Connecting dots for digital learning and teaching

Mobile Learning Isn’t Just Another Delivery Method

With mobile devices getting popular and ubiquitous, mobile learning is one of the most important trends in the learning industry. In the Horizon report for K-12 edition just released last week, mobile learning is predicted to become the main stream  in the near term (less than one year). While it may have the following features: informal, unplanned, short duration, cluttered environment, Ad-hoc space…, but it’s perfect for just-in-time learning and has the potential to provide ubiquitous, contextualized learning.

From a broader scope,  Advanced Distributed Learning (, ADL) describes mobile learning as :

Leveraging ubiquitous mobile technology for the adoption or augmentation of knowledge, behaviors, or skills through education, training, or performance support while the mobility of the learner may be independent of time, location, and space.” (ADL, 2012). 

Some may believe this mobile paradigm shift requires instructional design (ID) models be significantly changed or new ID models created. Instead, ADL proposes a framework that leaves ID models intact but augments them by injecting concepts, considerations, decisions, and guidelines specific to the mobile learning paradigm. In the paper : “Mobile Learning: Not Just Another Delivery Method”, ADL summarizes a review of literature and a state-of-the-art assessment of instructional design principles, iterative process methodologies, and pedagogical models for mobile learning.

Based on the findings from this research study, this paper will provide background learning theory that will ultimately lead to new considerations for supporting mobile learning. Finally, this paper will propose a new framework for supporting mobile learning content within any instructional design (ID) model, but will use the traditional ADDIE model as a starting point.

Learning technology design

Image courtesy Brad Ovenell-Carter

A few highlights in this paper are as below:

To Mobile or Not to Mobile

Guidelines for Determining Whether a Mobile Learning Strategy is Appropriate :

The paper gave a sample list of considerations that can be used to help make the decision in the “mLearning Macrostrategy” decision node. (the first step of the framework)

• Learning needs to be accessible due to learners’ mobility or requirements of the learning environment
• Learners are to make field observations as part of the learning activities
• In a case where learning may need to change depending on the actual location (i.e., leveraging “location awareness” of smartphones)
• Where learners do not have time to take learning modules during their work schedule, and instead prefer to take it during “on the fly” and/or “offline” moments.

Learning Theory

Learning theories are organizing principles of the proposed framework. Learning professionals (Dick and Carey, 2009) think of learning theories in terms of basically three major categories:

• Behaviorist

• Cognitivist

• Constructivist

Performance Support

Performance support is the discipline that harnesses informal learning and makes it intentional (Gottfredson & Mosher, 2011). Quinn (2011) describes three types
of performance support for mobile (termed “performance augmentation”):

• Media capability – user generated content (using camera, etc.)
• Data and processing ability – calculators, decision trees, etc.
• Communication – ways to connect with other learners.

An important design principle in performance support is to use the principles of performance-centered design; that is, designing the application around the way that mobile performers do their work, not based on the inherent organization of the domain of knowledge used for learning applications.

Performance support can be designed for use before, during, or after performance. Rossett and Schafer (2007) describe these differential design considerations for each. Performance support solutions can also standalone and are often provided at any of the five moments of learning need:

1. When learning for the first time
2. When wanting to learn more
3. When applying and remembering
4. When things go wrong
5. When things change

(Gottfredson & Mosher, 2011). Mobile performance support and mobile learning are related, but they are not the same. Mobile performance support solutions can be part of a larger mobile learning strategy that may or may not include instruction. Many of the best examples of learning implementations on mobile devices today are actually mobile performance support.

Check out the paper to learn about the framework for mobile learning designing : Mobile Learning not just another delivery method (pdf).


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3 Responses »


  1. Mobile Learning Isn’t Just Another Delive...
  2. Mobile Learning Isn't Just Another Delivery Met...
  3. A New Tool for Instructional Designers – The Mobile Learning Decision Path (#mlearning) | Classroom Aid

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“Tell me and I will forget, show me and I may remember, involve me and I will understand.” -------- Chinese Wisdom "Games are the most elevated form of investigation." -------- Albert Einstein
"I'm calling for investments in educational technology that will help create digital tutors that are as effective as personal tutors, educational software as compelling as the best video game," President Barack Obama said while touring a tech-focused Boston school (year 2011).
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