designed to be delivered on the computer. The requirements of computer learning- the learner behaviour with the device, the time spent, the stage area is very different from the mobile device.
  • The modules are typically 10-15 minutes. With the dropping attention span, it is very difficult to capture attention of learners for long especially on a mobile device. A typical learner spends not more than 5 minutes at-a-go on the mobile device.
  • Most of the refurbished material is available on Tab or iPad. How many learners, especially in developing countries of Asia and Africa that have frog-leaped to mobile device & are ushering in the mobile revolution, use Tab or iPad? The most commonly used mobile device is a smart phone.

Another question, I often ask myself is what makes me truly mobile-An iPad, a tab or a smart phone? The convenience to carry a smart phone always beats the iPad or the tab. However, the easy readability on the iPad or the tab is what makes me more comfortable with it.

So is there a way that gives me the ease of readability, ease of understanding the content, ease of accessing the content, the ability to apply what I have learnt, and gives me just what is needed within the limited attention span?

There is.

Learning Specialists all over the world have come up with their own ways. In this evolutionary phase, some will work, some will be adapted and new strategies will evolve with evolving technology and their adaptation.

Some of the rules that I believe will make for True m-learning are:

1. Design for the Smart Phone -When designing for the smart phone think:

  • What is the user behaviour with the phone?
  • In what situations the mobile learners can be learning? Will they be sitting alone, or during their commute surrounded by people, or during a coffee break, or while waiting for their partner, or when letting their friend try out just one more outfit at a sale?
  • What are the distractions that they may face when learning?
  • What is the stage area?

2. Design for your mobile audience. Think:

  • Why are they learning? Are they looking for new skills? Are they looking for new concepts that they can apply? Or do they want to know more on a topic?
  • What is their current level of knowledge? What are they gathering from other sources (MOOC, YouTube, Twitter, Quora) on the topic?
  • What is their attention span? (Consider less than a gold fish).
  • What is their preferred style of learning? Do they like audio/video? Do they like playing games? Do they like reading books & articles? Do they like going through a defined learning map? Or do they like testing themselves?
  • What will build confidence and give them the satisfaction of learning?

3. Design to suit the content

  • How will the content connect with the learner?
  • How will it capture their attention/imagination?
  • How can you make it clear & precise?
  • How will you present the content to give complete knowledge byte in their limited time?

If the above questions are satisfactorily answered, the constant battle to hook the learners to learning will dissolve.

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