Page Revision: 2/8/2013 12:53:02 PM
Mobile Learning (M-learning) is the hottest trend happening within the learning world today. Communication tools such as Twitter and Facebook have changed the way we look at the world of social media and learning. Methods and concepts of Mobile Learning are evolving so fast that even the learning community is having a hard time keeping up with the rapid changes. Learning through mobile devices has gradually grown from distant learning to E-learning and now we are beginning to explore the possibilities of Mobile Learning.
Mobile Learning: Sometimes abbreviated as M-learning, is still in its development stage and is a type of education that occurs through mobile learning devices, such as handheld and mobile technologies and its hardware, through the use of portable electronic devices or wireless devices like cell phones, smartphones, iPods, personal digital assistants (PDAs), and wireless laptop computers. It is also defined as any learning that occurs when not at a fixed, predetermined location. The concepts and language of M-learning remain in development, as we are still at the early stages of using mobile devices to create learning opportunities.
Distance Education: Educational situation in which the instructor and students are separated by time, location, or both. Education or training courses are delivered to remote locations via synchronous or asynchronous means of instruction, including written correspondence, text, graphics, audio- and videotape, CD-ROM, online learning, audio- and videoconferencing, interactive TV, and FAX. Distance education does not preclude the use of the traditional classroom. The definition of distance education is broader than and entails the definition of E-learning.
Distance Learning: The desired outcome of distance education. The two terms are often used interchangeably.
M-Learning vs. E-Learning: One question often asked when someone is introduced to mobile learning is what is the difference between M-Learning and E-Learning? The main difference is connectivity, expense and location of the learning. The distinction between mobile learning and E-learning is a very gray area. A user of E-learning tends to use a tethered (connected to something) style of learning with the intent of learning something or acquiring a specific knowledge or skill. E-learning also offers learning in a formal and structured manner. Mobile learning is described mostly as untethered informal or opportunistic, as well as private, situational, and unstructured. In many cases mobile learning is used to support, or as an element of, E-learning. Mobile learning is less restrictive because it allows learning to occur anywhere and anytime.
Most mobile learning is done through handheld or wireless devices. This allows Federal employees the workplace flexibility of working anywhere and at any time they wish, as long as they meet the deadlines and produce the expected results from their work. It also allows for managing members of a mobile workforce, such as those who work under Telework Enhancement Act.
The TEA defines mobile telework as a work flexibility arrangement under which an employee performs (the) duties and responsibilities of such employee's position from an approved worksite other than the location from which the employee would otherwise work (mobile). Likewise, if an employee decides to take an online course or webinar and participate through a smart phone, cell phone, PDA, or other wireless device, it could save the Federal government both money and time.
M-Learning and Training Policy
One common question is whether or not an employee is covered by the training policies and regulations that cover usual "work hours" while using mobile learning at irregular times of the day. Answer: yes. Those same policies and regulations that addresses distance learning also apply to mobile learning.
The following agencies are currently using or are planning to use some type of mobile learning within their agency:
Defense Acquisition University (DAU)
DAU has assembled a group of faculty and staff to develop a strategy, experiment with different delivery options, and to ultimately ensure that the university provides the workforce resources that are available at their point of need. Mobile-ready information, performance support tools and learning resources are one channel to accomplish this goal. More information about this effort can be found at the following link: https://myclass.dau.mil/bbcswebdav/institution/Modules/Mobile/General/Presentations/Mobile_exec_23Aug2011.pdf
Department of Commerce
Thinking strategically about the fast-paced lives of their SES corps, the Department of Commerce decided to pilot a mobile learning initiative using a number of popular content providers, including Harvard Business, Book Abstract, and Skillsoft. The requirements were that the content must be downloadable, web-based, and able to be received by any mobile device.
The framework for the pilot at the Department Commerce included using a mobile-accessible online self-assessment tool, which was used to facilitate a one-on-one coaching session with an industrial and organizational psychologist, in which feedback was presented to the executive as well as recommendations for career development. Executives used this information to fill out their EDPs and select online/mobile learning content from the three providers.
In January 2011, the pilot was run with 30 SES members and received a great deal of positive feedback. The pilot was evaluated mid-way and at the end of the program so that lessons learned could be captured. Commerce expects to roll out the full program agency-wide in early 2012.
Foreign Service Institute (FSI)
The Foreign Service Institute (FSI) is the primary training institution for the Department of State and the U.S. foreign affairs community. FSI is a designated Federal E-Gov E-Training provider and is an Information Systems Security Line of Business Shared Services Center.
FSI has developed over 250 E-learning courses/resources, standalone and mentored, which are designed to promote successful performance in each assignment, to ease the adjustment to other countries and culture, and to enhance the leadership and management capabilities of the U.S. foreign affairs community. Topics include language and culture, leadership and management, security, technology, economics, public diplomacy, area studies, consular topics, and tradecraft.
FSI has undertaken a modest mobile pilot training and learning program and has just designed and deployed two mobile resources: Dari Express Mobile and Pashto Express Mobile. These products are designed as stand-alone resources for the specific foreign affairs audience.
The Express Mobile resources in the Dari and Pashto languages were designed to repurpose content from the existing mentored. Dari and Pashto custom E-learning courses into a mobile tool that is accessible at any time. Each resource serves as a point-of-need reference tool and consists of lessons in a video or audio-cast format, which require 20-40 minutes to complete and contain key topical vocabulary and phrases in the target language.
FSI is reviewing other materials and courses to determine what addition mobile resources we might provide to our target audience.
Well-executed, M-learning brings many benefits such as:
- Improved engagement of employees and employers.
- Improved communications between learner, employers and staff.
- Improved learner progress
- Improved learner achievement
- Improved staff motivation
Below are some of the websites that will help with the understanding of what mobile learning is and types of devices used for mobile learning:
- Mobile Learning Tools (ADL Mobile Learning Handbook)
- Blackboard Mobile Learn
- GSA's mobile learning website
Other Tools and Resources
- MLearning (Wikipedia)
- Mobile Learning -- 159 Resources (Educause)
- Information for Mobile Learning Practitioners (Advanced Distributed Learning)
- Mobile-Learning-Anywhere-Anytime, by David Wentworth from i4cp | May 6, 2011, Issue 523
- Resources on Mobile Learning - (ASTD)
- Google Mobilizer (Google Chrome extension)
- The Learning Guild
- Attewell, J., & Savill-Smith, C. (Eds.) (2003). Learning with Mobile Devices: Research and Development. MLEARN ’03 Book of Pages. London: Learning and Skills Development Agency.