The Two Paths to Mobile Learning

mobile learning

There are basically 2 broad categories of mobile learning solutions: Mobile Enabled, and Mobile Designed. Mobile enabled means that you allow your delivery system to display your learning content on mobile devices as well as desktops.  Mobile Designed Solutions are learning experiences designed specifically for the capabilities of mobile devices.

What is Mobile Enabled eLearning?

Using existing courses designed for the desktop and publishing them to a system that displays the learning content correctly on a mobile device is commonly defined as mobile enabled.  Some would go so far as to say it’s not even mobile learning.  Others might even tell you that mobile learning isn’t even real, and that mobile devices are only good for performance support solutions and augmented learning experiences. The reality is that there is a wide spectrum of business problems and situations that could benefit from the wide spectrum of solutions involving mobile devices and the delivery of content.

As you may have read in my previous posts, I am not afraid to push pdf, video, or ppt, files as courses when there is a clear need, and a plan for iterative design/development. So, it makes perfect sense to have a Learning Management System that can also deliver this type of course to mobile devices.  I’ve read plenty of educational pdf’s,  watched countless training videos, and swiped through scores of PowerPoint files, on iPhones and iPads. It’s not a bad experience.  And when I need the information I’m all to happy to consume it on my mobile device at the moment that I need it.  Is it perfect? No. But I’d rather have it imperfect NOW, rather than perfectly designed 6 weeks later…or more. And I’m certain I’m not alone. So, you shouldn’t be surprised when I tell you that it’s okay to simply convert your existing content to a format that can display on mobile devices.

What is Mobile Designed mLearning?

Designing specifically FOR mobile devices is unique…and fun. It’s this design process that is the shiny new object tempting us to divert our attention from other things.  It’s the dream of location aware performance support, and even mLearning content that customizes itself depending on your location.  Augmented Reality as a part of the learning process is also enticing. Pointing the camera of your mobile device at an area and immediately getting learning content about that area, or object.  It’s the excitement of new learning experiences that take advantage of uniquely mobile capabilities and reviving our design creativity beyond clicking the next button on a desktop.

When you are contemplating mLearning for your business it’s important to understand these two different types of projects. This understanding will help you have more productive conversations with consultants and vendors. You may find that you can provide a lot of business value by simply converting existing content to a mobile enabled format and system instead of being seduced by the latest sexy, new, augmented, location based, mobile first, performance support, dynamic content generating, whiz bang mLearning thingamajig.

Always remember to keep it simple, and add business value. And that sometimes means holding off on the shiny new stuff.  But it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t know about it, and prepare for it in the coming years.

And where else better to do that than The eLearning Guild’s mLearnCon 2014 Conference and Expo.  I’ll be there Tuesday and Wednesday if you’d like to drop by the Litmos booth and say hi.

*image courtesy of