Is mLearning Is Better Than eLearning?



Eric Matas
08/07/2012

I love to make eLearning, but I don’t like to take eLearning. The eLearning I have to take is usually of a certain, unfortunate type: an epic-length slide deck, both dense and wordy, converted to Flash by a rapid eLearning authoring tool, delivered all in one shot on a Learning Management System (LMS) during a randomly-chosen, mandatory learning month. These courses are the bane of all eLearning.

The bane of all eLearning courses will have these "seven deadly eLearning sins":

  1. The course started as a PowerPoint presentation.
  2. The course is very long.
  3. The text of the course is wordy and redundant.
  4. The presentation was converted to Flash by a rapid authoring tool.
  5. The course must be accessed by logging in to an LMS.
  6. The course itself is 100 percent of the learning.
  7. The course must be taken during a mandated time frame.


I’m a scholar of distance learning, so I understand how courses like these came to be. Generally speaking, they were made by innovative people with good intentions and deliberate planning. And even though courses like these still get made, I know that improvements have been made. Designers and developers have implemented revisions to temper the seven deadly eLearning sins. A lot of eLearning has been fixed. And so much fixing has led me to ask this question:

How much of our training resources and time should be spent fixing broken eLearning?

Problem-solving time is limited. Should we spend that creative time mending, overhauling, correcting, and repairing? Or could we abandon the original, terrible eLearning course and instead focus on a new style of eLearning devoid of the deadly sins? We could, based on all we have learned so far, stop the fixing and start designing new eLearning from the ground up. Our time and effort would be better spent, and the products of our work would more effectively train.

But we might not need to do any of that. We can, instead, simply turn our attention to mobile learning (mLearning). mLearning can be the arena in which we build from the ground up, creating effective learning experiences. For me, mLearning is better than eLearning simply because it doesn’t have eLearning’s baggage.

Here are the seven reasons why mLearning is better than eLearning:
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Not Inheriting PowerPoint


eLearning must bear the blight of inheriting bad PowerPoint content. mLearning will avoid that. Designers won’t start with presentations for many reasons, but certainly for this reason: mLearning cannot be that long.

No Epics


mLearning doesn’t have to be viewed on a tiny screen and doesn’t have to be viewed by someone on the go. But it will be. Designers of mLearning will account for screen size and mobile lifestyles. The bottom line will be brief mLearning modules.

Concise Language


The eLearning screen can fit a lot of words. The mLearning screen cannot. Writing will become more concise, and learners will love it.

The Development Tools


Flash doesn’t work on iPads. The iPad is simply the best tablet on the market and the best learning tool I have ever seen. Since rapid authoring tools publish Flash files, they are going to have to adapt or be replaced by SDKs (Software Development Kits) and app development tools like BigForge.com. These new tools don’t build off PowerPoint. They are fun to use and can make more than just training apps.

Play on Learner’s Turf


Mobile devices offer an opportunity to let learners access training on their own devices without accessing a slow, buggy, centralized LMS. Many new learning tools include tracking and reporting, like Bloomfire.com, and some tools include an API, which means the training results can be shared with any database such as SalesForce.com.

Real Blended Learning


Instead of the one-shot eLearning course, mLearning can use the mobile lifestyle to the advantage of the wise instructional designer: organizing mLearning into blended learning paths. The brevity and focus of mLearning means other learning events are necessary, and most designers agree that a combination of events, sequenced and spaced, is best for learning and retention.

On Demand

Perhaps the pinnacle of productivity, on demand training allows workers to quickly find the answers they need to keep doing their jobs. mLearning will be the just-in-time answer to training that scheduled eLearning cannot. This mLearning is not always the creation of a training module. mLearning is more than that. Mobile apps already help people when they are lost (GPS) or without a laptop (Dropbox). Besides creating mLearning modules, training teams can leverage existing apps to empower their on-the-go employees.

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