Watch Out For These Trends in Mobile Learning: 2015 And Beyond

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  • Global mobile data traffic grew 69 percent in 2014 and was nearly 30 times the size of the entire global Internet in 2000
  • Mobile video traffic exceeded 50 percent of total mobile data traffic for the first time in 2012
  • Mobile network (cellular) connection speeds grew 20 percent in 2014
  • In 2014, on an average, a smart device generated 22 times more traffic than a non-smart devicce.


These are just some excerpts from Cisco’s Visual Networking Index: Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast Update for 2014 to 2019, but they clearly prove a point. That, the usage of mobiles is growing faster than ever before, backed by the rolling out of quicker internet speeds and smarter phones at affordable prices.

The research has also made important forecasts for the next 5 years, such as:

  • The number of mobile-connected devices exceeded the world’s population in 2014.
  • 4G traffic will be more than half of the total mobile traffic by 2017.
  • Because of increased usage on smartphones, smartphones will reach three-quarters of mobile data traffic by 2019.

Now against the backdrop of such information, it is interesting to explore what role mobiles are playing in shaping up the workplace learning scenario. These trends with mobile learning are evidence to the fact that we are on the brink of a new era of learning – through the mobile device.

The shift from Flash to HTML5

For years, Flash has ruled mobile content delivery arena. But it’s high time that content designers shunned the legacy approach and embraced HTML5 – the smarter and faster way to render engaging content such as animations and videos to a whole range of mobile devices. A report released in August 2013 has shown that 153 of the Fortune 500 U.S. companies implemented HTML5 on their corporate websites. A global acceptance of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies necessitates the development of responsive web design, and though it poses a few challenges, currently HTML5 is the only solution to it.

Device agnostic design approach

Of course, this is both a cause as well as an off shoot from the previous trend. According to Gartner Inc., almost 4 in 10 organizations will rely exclusively on BYOD by 2016, and 85 percent of businesses will have some kind of BYOD program in place by 2020. With the number and kinds of devices growing every day, it will be impractical and extremely laborious for organizations to develop native apps. Device agnostic approach to design is helping solve this problem. 2015 will only make it better – as learning departments find a way to circumvent or solve the existing challenges posed by it.

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Mobile app analytics

Just like there’s big data for everything else, app analytics for mobile devices is being vouched as a huge possibility to create relevant and personalized learning experiences. Though the area is largely unexplored, in 2015 we can expect to see analytics playing a bigger role in understanding learners’ interaction and behavior with mobile based courses, such as by monitoring app traffic and visualize page-flows i.e. the sequence in which learners access pages.

Multi-screen usage

In 2014, Facebook appointed market research company GfK to understand people’s behavior as they move across multiple devices, including smartphones, tablets and laptops or PCs, throughout the day. The study which was conducted among of more than 2,000 people in both the UK and the US shows that as multiple devices become an inseparable part of our lives, shuffling between them has become a norm. The same is true for mobile learning too.

Responsive web development for multi device consistency

Responsive design is key to delivering consistent learning experiences as learners start a course on the laptop, finish it on their tablet and may be, review it on their mobile device. The current trend is to explore more ways to make content progressively enhanced and responsive to support learning behaviors and provide consistency as learners switch between devices.

Bite sized learning for performance support

With the increasing trend towards mobile learning, is also an increasing speculation and awareness about how to make it more effective. Consequently, there is a gradual shift from just shrinking down web pages to render on the mobile screen, to providing bite sized learning ‘nuggets’. The goal here is to cut down all the extraneous information and provide employees with just-in-time information that is extremely relevant at the time they require it. For example, providing financial updates and reminders for keeping finance employees up to date, or delivering product specs and competitor pricing information to sales executives so that they can pitch in better deals.

Mobiles as devices for competency based learning

The aim of competency building is to make workers adept at specific skills or competencies. For example, a manufacturing worker must ‘learn’ each of the processes that he’d be involved with, the safety precautions therein and damage control in case something goes wrong. In the area of competency building, mobile devices are and will continue to play the important role of augmenting training beyond the classroom. It is common to see mobile videos and simulators in the healthcare segment where newly practicing professionals or surgeons access videos from a library, say before a surgery. As part of the English in Action initiative undertaken by the UK’s Department for International Development in Bangladesh, which aimed for professional development of 75,000 teachers by 2017, the idea of ‘trainer in the pocket’ was evolved. Portable, rechargeable speakers and mobile devices such as Apple iPod Nano andiPod Touch were given to 475 primary teachers in the pilot phase. The training included building professional competency in English via the mobile device via range of delivery methods such as videos and audio podcasts. Independent assessments confirmed that both teachers and students showed improved levels of English knowledge after just one year of launching the program since teachers could readily watch and learn from demonstrations of classroom practice which reflected the actual professional situations and challenges that they would typically face.

