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Mobile Learning: Past, Present, And Future

Mobile Learning: Past, Present, And Future

Mobile learning is one of the hottest topics in learning and development right now. Everyone seems to be trying to develop a mobile learning strategy.

To better plan your strategy, you should understand the progression of mobile learning over time in order to plan for not just today, but also the future.

The Past

Although mobile has been gaining in popularity over the last couple of years, it certainly isn’t new. Since the early 1980’s, handheld devices such as PDAs, GPS-enabled navigation systems, and voice recorders, to name a few, have been available and widely used. Consumers gradually became accustomed to carrying these portable tools. The “take it with you” mentality was quickly adopted by a society of people increasingly on-the-go. Even though it was a hassle to carry all these devices around, the benefit of having a device with you when you needed it was worth the effort for many.

The Present

In time, technology improvements allowed us to have all of the gadgets that we loved in one pocket-sized treasure: the smartphone. Since 91 percent of U.S. adults now own a cell phone, mobile devices are playing an increasingly central role in the way that people access information. The Pew Internet Report from 2013 says that 63 percent of adult cell phone owners now use their phones to go online. This is a 100% increase from 2009.

Organizations are taking advantage of the benefits provided by mobile technology now more than ever. For example, consider the money saved by converting manuals to eBooks to drastically reduce printing costs. Custom mobile applications can provide a workforce with the means to quickly tap into massive amounts of information when it is needed. Location-based services provide the ability to personalize and contextualize data for a user. Even the camera and microphone allows for user-generated content such as pictures, video, and audio. This, combined with an internet connection, enables simple, real-time sharing. These affordances eliminate the inefficiency of going to a PC or towing along a bulky laptop.

Interestingly, the market is responding to the benefits of mobile. In the final quarter of 2010, Fortune reported that smartphones outsold PC’s for the first time, a full two years before the prediction by Morgan Stanley. Moreover, Gartner predicted that by 2013, mobile phones will overtake PCs as the most common Web access device worldwide.

The Future

Mobile is a rapidly growing platform for workplace learning. For example, the worldwide market for mobile learning products and services has reached $5.3 billion, and will reach $12.2 billion by 2017, reports Ambient Research. Across 93 countries analyzed, the rate of growth is 18.2%. Asia is the top buying region followed by North America and Western Europe. In parallel with this growth, recent research shows that 70% of Fortune 500 learning and development staffers are either using or planning to introduce mobile learning by 2014. Even in organizations that are grounded in traditional training, 62% use or plan to use mobile learning to deliver content to support formal learning.

Smartphones and tablets, however, are not all there is to mobile. We also should consider wearable technology. Glasses and watches are blazing a new path for augmenting our senses. The future of mobile will be less about the device you have with you and more about the one you have on you.

It is time to take advantage of the benefits of mobile. With over 70% of people currently using their own personal mobile devices for work, learning leaders can be assured that now is the time to develop a mobile learning strategy in their organizations.


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