mLearning: The Mobile Potential for Online Learning


Several educators are beginning to capitalize on a phenomenon fast becoming known as "mLearning" or "m-Learning" – integrating smartphones and tablets in education to enhance their curricula. Over at the Learning Technologies Blog at ASTD, a pair of intriguing posts by Mayra Aixa Villar sketch out the potential for mobile devices in continuing education.

Smartphones and tablets hold so much more potential than just a fancy new way to turn in homework.

“Anything can trigger a learning experience when we use today´s multitasking portable devices,” Villar says. “Mobile devices have built in capabilities that can promote many different kinds of online learning activities.”

Villar then proceeds to catalog an extensive list of ways in which mobile technology can enable online learning. A few of these may seem obvious or redundant, but some of her ideas represent fresh territory that people are only beginning to explore. Two ideas that stand out include: the idea of mobile devices as multimedia studios and the idea of mobile devices as environment explorers.

“The learner can capture, edit, and share the world around him through mobile devices,” says Villar.

Think about it – in most online education environments, students are already spread out over a wide geographical area. Mobile devices enable dispersed students to record, edit, and remix their environments, then share their creations with each other.

Students could conduct and broadcast a live interview online and instructors could unleash their students through scavenger hunts and other fact-finding missions. Either of these mLearning projects would probably be more engaging to most students than writing an essay.

When students use their smartphones and tablets to explore their immediate surroundings, they bring that small piece of the world to life for all their fellow learners. Building knowledge and online learning is no longer limited to the lonely student – it’s a shared experience through collaboration.

That’s why Villar calls mobile learning “A limitless knowledge-building enabler.”

Some online universities already provide smartphone apps to their students. But there is much more work to do in mLearning. We’re excited to see what’s next.

Written by: Travis Taggart
Travis is a regular contributor to the Ashford University blog.

Questions? Talk with an Advisor