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Mobile Learning mLearning


What is mobile learning?

Mobile learning, also known as M-Learning,  mLearning, or mobile training, is education and training delivered across portable computing devices, such as smartphones and tablets.

What are the advantages of mobile learning? Disadvantages?

Many benefits of mobile learning exist, but the most important advantage is that information can be accessed anytime, and anywhere the user can safely use their mobile device. Consider learners whose workspace is not an office environment, like a traveling salesperson, a teacher, a truck driver, hair stylist, a factory worker. These learners would benefit from being able to pull out a mobile device and find what they need right when they need it.

Like eLearning, mobile learning can accommodate many learning styles and modes. It’s excellent at supporting microlearning that consists of short 3-5-minute courses that convey a single clear learning objective each. Learning engagement in mobile learning can be much higher than traditional eLearning due to familiarity with their mobile device of choice; many people spend more time on mobile devices than on computers and can be more familiar with its features and interface.

Mobile learning solutions do have some costs and disadvantages. The screen size can be a limitation or simply not be the best fit for a training need, for example, software specific training or topics that can take a longer seat time to convey may be better suited to traditional eLearning. If a course has been previously developed for a desktop environment only, a potential need to redesign the eLearning for mobile is likely. Compatibility across a broad range of devices takes testing, and responsive design (which is what makes the content visually appealing and easy to use whether it’s on a phone, computer, or tablet) is slower to develop than fixed frame dimensions. In other words, a course can be technically functional on a phone, but be tiny and almost illegible, so it would need to be redesigned for a friendlier user experience.

What is a mobile learning app?

A mobile learning app is a standalone software application that is downloaded onto a mobile device and used as an entry point for training content. Creating a mobile learning apps can have benefits, such as an easy and attractive user interface with consistent branding, and also the ability to access training materials offline.

How is this done? By creating a package that is downloaded in its entirety to the mobile device that includes documents and other training materials (videos, performance support) that could be accessed without an internet connection. An example of someone who might benefit from this type of option would be a traveling salesman who frequently travels to rural areas or overseas, or maybe a person in need of a survival guide that could be accessed in the wilderness.

What is the cost of mobile learning? What is the ROI?

Various factors contribute to the overall cost of building a mobile learning. Here's a guide to how much eLearning costs in general, without the mobile application.  To figure out mobile learning ROI, follow these steps, here's a guide to calculating training ROI overall. It boils down to this:

  • Establish your KPIs and how you will collect the data
  • Place a dollar value on the metrics
  • Assess your costs
  • Use the formula: ROI = Gains/Costs

What are the key requirements to consider when creating mobile learning?

When you are planning your mobile learning strategy, there are a number of important questions to consider:
  • What are your learning objectives, goals, and intended business outcomes? How does a successful project change a learner’s behavior or knowledge in their day-to-day operations?
  • Is the topic a good fit for a mobile solution? Does the content make sense in this format?
  • In what environment do our learners typically interact with our courses? If we currently have classroom training only, are our users looking to access the material outside of the workplace, or in a non-traditional work environment?
  • Can we count on our users having a solid internet connection at locations they would access the training, and if not, should we provide software accessible in an offline mode?
  • Are we going to provide hardware or software to our learners, and if so, can they access it on their own devices as well?
  • How thorough does our user tracking and reporting information need to be for our intended purpose? Is completion enough, or do we need to know more, like scores or time taken to complete the training? (To learn specific topics learners failed to grasp to create follow-up training)
  • Is the information in the learning proprietary or confidential in any way, and if so, do we need specific accommodations for content security?
  • Have we budgeted for maintenance in case of changes to hardware and/or software in the near future? What development tools would we like to use? Do we support these file formats or have any restrictions based on our LMS provider?
  • Have we considered what the “life-cycle” of the training is?
  • Do we have the internal skills and budget needed to keep the content up-to-date?
21 Essential Questions Mockup

Scoping Your Project

Can you build device-agnostic mobile learning?

Yes. HTML5 enables eLearning developers to quickly create device-agnostic content that can be scaled to fit any screen. Modern mobile devices have high resolution screens that can display the content clearly at smaller sizes.

What is Mobile First versus Mobile Friendly?

Mobile Friendly refers to web content being easily viewable on a mobile device, probably by using responsive design. Mobile First means that your website, email, or other content, was originally and purposefully designed for mobile devices. This requires user-focused design and content hierarchy for the small screen.

What tools do you recommend to create mobile learning?

Below is a list of tools that are popular now, but when you are ready to build your mobile learning course do a search for the latest mobile learning technology to see what meets your needs.

