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The title of this article should be mLearning. The initial letter is capitalized due to technical restrictions.

File:Nokia770-fi-wiki crop.jpg

Wikipedia on Nokia 770 is an example of mobile learning

The term mLearning, or "mobile learning", has different meanings for different communities. Although related to e-learning and distance education, it is distinct in its focus on learning across contexts and learning with mobile devices. One definition of mobile learning is: Any sort of learning that happens when the learner is not at a fixed, predetermined location, or learning that happens when the learner takes advantage of the learning opportunities offered by mobile technologies.[1] In other words, mobile learning decreases limitation of learning location with the mobility of general portable devices.

The term covers: learning with portable technologies, where the focus is on the technology (which could be in a fixed location, such as a classroom); learning across contexts, where the focus is on the mobility of the learner, interacting with portable or fixed technology; and learning in a mobile society, with a focus on how society and its institutions can accommodate and support the learning of an increasingly mobile population that is not satisfied with existing learning methodologies.

M-learning is convenient in the sense that it is accessible from virtually anywhere, which provides access to all the different learning materials available. It is also collaborative; sharing is almost instantaneous among everyone using the same content, which leads to the reception of instant feedback and tips. M-Learning also brings strong portability by replacing books and notes with small RAMs, filled with tailored learning contents. In addition, this kind of learning is engaging and fun. Therefore, it is simple to utilize mobile learning for a more effective and entertaining experience.


1970s and 1980s

Alan Kay and colleagues in the Learning Research Group at Xerox Palo Alto Research Center [PARC] propose the Dynabook as a book-sized computer to run dynamic simulations for learning. Their interim Dynabooks are the first networked workstations.


Universities in Europe and Asia develop and evaluate mobile learning for students. Palm corporation offers grants to universities and companies who create and test the use of Mobile Learning on the PalmOS platform. Knowledgility creates the first mobile learning modules for CCNA, A+ and MCSE certification using the core tools that later became LMA.


The European Commission funds the major multi-national MOBIlearn and M-Learning projects.

Companies were formed that specialize in three core areas of mobile learning.

  1. Authoring and publishing
  2. Delivery and Tracking
  3. Content Development

Conferences and trade shows were created to specifically deal with mobile learning and handheld education, including: mLearn, WMUTE, and IADIS Mobile Learning international conference series, ICML in Jordan, Mobile Learning in Malaysia, Handheld Learning in London, SALT Mobile in USA.

Analysis (costs / benefits, forcast)


The value of mobile learning[2] --Tutors commented on the value of mobile learning as follows.

  • It is important to bring new technology into the classroom.
  • Mobile learning could be utilised as part of a learning approach which uses different types of activities (or a blended learning approach).
  • Mobile learning supports the learning process rather than being integral to it.
  • Mobile learning needs to be used appropriately, according to the groups of students involved.
  • Mobile learning can be a useful add-on tool for students with special needs. However, for SMS and MMS this might be dependent on the students’ specific disabilities or difficulties involved.
  • Good IT support is needed.
  • Mobile learning can be used as a ‘hook’ to re-engage disaffected youth.
  • It is necessary to have enough devices for classroom use .


Technical challenges include
  • Connectivity and battery life
  • Screen size and key size [3]
  • Ability for authors to visualize mobile phones for delivery
  • Multiple standards, multiple screen sizes, multiple operating systems
  • Repurposing existing e-Learning materials for mobile platforms
Social and educational challenges include
  • Accessibility and cost barriers for end users: Digital divide.
  • How to assess learning outside the classroom
  • How to support learning across many contexts
  • Developing an appropriate theory of learning for the mobile age
  • Conceptual differences between e- and m-learning
  • Design of technology to support a lifetime of learning [4][5]
  • Tracking of results and proper use of this information
  • No restriction on learning timetable
  • Personal and private information and content
  • No demographic boundary
  • Disruption of students' personal and academic lives [6]
  • Access to and use of the technology in developing countries [7]


Over the past ten years mobile learning has grown from a minor research interest to a set of significant projects in schools, workplaces, museums, cities and rural areas around the world. The mLearning community is still fragmented, with different national perspectives, differences between academia and industry, and between the school, higher education and lifelong learning sectors.

Current areas of growth include:

  • Testing, surveys, job aids and just in time learning
  • Location-based and contextual learning
  • Social-networked mobile learning
  • Mobile educational gaming
  • "Lowest common denominator" mLearning to cellular phones using two way SMS messaging and voice-based CellCasting (podcasting to phones with interactive assessments)

According to a report by Ambient Insight in 2008, "the US market for Mobile Learning products and services is growing at a five-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 21.7% and revenues reached $538 million in 2007. The data indicate that the demand is relatively immune from the recession."[8] The findings of the report indicate that the largest demand throughout the forecast period is for custom development services, content conversion, and media services and that the healthcare sector accounts for 20% of the total US market for mobile learning.


Technologies currently being researched for mobile learning include:[9]

  • Location aware learning
  • Point-and-shoot learning with camera phones and 2D codes
  • Near Field Communications (NFC) secure transactions
  • Sensors and accelerometers in mobile devices in behavioral based learning
  • Mobile content creation (including user generated content)
  • Games and simulation for learning on mobile devices
  • Context-aware ubiquitous learning
  • Augmented reality on mobile devices


File:Acer X960 smartphone.jpg

Smartphones are one of the platforms used for mobile learning.

