What Role Does mLearning Play in Today’s Complex Learning Environments?

[Gisela’s Initial Email]

Hi Bryan,

I’m the TA for Foundations class and happened to listen to your interview with Jacob Lindsay. I had no idea you were into mobile learning, this is my research interest, although I’ve changed it quite a bit from the original purposes. In what aspects are you working with this modality? The use of mobile devices for students to access learning content on the go?? The mobile devices themselves as teaching tools? I’m curious and if I know you as well as I think I do, I’m sure you’ve been digging into this far more than I would have…I would appreciate if you could share some of your knowledge with me ūüôā

[My Reply]

Hey Gisela! ¬†Recently, work has had me so tied up with developing traditional, computer-based eLearning, that I haven’t had much of an opportunity at all to even think about mLearning. I’m actually quite jealous of you and the time you have at school to research and innovate in this area of learning.

For what it’s worth, I see mLearning as a component of the overall learning experience. Instructional designers need to draw upon their understanding of learning theory principles to incorporate mobile delivery effectively. ¬†(Many “app develops” I know are only concerned with user interface, and graphical layout. ¬†From my perspective, they have very little reverence for the science behind learning.)

I like to break up the learning experience into three parts:

  1. Prepare to learn
  2. Learn
  3. Be Accountable [Quiz/Reflect/Share/Etc.]

To facilitate these three parts, I find that a variety of tools are required.  Therefore, I often advocate a blended learning approach for the training that I develop.

I prepare learners by sometimes sending them purposes and thought questions via email, or on a PDF handout, or by advocating a one-on-one conversation with a manager.

Then I try to put the training experience in context of what they will be learning or doing as much as possible. Sometimes this main training is includes live presentation [rarely since we often serve a global audience]. More often than not I use a robust Flash tool that simulates real experiences.

To create accountability, I encourage managers to get involved with each of the employees’ training progression. This could mean automating an email at the conclusion of an eLearning course indicating that the employee is now ready to demonstrate a certain skill and receive feedback, or have a conversation about “X”.


I bet this dude used his new, fangled camcorder for absolutely EVERYTHING!

Use the right tool for the right job.  mLearning, specifically, is a tremendous tool that encourages specific learning principles like chunking, regular repetition of content, in-context learning (ibooks for school, simulations for plumbers, electricians, or truckers), PDF delivery/sharing,  just-in-time material such as checklists, real time forums, etc.

Hope these thoughts are helpful. I really do wish you and I can continue this conversation, and I will make a greater effort in the future to respond more quickly.

Your Brazil Buddy,


About bryantanner

I'm obsessed with learning via the appropriate technology. My professional mission is to effectively deliver instruction to learners in a way that yields the greatest results for all stakeholders involved.
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