Saturday, August 7, 2010

Mobile Learning: e-learningnext

Why Mobile Learning 

The strongest Value Proposition for mobile learning comes from connecting people with ideas, information, and each other—anytime, anywhere! 
Ten years back, Clark Quinn’s statement about mobile learning seemed wishful thinking. Today, mobile learning is no longer a buzzword. It has arrived.
Clark Quinn, a thought leader in technology-mediated learning, said in 2000:

mLearning is the intersection of mobile computing and elearning: accessible resources wherever you are, strong search capabilities, rich interaction, powerful support for effective learning, and performance-based assessment. It is elearning independent of location in time or space…

Now, 10 years after this prophetic statement, several interesting trends are converging to create a perfect melting pot for mLearning. Some of these include:
1.    Rapid and unforeseen increase of mobile device adoption from Blackberry to iPad
2.    Growth of location-based services and location-aware networks
3.    Surge in social media adoption and participation
4.    Growth in cloud computing
5.    Increase in awareness among globally spread companies that  eLearning, mLearning and online training is a way to save on training costs, provide just-in-time performance support, and improve productivity

Certain key reasons why “mobile learning” via PDAs, mobile phones, MP3 players, iPod, Kindle, E-paper eReaders, and anything besides that is amenable to being carried around, will increasingly become business necessities are:
1.    Growing complexity of the work environment
2.    Distributed workforce as a result of globalization
3.    Rapidly decreasing shelf-life of knowledge
4.    Information explosion across all spheres and domains
5.   Need for instant access to “useful” information to stay ahead of competition (The increasing importance given to speed and accessibility.)
6.    Need to collaborate and tap collective intelligence to solve complex problems
7.    Importance of being connected to networks (both the hyperlinked and the human kind) to have access to information at the point-of-need
8.    Effectiveness of the mobile device as a PPI (Personal Productivity Improvement) tool

The three key functions that emerge as the core of mobile learning then are: CONNECTION, COMMUNICATION, and COLLABORATION.
The concept map below depicts mobile affordances at three levels. The emergent ones are those that are likely to have the greatest impact on Human Performance Improvement and Personal Knowledge Management.
Source: Mobile Affordances by Clark Quinn


Industry Facts and Figures

This brings us to the business feasibility of including mobile learning as a service in our solution portfolio. 
Fast forward to 2009: The result of a research conducted by RBC Capital Market speaks for itself (Smartphone sales to beat PC sales by 2011).
A recent survey by the Pew Internet & American Life Project predicts that by 2020, most people across the world will be using a mobile device as their primary means for connecting to the Internet (http://www.pewinternet.org/PPF/r/270/report_display.asp). Mobiles are already well on the way to becoming a universal tool for communication of all kinds.
Source: 2009-Horizon-Report
This prediction is reinforced by the growth of the worldwide-converged mobile device market (commonly referred to as smartphones) that 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  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%.

A study of Gartner’s 2009 Hype Cycle for emerging technologies reveals the following:
For mobile learning, it is interesting to note that e-Book Readers have reached the Peak of Inflated Expectations while Tablet PC is climbing the Slope of Enlightenment. These, in conjunction with the rise of Web2.0 and other collaboration tools like Wikis and blogging, will ensure that the need for “always-connected” mobile devices will continue to grow.
And a year has passed since this Hype Cycle was created. It can be assumed that Tablet PC (being the latest in mobile devices that offers larger screen area and better view-ability) is sealing the arrival and acceptance of mobile devices as a tool for learning and collaboration.
What will give mobile learning a further boost is that some of the mobile devices now come with Operating Systems that allow for installation and removal of applications on the device. In the past, mobile devices came with fixed features, and a user perforce had to make do with the appliances that shipped with the device. In future, all phones will have sophisticated operating systems, sensors, and connectivity.
In ten years, mobile learning moved from being a “buzz word” and “yet-another-technology-hype” to a medium of learning and performance support that is here to stay.
Institutions are now opening up to mlearning and corporate organizations are asking for it, as the examples below will illustrate.
Examples of mobile learning implementation:
1.    Recently, underscoring its commitment to education, AT&T made a three-year, $1.8 million contribution to Abilene Christian University to support the expansion of the university’s mobile learning initiative.
2.    Duke University made headlines when it provided all incoming freshmen with their own 20-gigabyte iPods.
3.    The Virginia Tech College of Engineering became the first public institution to require all students to purchase a tablet PC beginning with incoming freshmen in fall 2006.
I would like to specially thank the Upside Learning team for their blog posts and resource links to mobile learning. Those have been immensely helpful in the development of my understanding about mlearning.I have also shamelessly quoted from their various posts. Acknowledgment given below.
  1. Five Mobile Learning Implementation Tips
  2. Mobile Learning Roundup: 10 Top Posts From Our Blog 
  3. General Considerations for Mobile Learning (mLearning)
  4. The Advent of Mobile Learning Technology
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