When will the tipping point come for mobile learning?

There is an ever growing conviction, and no shortage of investment in mobile learning technologies by the e-learning industry at present, indicating a firm belief that this is the “now” or “next” big thing!

In an industry given over to a little too much hype and excitement in our view, we wonder what will be the actual tipping point for mobile learning in a world of tightly constrained L& D budgets?

Well, in short we believe it will be with the emergence of Mobile Business Strategies and Mobile Device Management Software.  

To add to the clamour and hype of mlearning, the rise of BYOD – Bring Your Own Device, with employees (and students and school children) all wishing to bring their own smartphone and tablet to the workplace or learn place, an interesting new phenomena is emerging.

The potential for mobile learning has been well understood for some years, but has never really broken through, due in part to the limitations of mobile devices and networks and issues around content. This clearly is no longer the case, as smartphones and tablets are now well suited towards specific learning genres…….this is indeed the new “learning mix” challenge, as we go beyond the traditional “blended learning” model!

Some interesting early studies have been published as to how these devices are being used….there are notable differences in how i-pads are used compared to Android powered tablets for instance. Studies are emerging to the types of activities smartphones are used for….Texting, talking, checking e-mails, retrieving information, locational services, playing games etc…sadly non thought to research if learning activities were being undertaken.

The genie is now out of the bottle and many organisations are now considering mobile business strategies and it is this that will put Mobile Learning firmly on more and more agendas.

With learning and development budgets under pressure can we expect large enterprise wide investments in mobile learning projects? Well mobile learning itself is not cheap, and it is still fraught with issues around operating standards and integration.

The role of managing a disparate collection of devices likely to be in place across an organisation is going to be a challenge for any mobile strategy and L&D budgets alone will be hard pressed to manage the challenges of a mobile information system leveraging BYOD for learning as a stand-alone project.

Mobile business plus BYOD now means we may see the post of “Chief Mobile Business Officer” emerge as companies look to cope with a complete employee led re-wire of the existing IS infrastructure! This really is BPR with a twist!….  And deliver the benefits to the organisation of mobile working – which is all about productivity, speed of communication new levels of collaboration and learning and obviously new channels of communication and service interfaces with customers.

One of the crucial developments that will enable mobile learning (probably as a subset of a mobile business strategy) will be the emergence of “Mobile Device Management” protocols, to give an organisation control of the disparate array of devices it is likely to have to leverage. This will enable the mobile business strategy- it is after all about re-asserting or maintaining control in this newly re-wired world.

What does this mean for mobile learning providers, well it is the new challenge of alignment to the organisations needs around a mobile business strategy and a recognition of the role of Mobile Device Management and it is not about mobile learning per se “because we can learn from these devices”, but it is the “how” this will relate to mobile business strategy.