12 Key Mobile Learning Trends For 2016

Top Mobile Learning Trends For 2016 

A few decades ago, the ‘web’ and ‘surf’ were the popular, fanciful, and yet revolutionary terms that we all loved to drop in our conversations and writings. Now, our communication media is witnessing the reign of the “cloud” and the “mobile”. The year 2016 too will see a lot of these two terms and its countless derivatives. One such notable encroachment of the term “mobile” is in eLearning. It’s called mobile learning or mLearning. The term mLearning is easily understood as any kind of learning or “any educational provision where the sole or dominant technologies are handheld or palmtop devices”. In other words, mLearning is eLearning where personal devices with portable technologies are put to use especially the smartphones or tablets. This further implies that the learners whether students or employees can access their learning or training content from anywhere.

Mobile learning obviously enjoys all the benefits of traditional eLearning and along with it also provides ample scope to fully utilize the blended learning approach. In this hybrid approach, web-based online learning is added to or used as complementary to the traditional in-person or face-to-face teaching and instructional method. Since mobile phones provide the learners control over time, place, path, and pace of learning, the blended learning method works exceptionally well if mLearning is employed.

Another remarkable benefit of mLearning is its instant chat capability which allows one learner to exchange information and interact with other learners in real-time. This capability fosters communication and collaboration among learners enabling them to make the most out of social learning.

Conventionally, mLearning is accessed through a type of web-based software, a Learning Management System (LMS). A Learning Management System undoubtedly provides an online place for storing all learning materials to be accessed through mobile devices but that is not all what it does. If a Learning Management System is powerful it can assist in tracking learning activity, make assessments, provide scores and support many other features related to learning. The apposite Learning Management System not only makes learning simple and convenient for the mLearners but also the learning administrators and coordinators who upload and update the learning content.

12 Mobile Learning Trends For The Near Future

The use of mobile phones is rocketing and so is the power and speed of internet connectivity. These two trends have a pronounced impact on mobile learning leading to a spectrum of mobile learning trends. Let’s take a look at 12 of them:

  1. Flash to HTML5.
    HTML5 is smarter and faster than Flash and is slowly replacing the latter to bring out interactive engaging content in mLearning. 
  2. Device agnostic design approach.
    The Bring Your Own Device (BOYD) trend in workplaces is to be thanked for the development and for catering of design and content that work equally well in all devices irrespective of the device system, without any need for special adaptations.
  3. Mobile app analytics.
    Analytics will play a major role in providing insights into the interaction pattern and behavior of learners by monitoring app traffic and visualizing page-flows.
  4. Multi-screen usage.
    We are now used to owning more than one mobile device. mLearning too is being shuffled between multiple screens like that of smartphone or a tablet.
  5. Responsive web design.
    To ensure multiple device consistency the design and content will need to adapt to the sizes of the screens of various mobile devices. That is why responsive web design is on the rise.
  6. Bite-sized learning.
    Information does not always come in large chunks anymore; they come in tiny pieces that are easily digestible called "snippets" or "nuggets". Bite-sized learning is employed for performance support and immediate availability of useful information.
  7. Competency-based learning.
    Professional competency is being built using mobile videos and simulators, especially in manufacturing and healthcare industries. 
  8. Gamified learning.
    Gamification has revolutionized mLearning by making it more fun, engaging, and convenient. It has also simplified teaching abstract concepts like decision making and team building. 
  9. Geo-location sensitive learning.
    Geo-location allows administrators to create learning content that is authentic, personalized, and contextually relevant to the learners based on their geographical location.
  10. Augmented reality.
    Superimposition of digital information on the mobile user’s view of real world especially on the photos the user captures using his mobile device.
  11. Social mobile learning.
    Discussions, events, and groups on social networking sites like Facebook or brainstorming and discussions through a specially created social mobile platform is transforming social interaction among learners and how they share knowledge.
  12. Wearable technology.
    Wearable technology can pave way to rendering context sensitive content, especially live streaming of an instructional or informational video. For example, a surgical procedure streamed live on the Google Glass.

Narrowing Down: 6 Key Mobile Learning Trends For 2016

Now, let’s take a peek at the top 6 trends to watch this year. The following trends will give us an idea where the domain of mLearning is headed and how it is constantly evolving with up-to-the-minute technology and user behavior.

  1. HTML5. 
    We are now witnessing a downturn in the popularity of Flash as HTML5 is gradually superseding it. The advent of this trend owes to the fact that HTML5 is accessible on all platforms, browsers and devices unlike Flash which is not considered very mobile-friendly. HTML5 offers a faster, more robust and versatile alternative to cater to the needs of mLearners.
  2. Big Data analytics.
    eLearning has always acknowledged the power of Big Data but 2016 will be a big year for Big Data app analytics. By providing a deeper understanding of the learner behavior and preferences, the Big Data analytics helps in improving your overall mLearning model or strategy. Big Data analytics assists in keeping track of your mobile traffic, device usage and provides insights regarding the strengths and weaknesses of your mLearning program. This allows you to customize the program accordingly so that the learning experience always catches up with the level of expectations that the mLearners have.  Most of the Learning Management Systems have built-in analytics and reporting features.
  3. Responsive web design.
    Responsive web design is capable of automatically adapting the design and content according to the screen size and resolution of the device. Similarly, a responsive Learning Management System alters the placement of images, text blocks, and layout based on the mobile device so that optimal viewing experience is guaranteed in every device no matter what its size or resolution.
  4. Wearable technology.
    Wearable gadgets or tech is gradually gaining popularity as it is becoming more user-friendly and at the same time affordable. A few popular examples include Google Glass, Oculus Rift, Apple Watch, and Android Wear. The eLearning industry can easily make use of wearable tech once it becomes popular since it has a very high potential of transforming simulations and online scenarios into interactive and dynamic experience in online learning environments.
  5. "Moment of Need" mobile support.
    Online learning material doesn’t always suffice, there is often a need for accessing reference material to either acquire more knowledge or look at the learning content from a different perspective. In working environments, employees are in need of tutorials, manuals and similar reference materials which may not be a part of online training content. In such cases, the employees will need what is called the ‘moment of need’ mobile support. This enables the employees or other mLearners to carry out crucial tasks and activities without having to move away from their work stations. This trend if effectively put to use can elevate employee performance and productivity with minimal cost of training. In organizations with a distributed workforce, mobile support is almost a mandatory tool.
  6. Geo-location.
    If you are thinking of delivering online learning content to a global or geographically distributed audience, then geo-location is an invaluable tool. A Learning Management System offering geo-location features can automatically detect the learner’s location and deliver the learning course or training content that is contextually relevant to him. This concept is important while designing location-based online content like scavenger hunt online training exercises or regional surveys. In order to cater to a global audience, geo-location is often paired with localization. This process usually entails in depth audience research to get relevant insights into customs, social norms and backgrounds of online learners from all possible locations.

The level of flexibility and control that mobile devices provide coupled with the technological advances being made in the present world is bringing about a paradigm shift in the eLearning industry. Learning is becoming more personalized, contextual and heuristic. mLearning is not merely about delivering the courseware through a different medium, it has greatly altered the content too- which has become smaller in size.

mLearning should not only be seen through the lens of mobility. Mobility is of course the focal point of mLearning experience but it’s much more than just that. mLearning is driven by higher objectives like rendering a global learning experience without compromising contextual relevance and personalization. mLearning aims to make learning ubiquitous and not only is mLearning à la mode; it is future-proof too.

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