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Gamified mobile learning and assessments

According to M2 Research, by 2015, 40 percent of Global 1000 organizations will use gamification as the primary mechanism to transform business operations. Gamification on the mobile is fun, engaging and convenient. Already, there are enough mobile gaming apps such as PAKRA, Showpad, QStream and many, many others. Taking short quizzes and assessments on the mobile is also on the rise, and this trend will continue.

Geo- Location sensitive learning

Because of their size, mobile devices are extremely convenient to use GPS. This has opened up a new way of delivering content – that is based on the geographical location of the device. Organizations indulge in location sensitive marketing – for example, when we see the advertisement of nearby hotels popping up as we browse through websites on our phone or laptop. An article called ‘Insights From a Thought Leader—Big Ideas in Mobile Learning’ which appeared on 25th February 2015 in the ATD Magazine says, “The combined power of Social, Mobile, Real-Time Learning, and Geo Location promises learning design models that are authentic, personalized, and context aware. Learning design based on these technologies means learners can have real-time dashboards to monitor their progress and access to the right content or experts based on geo-location—all through mobile delivery.” Our blog post here details how such context sensitive learning could take place.

Augmented Reality for mobiles

Augmented Reality is already making big waves. With apps like Aurasma, learning is coming to life. Many schools have toyed with the idea of using AR applications to support learning, such as when a student scans a page of his homework, a video of his teacher explaining a related concept pops up, or book reviews in the form of videoattached to scan-able book barcodes. At the workplace, AR has already been developed, for example AR apps which superimpose animation on a piece of equipment to help a worker repair it. When the worker scans the object in front of him, the app uses the device’s camera to ‘understand’ it. An animation then appears on the screenindicating which parts must be opened and how to repair it. Similarly, there are apps which scan machine/ locomotive parts to show the flow of liquid/ gas or act as video manuals to guide usage of software or hardware. The rising trend of virtual and augmented reality will only spur development of more economically viable AR app development.

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Social mobile learning

Since mobiles are essentially devices of social engagement and communication, it only makes sense to incorporate the ‘social’ element when thinking of any mobile learning strategy. In fact, in the 2014study which was commissioned to GfK by Facebook, it was revealed that Facebook and email are most likely to be accessed across all devices, with the mobile being the only device used continuously throughout the day. An interesting post here explores how Facebook could be used for learning – such as through brainstorming discussions, events and groups. Alternatively, mobile supported Learning Management Systems (LMS) with social features are rapidly changing how employees interact with each other to share knowledge and drive innovation.

Wearable devices

Since we are talking about mobile devices here, it would be unfair to not mention wearables. Be it for monitoring health, finding directions on the Google Glass or connecting with people with over Apple Watch or Android Wear, there is a lot of activity in the wearable technology segment. Such devices can again, can be used for context sensitive content rendering, such as live streaming of a surgery procedure on the Google Glass.As wearables shift from becoming more of a need than a luxury (just as smartphones did, a couple of years ago) we can expect to see them being used actively for learning as well.

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One comment

  1. Lots of room for innovation in mLearning. The “ATAWADAC” mantra takes new meaning with some of these trends: Anytime, Anywhere, Any Device, Any Content. Tricky ethical issues are surfacing, when we’re talking about ways to “track” the learning process.
    Wearable devices are an intriguing part, here. Sure, wearable computing is a major trend in mobile technology. As such, it’s very likely to have an impact on learning. Somehow. But it’s not very clear to most learners and pedagogues alike what roles these devices will play in learning. It’s not too difficult to imagine use cases, but it’s remarkable how few actual scenarios are discussed, let alone put in place as projects.

    “we can expect to see them being used actively for learning as well”
    Fair enough… but how? It’s easy to bet on wearables becoming “a thing”. It’s been in the hype cycle for a while. But it’d be important to explore some of the possibilities offered by such devices. Even if it means breaking down the category in different pieces. The part about Quantified Self could be paired with concerns about learners’ health and even with Learning Analytics (involving the aforementioned ethical issues which come from accumulating data about any kind of learning process). The part about contextual information relates most directly to augmented reality. Maybe Google Glass hasn’t failed, but it did obscure a lot of non-Google development in this field.

    Something which might be useful to add to this list of trends, by the way, is haptics. Like wearables, it’s been a longstanding trend in computing. But chances are that haptics will help a shift in learning, if handled properly. With all the talk about “visual learners”, we often focus so much on display that we forget how embodied learning really is.

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