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Monday, June 07, 2010

The Disadvantages of Mobile Learning (Only 5 years too late)

Once again, we are graced with another article touting the problems with Mobile Learning. eHow gives us "The Disadvantages of Mobile Learning". The main problem with this article, is it is at least five years out of date. Not only could this article have been written five years ago, it is pretty much a re-hash, word-for-word, of many of the same misconceptions.

Let's address some of these myths.

1. Cost- While an end-user does need to have a mobile device of some sort to participate in Mobile Learning, so would a user need to have some time of Web enabled device to participate in most types of eLearning in general. Properly set-up, a mobile learning strategy should not have to require all your participants to buy new devices. One of the first considerations it would take is what type of devices do your users already have. Even if new devices were required, the price ranges presented in this article represent the premium end of the spectrum. A good mobile learning strategy can take advantage of even simple devices that cost little to nothing from most wireless carriers.

2. Size of the Device- This is only a challenge if one incorrectly plans mobile learning content to be nothing more than compressed eLearning. If your users are already using their mobile device that you plan to push learning to, your strategy should be what content do they need in the context of using the device. Add to that, the greatly improved displays, such as the OLED display on the DROID Incredible, and size isn't a detriment any more, but an advantage.

3. Battery Life- The article incorrectly states that the battery life for mobile devices is 2-4 hours. This is further evidence that this article is outdated. Your average smart phone these days has at least 2-3 days of stand-by power and the battery will run 8-10 hours of continuous operation. If a learner needs a continuous learning experience that is mobile and lasts more than several hours, you should probably re-evaluate your mobile learning strategy.

4. Technology- Two major failure points in the article. First is the issue of limited storage capacity. Not even taking into account that common memory chips now can store well over 32GB of data- far beyond the needs of most learning curriculum, this fallacy assumes the learning content would be stored directly on the device versus accessed from a remote server versus streaming. The second error in the article is the limitation because of the different operating systems. While yes, there are some limitations that various mobile operating systems have, such as the iPhone's ability to run Flash content, this is only a limitation for poorly designed mobile learning programs. A good mobile learning strategy takes into account what the learners have and need and designs accordingly. This is much the same challenge eLearning developers face when it comes to just conforming to various IT and security standards of the learners' computers.

5. Usability- Simply watch any 12 year old with a mobile device and you can kiss this limitation goodbye. Again, a good mobile learning strategy takes into account these items before a single piece of content is developed. A good strategy accounts for how users already use their mobile devices and conforms course content to that.

Don't let these challenges deter you from considering a mobile learning strategy for your organization. Remember, it is all about how you develop your strategy that revolves around your user's experience. Mobile Learning is NOT just compressing eLearning down to a smaller form factor.

1 comment:

Robert Gadd & Katherine Guest said...

I agree! When I read first read that post last week, I was compelled to reach out to the "author" and try to help them reconnect with the world and recast the miscast illusions they seemed to be suffering -- with respect to mobile learning anyway. Oh well, that's what you get when a publisher pays a freelancer about $20 for an article on a subject they research for 20 minutes via Wikipedia.