Mobile Learning – Five Years In, What Have We Learned?

Remember the Arab Spring? The wedding of Prince William to Kate Middleton? The untimely death of Randy “Macho Man” Savage?

Well, they might seem like yesterday, but all of those events happened five years ago. In addition to global politics and entertainment, we also had a watershed moment in the eLearning industry half a decade ago: the advent of Mobile Learning, also known as mLearning.

Now that we’ve had some time to discover it, hone it, and examine it, let’s take a look at what we’ve learned from five years of mLearning.

First of all, let’s clarify what we mean by mLearning. The term was originally coined to recognize the portability of training that could be delivered via tablets and smartphones. However, as tablets have gotten larger and more powerful and laptops have gotten smaller and more portable, the distinction between tablets and laptops as become blurred. Therefore, when we refer to mLearning, we are referring to training specifically designed to be delivered via smartphones.



If you haven’t noticed, people have their phones with them all the time these days. And it’s not just for Facebook and Candy Crush. For example, HVAC technicians can access information from their phone while working on a roof without having to return to the truck to fire up a laptop.


With the immediacy of mobile learning, we have the ability to quickly reinforce key points.

Generational appeal

Newer workers are used to relying on their phones for information, so why wouldn’t we cater to that for their eLearning needs? With mLearning, the information they need is right in their pocket.


Screen size

The same thing that makes it “mobile” also creates some speed-bumps. Sometimes, you just need the extra real estate of a larger screen to convey the entire message.

Limited functionality/interactions

Limited keyboard, no mouse, different software requirements … you get the point.


Your phone distracts you from the world, and the world distracts you from your phone. It’s the 2010s paradox.

(recognizing that every training situation is unique)

Be realistic

Mobile learning works well for some topics but not others. Deploy mobile learning wisely.

Keep it short and simple

Interactivity is a critical component of effective eLearning, but when it comes to mLearning, you need to keep it simple.

Favor refresher training

Blend mLearning with other methods. Here are a couple examples:

Sales/Product training – Deliver the majority of the content via ILT and/or eLearning. Then use mLearning to reinforce the key concepts and provide updates. Have salespeople refresh their product knowledge or walk through an example scenario before each sales call.

Compliance training – Deliver the initial compliance training via eLearning, then use mLearning to emphasize potential risks through realistic scenarios. This approach also enables organizations to react quickly when new risks are identified.

What’s next?

Who knows? Hologram learning? Will we call it hLearning? Whatever it is, we’ll be here to help make sense of it.

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