Smartphones are rapidly becoming the most important piece of technology in a person's life. According to the Pew Research Center, two-thirds of Americans now have a smartphone, with the numbers even greater among higher income, better educated, younger people. Phones are the only device that people have with them all the time, and the tasks users can perform on them have expanded far beyond simply making a call.
People use them to connect with the world around them via the internet, they use them to pay for things via mobile wallet technology, they even use them to find love with the proliferation of dating apps. But a new use for smartphones is on the rise, education via mobile learning apps and websites.
The future of education
In a blog post for Inside Higher Ed, Joshua Kim, the director of digital learning initiatives at the Dartmouth Center for the Advancement of Learning, predicted that post-secondary education will migrate online in China and India in the coming years thanks to the demands of the economy and the ubiquity of the smartphone, and that the traditional university model will become outmoded.
In America, we are seeing the beginnings of that will the rise of Massive Open Online Courses presented by universities and other institutions. These online courses are aimed at allowing unlimited participation and access via the Internet, and are used to teach a nearly any kind of topic from learning a new language to how to code to Shakespeare. They are generally free, or very low cost thanks to open licensing of the content.
"76% of companies now using some form of electronic learning to train their employees."
In the corporate world we are seeing the rise of mobile learning as well with 76 percent of companies now using some form of electronic learning to train their employees, according to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development's Learning and Development 2015 survey.
Advantages of mobile learning
Making learning mobile has distinct advantages, most obviously portability. These classes are designed to be taken and understood on the move. They can be accessed through a smartphone or tablet and done while the user is commuting on the train, between meetings or whenever they have downtime and access to their phone. To help enable this ease of use the courses and apps are generally broken up into smaller pieces, called modules, that allow learners to focus on just one topic for a short period of time, usually less than 15 minutes.
This type of learning is particularly advantageous in the corporate world where losing an employee for several days while they perform training can be costly and inconvenient. Mobile learning allows the worker to stay on the job and fit their training in around their schedule. It is also cheap when compared to a full class. Instead of sending someone to a course that could be miles away, and spending money on travel, lodging, food, tuition and other expenses, mobile learning allows the information to come to the employee's smartphone or tablet with minimal cost, usually just the licensing fee for the course.
It is also highly targeted. Module-style learning allows employers to target exactly what they need their employees to learn, and leave any extraneous information out. They can work at their own pace, focusing the time they need on sections they struggle with while moving more quickly through information that is easier for them. Workers can be given targeted information to cover based on performance or job description, eliminating the one-size-fits-all approach of traditional learning.
All of these advantages will continue to push learning online in the coming years. The model of a classroom and a teacher will increasingly become a thing of the past thanks to the rise of the Internet and the smartphone.