Desktop Versus Mobile Learning

Desktop Versus Mobile Learning
Summary: Who would win in an eLearning cage fight—the bigger, older, and experienced desktop computer or the young, light on its feet mobile device? A similar scenario played out in a recent Game of Thrones episode. The characters were debating the outcome of a fight between a hulking warrior and his scrawny opponent. The end result of the battle surprised a few characters and pleased a few others. Similarly, the quick rise of mobile learning may have surprised some and left us asking….

What Would Be The Result Of A Desktop Versus Mobile Learning Matchup?

Thus far in eLearning, I don’t think we’ve really seen a decisive outcome in the desktop vs. mobile duel. Desktop hasn’t truly met an ending battle like the historic Battle of Waterloo; there are still times when it is beneficial to deliver training on a desktop computer. As each authoring tool enhances its support for mLearning, mobile grows a little stronger and builds up its army. For example, beta testing of the Lectora® Responsive Course Design for mobile devices is set to begin this summer. That could be a turning point on the desktop vs. mobile battlefield! But until the eLearning shot heard ‘round the world happens and we find ourselves at another decisive battle, let’s not label desktop down for the count just yet.

When desktop delivery is the way to go:

  • If you have older employees who feel more comfortable on a desktop than a mobile device
  • If your company doesn’t provide smartphones or cover data use for employees
  • If your organization uses an LMS that isn’t compatible with mobile learning delivery

When mobile delivery wins:

  • The large touch screen of a tablet is practically begging for gesture-based interaction and engaging content
  • If you’re considering a game-based eLearning course, you should definitely think about mobile delivery
  • Smartphones are perfect for performance support and just-in-time learning

If mLearning is going to win over desktop, instructional designers will need to keep a few things in mind. For example, Connie Malamed notes, “Users probably won’t sit for an hour going through a full-blown eLearning course on a phone. The more likely scenario is that people will squeeze a mobile learning segment in between other activities. And they will access a performance support app while doing a task. Think micro-learning and micro-instruction, which is ideal for informal learning and learning augmentation.

Another eLearning Industry author, Tim Buff, reminds us that “despite what many people may assume, learning content for mobile devices cannot always be simply a smaller version of a course designed for the desktop environment.” He also suggests we think about making use of the mobile device’s technology. “Can you make good use of the camera, microphone, GPS, or any other features? For example, could your learning be genuinely improved by varying what is shown dependent on the learner’s GPS location?”

So many things you could do with mLearning that you can’t do on a desktop! What do you think—is mobile going to win the ultimate learning showdown?

Here are a few more articles to help you explore mLearning: