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Learning On Our Own Terms

We all learn a little differently. As a kid, I remember taking an assessment that told me what type of learner I was. How great, right? Having my teachers know that I best learn socially and visually should have made it easier for them to communicate information to 10-year old me! Unfortunately, meeting my needs as well as all the other students and their learning styles proved impossible…even for the terrific teachers I had the privilege of learning from as a student.  As a result, teachers generally resort to more of a lecture-based format and can’t always focus on how learners optimally consume information.  Although intentions are great, traditional learning hasn’t always lent itself to the varieties and combinations of styles that we each possess.

But fear not, society! With mobile technology continuing to make its presence known in our every day lives, we are getting a fighting chance at learning on our own terms. Having the ability to access information from a mobile device, where you are expected to interact with the content, is shifting our mindset from conventional learning to a more progressive, learner-centered approach.

Enter “mobile learning”, or as it is being referred to, “mLearning” – here to challenge us to learn outside the box. The term can mean different things depending on the audience, but in general, mLearning is learning that occurs by taking advantage of the unique opportunities offered by mobile technologies.

What are some of these learning opportunities? For one, you have the ability to learn from anywhere! That’s right; learn while taking a jog on the treadmill or while commuting into your job if you so choose. Mobile gives us the freedom to take in information from wherever and whenever we choose.

Learning professionals have taken interest in this technology advantage by creating educational support tools that can be accessed from a mobile device, whether that is a PDF, diagram, or custom interactive app. Take, for instance, a pharmaceutical company that needs to educate its sales reps on a new product. Using their tablet devices, the reps can access product information, study materials, such as flashcards and mini-quizzes, and interact with the content on a need-to-know basis whenever it is convenient for them. This mobile solution in particular produced great results as it increased the reps’ speed to competency and provided them with a tool to use when they needed it most.

Another benefit is the ability to consume information in a way that makes sense to the learner. The experience can be personalized to accommodate various learning styles. Also, communication opportunities can be created between the educator and the learner to incorporate a social aspect, or simply to ask a question.  Further, take into account that mobile provides a solution to the challenge that distance presents. Training can be conducted virtually as a part of the overall training and development strategy as a way to minimize travel costs. There are so many new advantages that mobile technology brings to the learning space, and it constantly pushes us to question “what if?”

While mLearning seems like the greatest thing since sliced bread, there are still limitations, and learning professionals are constantly seeking new ways to overcome them. That said, the possibilities are great, and professionals across all industries are taking advantage of the opportunities mLearning provides to customize education for learners. Many companies are using it to develop employees by providing just-in-time knowledge that can be absorbed as needed while on the road instead of trying to cram it all into one sitting.  The direction that mLearning is headed allows the audience to approach information and learning in a way that makes sense – customizing pace, timing, and environment.

In summation, innovative technology is paving the way for a new generation of learning. Whether you’re a 10-year old student, a training manager of a large enterprise, or newly retired, the concept of mLearning has created a place for us all to learn, and learn we will – but this time, on our own terms.

References: http://edudemic.com/2012/12/mobile-learning/ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MLearning#Value http://www.fastcodesign.com/1669896/10-ways-that-mobile-learning-will-revolutionize-education https://commons.lbl.gov/download/attachments/77828943/mobile2011report-f2.pdf

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