While many think of mobile learning as delivering eLearning on small form factor devices, or often referred to as eLearning “lite”, it has the potential to do much more than deliver courses, or parts of courses. It includes the use of mobile/handheld devices to perform any of the following:

  • Deliver Education/Learning
  • Foster Communications/Collaboration
  • Conduct Assessments/Evaluations
  • Provide Access to Performance Support/Knowledge

Today, any number of portable devices can quickly and easily deliver and support these functions. Cell or smartphones, multi-game devices, personal media players (PMPs), personal digital assistants (PDAs), or wireless single-purpose devices can help deliver coaching and mentoring, conduct assessments and evaluations (e.g., quizzes; tests; surveys/polls; and certifications), provide on-the-job support and access to information, education and references, and deliver podcasts, update alerts, forms and checklists. In these ways, mobile learning can enhance and support more traditional learning modes, making it more portable and accessible. Mobile devices can also serve as powerful data collection tools and facilitate the capture of user created content.[9]


File:Military Mobile Learning.jpg

The use of mobile learning in the military is becoming increasingly common due to low cost and high portability.

In the classroom

See also: classroom
  • Children and students using handheld computers, PDAs or handheld voting systems (such as clickers) in a classroom or lecture room.
  • Students using mobile devices in the classroom to enhance group collaboration among students and instructors using a Pocket PC.

For blended learning

See also: Blended learning

Mobile learning can provide support in order to enhance training that has been provided in a corporate business or other classroom environment.

Class management

The mobile phone (through text SMS notices) can be used especially for distance education or students whose course requires them to be highly mobile and in particular to communicate information regarding availability of assignment results, venue changes and cancellations, etc.


Podcasting consists in listening to audio recordings of lectures, and can be used for instance to reinforce lecture (Clark & Westcott (2007) and in particular to give the possibility for the student to rehearsal. It may be considered to have some influence on the traditional lectures (McGarr 2009) (Steven & Teasley 2009).

Psychological research suggests that university students who download a podcast lecture achieve substantially higher exam results than those who attend the lecture in person, but only in the case when students take notes (Callaway & Ewen 2009).

Podcasts maybe be delivered using syndication, although it should be noted that this method of delivery is not always easily adopted (Lee, Miller & Newnham 2009).


  • Learning in museums or galleries with handheld or wearable technologies
  • Learning outdoors, for example on field trips.
  • Continuous learning and portable tools for military personnel.

At work

  • On the job training for someone who accesses training on a mobile device "just in time" to solve a problem or gain an update.

Life long learning and self-learning

The use of personal technology to support informal or lifelong learning, such as using handheld dictionaries and other devices for language learning.

Mobile technologies and approaches, i.e. Mobile Assisted Language Learning (MALL), are also used to assist in language learning. For instance handheld computers, cell phones, but also podcasting (Horkoff Kayes2008) have been used for helping people to acquire a language.


  • Improving levels of literacy, numeracy and participation in education amongst young adults.
  • Using the communication features of a mobile phone as part of a larger learning activity (eg: sending media or texts into a central portfolio, or exporting audio files from a learning platform to your phone)


Mobile devices and personal technologies that can support mobile learning, include:

  • Personal Digital Assistant, in the classroom and outdoors
  • UMPC, mobile phone, camera phone and SmartPhone
  • Tablet PC
  • Personal audio player, e.g. for listening to audio recordings of lectures (podcasting)
  • Handheld audio and multimedia guides, in museums and galleries
  • E-book
  • Handheld game console, modern gaming consoles such as Sony PSP or Nintendo DS

Technical and delivery support for mobile learning:

  • 3GP For compression and delivery method of audiovisual content associated with Mobile Learning
  • Wi-Fi gives access to instructors and resources via internet
  • GPRS mobile data service, provides high speed connection and data transfer rate


  • Learning Mobile Author, e.g. for authoring and publishing WAP, Java ME and SmartPhone

Relevant Organisations

  • The International Association for Mobile Learning [10]
    • The International Association for Mobile Learning (IamLearn) has been formed as a membership organization to promote excellence in research, development and application of mobile and contextual learning. It organizes the annual mLearn international conference series. IamLearn manages a website to collate and disseminate information about new projects, emerging technologies, and teaching resources.

Key events

See also



  1. (2003). Guidelines for learning/teaching/tutoring in a mobile environment. MOBIlearn. URL accessed on June 8, 2009.
  2. Mobile learning in practice:Piloting a mobile learning teachers’ toolkit in further ducation colleges.C.Savill and etc,p8
  3. Maniar, N., Bennett, E., Hand, S. & Allan, G (2008). The effect of mobile phone screen size on video based learning. Journal of Software 3 (4): 51–61.
  4. Sharples, M. (2000). The design of personal mobile technologies for lifelong learning. Computers & Education 34: 177–193.
  5. Moore, J. (2009). "A portable document search engine to support off-line mobile learning". Proceedings of IADIS International Conference Mobile Learning. 
  6. Masters, K.; Ng'ambi D. (2007). "After the broadcast: disrupting health sciences’ students' lives with SMS". Proceedings of IADIS International Conference Mobile Learning: 171–175. 
  7. Masters, K. (2005). "Low-key m-learning: a realistic introduction of m-learning to developing countries". Seeing, Understanding, Learning in the Mobile Age. 
  8. Adkins, S.S. (2008). The US Market for Mobile Learning Products and Services: 2008-2013 Forecast and Analysis. Ambient Insight. URL accessed on June 8, 2009.
  9. 9.0 9.1 (2008). Mobile Learning Update. Learning Consortium Perspectives. URL accessed on June 9, 2009.
  10. The International Association for Mobile Learning

External links

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