  • Articulate Storyline 360 is an application that allows you to create highly interactive courses of varying length. It’s a quick learn for developers and delivers a reliable HTML5 output for viewing across many devices. Storyline360 is currently considered the eLearning software standard.
  • Articulate Rise is another application that is excellent for rapid development of less interactive courses. (For more on what level of interactivity you might need, click here.) Rise is a Storyline360 adjacent software that uses a web interface for development and creates courses that are highly responsive in a mobile environment. Though customization on Rise courses is low at the moment, it delivers a very reliable HTML5 output as well.
  • HTML5 development is the process of writing HTML and CSS code to create an interactive environment for the content of the training. You can code in HTML5 without the use of a n eLearning development application, but this will often require having a dedicated team for programming development separate from the team responsible for content development. HTML5 is the most versatile coding language used for eLearning but comes at a higher cost due to the extra team members involved. Still, fully responsive and mobile friendly training can be created using this approach.

Other mobile learning development tools include:

  • Captivate
  • Claro Mobile eLearning Tool
  • Elucidat
  • iSpring Presenter
  • iWebKit
  • Lectora
  • Shift Learning
  • SumTotal ToolBook

How can mobile learning drive employee engagement and performance?

Mobile learning can be a powerful tool in your toolkit for driving employee engagement and improving on-the-job performance. It provides opportunities for frequent engagement and promotes an environment of continuous learning. Combined with a microlearning format, mobile learning can deliver training right at the time and place of need. For example, a maintenance person in a factory needing to service a machine he or she is not familiar with.

Employees engage more readily with fast and easy-to-use mobile learning, which supports better decision-making and collaboration. Since smartphones are nearly everywhere, mobile learning can support and guide employees as they do their work with guidance that is empowering and less disruptive than other ways of getting information.

How do you decide if mobile learning is right for your organization?

The real key here is to not jump to solutions or the latest mobile learning trends immediately. First, make sure training is the real need. Then, evaluate whether mobile is the best solution, as opposed to eLearning or classroom training.

We’re often tempted to turn to new technology or trends, thinking one of these will be the most engaging or effective. But mobile learning, and even training in general, is not always the solution to the problem – it’s important to first identify the root cause of the problem.

If the answer to the following questions is “yes,” mobile learning might be right for your organization:

  • Do you frequently need people to learn new things quickly?
  • Do you have frequent changes and updates to information?
  • Do you want people to have constant access to training information?
  • Do you need to reinforce information on an ongoing basis?
  • Can/should your content be viewable on a small screen?
View some mobile learning examples HERE.

Frequently Asked Questions

Microlearning, also known as Bite-Sized Learning, is training delivered in short bursts over time. Effective with younger generations, mobile devices can deliver all different types of content, including videos, podcasts, and training guides. The prevalence of smartphones enables access to information anytime, anywhere, including during on-the-job training. Mobile learning also empowers learners to collaborate through online forums and texts.

Chunking is the process of taking larger sets of learning content and presenting small “chunks” of relevant information to a user over time.

Let’s say you have four learning objectives spread across 20 planned minutes of training. This data could easily be set up as four separate microlearning courses that average 5 minutes each. This is an example of “chunking” the information being conveyed to the learner. This is generally very helpful to the learner in that they can take time in between the separate courses to process and understand the learning objective.

Chunking keeps the learner from being overloaded with content and helps with retention of information by presenting content in digestible parts. This is generally the central goal of using microlearning over traditional eLearning.


To measure the effectiveness of your mobile learning programs, look at:

  • Outcomes
  • Engagement and Participation
  • Feedback, including rating programs
  • Ease of Use
  • Cost/Benefit Analysis

Here are several good ways to use mobile learning:

  • Onboarding and orientation
  • Compliance and safety
  • Performance Support
  • Simulations
  • Microlearning
  • Hard and soft skills training
  • Product, service and sales training

Yes. Video is an increasingly popular medium for mLearning, including:

  • Microlearning videos
  • Short explainer videos
  • Visual analogies, simulations, and illustrations
  • Webcasts

To scale a mobile learning program, you will need well-designed responsive design and content, IT infrastructure, and a workforce ready, willing, and able to make the change. You may need to reorganize the L&D function to accommodate a new process, tools, and workflow.

Since mobile learning will likely require skills and knowledge that don’t currently exist in organization, consider working with a firm with the expertise. Specialty Learning & Development agencies can design, build, and help you deploy effective mLearning programs with high-caliber content, IT resources, creative expertise, technical support, and instructional design.

Mobile learning is a disruptive change that also helps employees adapt to other types of change. It is a natural conduit for immediate and frequent updates in information.

  • Easy and attractive user interface
  • Consistent branding and look-and-feel
  • Push communications
  • Tracking and reporting
  • Potential ability to use app off-line

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