Game of Phones – 7 DOs & DON’Ts in m-learning
Mobile learning is confusing. In theory it sounds great, in practice it’s often misattributed hype. Different devices have different patterns of use. The fact that you make ‘responsive’ e-learning simply means that it can be delivered on different devices NOT that it will be used on different devices. M-learning is, therefore, often more fiction than fact.
1. DON’T expect people to play tennis in a cupboard
People don’t do long e-learning courses on mobile phones. It’s a device for short, episodic activity, not long, deep, reflective learning experiences. Large e-learning courses on mobiles are a waste of time. It’s like playing tennis in a cupboard.
2. DO use for informal learning
Formal stuff is hard on mobiles, so focus on informal, such as fast facts, flashcards, quick quizzes, comms and support for students, social media and so on. People use mobiles informally, so deliver informal learning.
3. DO use for projects
Long used for gathering material and evidence for assessment in vocational learning. Mobiles are great at gathering data, whether notes, images, audio or video. It gives impetus to learning by doing.
4. DO use for performance support
OK, you’re stuck and only have a mobile to hand. That’s when you need the right answer to a question or solution to a problem. This is short, sharp and useful. Learning at the point of need.
5. DO use for spaced practice
The most ignored piece of theory in the psychology of learning is the Ebbinghaus forgetting curve – we forget most of what people suppose we learn – fact. The solution is spaced practice and mobiles are powerful, portable and personal devices in our pockets, so we can deliver spaced practice by delivering cues from any learning experience across a defined time.
6. DON’T expect people to pay
Yes, non-wifi use costs money. Don’t expect learners to pay unless they have agreed to this approach. This sounds obvious but it’s a fact that is too often forgotten in designing m-learning.
7. DON’T cheat on mobile metrics
First, there’s confusion about what ‘mobile’ devices are, a confusion that is confusing the hell out of everyone. When I say “he’s using a mobile”, I don’t mean he’s using a ‘tablet’. Otherwise, I’d say “he’s using a tablet”. Yet people are reporting mobile use as phones plus tablets. If the answer is, tablets are taken around by people and used as second screens, then those two criteria also apply to my laptop. This is sleight of hand. Don’t cheat on mobile metrics
In the same way that tablets have been hyped in schools, as they are limited in terms of complex learning tasks such as long-form writing, coding, tools etc., mobiles are hyped in formal learning. Don’t treat all devices as delivery devices. Different devices have different learning attributes.