When mLearning Isn’t mLearning

While sitting at the airport in San Jose waiting for my flight to leave, I started reflecting over the past week at the #mLearnCon. If you are interested in mobile or education and training, this conference is well worth the investment. I said a statement while sitting on a panel of experts that I think needs to expanded upon. One of the times the mic was passed to me I told the packed audience that most of the mLearning that I had seen was not mLearning. It was more like J.I.I (Just In-time Information).

What is JII (gee)

Many people that develop training material are familiar with JIT which stands for Just In-time Training. Simply, it means that when you need some training or need to learn how to do something, you get the appropriate training to complete that task. For the most part, what organizations have called mLearning is actually more like passing along information that will help you perform a task better. The question is, is it training?

The Difference between JII and JIT

As a professor at a college, I’m constantly making handouts on specific topics. We use these handouts as a reference or a resource. If I gave a class of students a hand out and left it at that, how many people would say that these students have been trained? Yes they have some vital information that will make their work easier but are they trained? We don’t know so I would say no they are not trained because there is no way of seeing if they read, comprehended and can apply the information they received on a handout. A lot of mLearning is like this. It provides information about a subject. It may be a follow up to some in class training and the message is reinforcing what was taught. This is good but again, is this training.

If you ever walk the halls of an eLearning conference, developers and instructional designers will scold anyone who makes a “page turner” and call that training. So, why is it OK to make a page turner for mobile devices.

What is mLearning?

To call something learning, there has to be a way to observe and measure the mastery of an objective. Working with a tablet is fairly straight forward as most eLearning apps with interactions can be ported over. However, on a phone this is different. To ensure the understanding of the content, you still need a method of engaging the participant. On a phone, it may be limited to some randomized questions or to fill in a web form that has check boxes and radio buttons as opposed to typing in a lot of text. You can also do some simple drag and drop exercises (put the following list in the appropriate order based on the importance). At that point, you can call it training because you have an activity or activities that measure if the person understood what they read. You can also start with a quiz and then provide answers for questions they answered wrong.


Anyway you look at it, the old adage “the dissemination of information does not equal training”. Just because you give a person a handout doesn’t mean they are trained. We engage participants when they take courses on a desktop. Let’s make sure we do the same thing when we use mobile technology.

What are your thoughts? Have you seen some good/bad mLearning?

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2 Responses to When mLearning Isn’t mLearning

  1. elearningjoe says:

    Great thinking, Phil. You be a smart one, you.

  2. This is a awesome blog for better understanding what is Mlearning and what is not! I agree with you any mlearning based app has to be ending up with quiz or some kind of activity before going to the next task or lesson. Now-a-days, kids like to learn any subject through Game that engages them. Will all mlearning apps look like games in Future to attract all type of people to learn something?

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