Understand the mobile learning landscape
While the term "mobile learning" is often used synonymously with "online learning," and while there is certainly a significant amount of overlap between them, the two concepts are not quite the same thing. Educators use the term "mobile learning" to describe any non-traditional learning environment in which the student is not fixed to a particular location. Thus, mobile learning encompasses technology which allows students to engage with their course work from anywhere, and at any time.
Thanks to major improvements in Internet and mobile technology, schools can now leverage a wider range of learning tools than ever before. Some of the key implements used in the world of mobile learning include:
- Smartphones and tablet computers
- MP3 players
- Notebook and laptop computers
- Specialized educational software
- Cloud computing technologies
By and large, mobile learning is far less formal than traditional learning. It is most often used in situations where the student is taking a course solely for the sake of interest, rather than working towards a degree, diploma, or professional certification.
Approaches to Mobile Learning
Depending on the nature of your course or program of study, a wide range of different approaches may be used in a mobile learning environment. These may include:
- Mobile learning in the classroom. Traditional classroom environments have begun to leverage mobile technologies as ways of heightening student engagement and making it easier for students to consume and organize important learning materials. Many instructors find that allowing students to use laptop computers and smartphones in the classroom actually fosters a more collaborative learning environment, and helps heighten student understanding of the key concepts being studied.
- Podcasts. A podcast is simply an audio presentation that uses a lecture or interview format which is digitally distributed. Mobile learning makes heavy use of podcast technologies, as they allow students to access these types of instructional sessions from any Internet-connected location. They are also extremely useful when it comes time to study for midterm and final examinations, as students aren't reliant on handwritten notes or their memories of important lectures. Instead, they can re-access the actual podcast and review it in as much detail as they wish.
- Site-specific learning. Mobile learning technologies can greatly enhance student experiences with site-specific learning, which can take place in a wide variety of venues including museums, libraries, art galleries, historic sites, archeological sites, architectural sites, public places, and other places of interest. They allow students to proceed through these types of sites at their own pace and linger at specific points for as long or a short a period of time as they wish, rather than being reliant on a live instructor or guide who conducts a tour or lecture according to a specific schedule.
- Self-directed learning. Informal, self-directed approaches to education make heavy use of digitally distributed materials that enable mobile learning. One of the key areas in which this approach is used is in language education.
- Professional training. Finally, mobile learning is also being used in the workplace with increasing frequency. On-the-job training can be facilitated through the application of mobile technologies, which allow workers to develop new skills using a hands-on approach without the need to provide in-person, real-time instruction. This mobile learning application can save companies a great deal of money, which is a major part of the reason it is becoming more and more common.
Remember that mobile learning isn't necessarily limited to formalized educational institutions. If you are interested in a particular subject and earning credentials (such as a degree) is not important to you, you'll find an incredible range of mobile learning tools which can help you expand your knowledge base at your own pace.