Mobile Learning

Iron Stairs / Mobile LearningI will hold my hands up and say I want an experience of ‘good’ mobile learning.

I know there are (or rather should be, we’ve been talking about it for long enough now) examples out there, but I haven’t ‘seen’ them. I have tried using mobile devices and a browser, I’ve tried Institutional VLEs and downloadable ‘courses’ through iTunes and iTunesU. I’ve tried different Apps (some linked to VLEs and some not) yet none were particularly any good and certainly not good enough to stop me going back to a desktop or laptop PC. I look forward to seeing how FutureLearn works as it is supposed to be developed with the mobile learning at the fore, but do not necessarily want to limit myself to MOOCs, or indeed MOOCs from one provider.

If, as we say, students are using and indeed spending so much time online and ‘mobile’, shouldn’t we be better at delivering content to them by now?

Is it so difficult to consider our mobile audience when developing a course? This is rhetoric question, so please don’t flame me in the comments (but comments and discussion is always welcomed) but surely if it is ingrained in to the process of developing and writing a course (even better if from scratch) then we should all be doing it, yes?

“Mobile learning is becoming one of the most prevalent forms of learning in the western industrialised society, due to a number of trends including cheaper more affordable devices, ubiquitous (more or less) universal connectivity, an increasingly itinerant work force, and the desire to connect with communities on a global as well as local basis. The rise is also due to people’s desire to develop their learning informally. There are formal contexts for mobile learning, but it is in the leisure time/travelling/down time that mobile learning still comes to the fore.” (Wheeler, 2013).

Wheeler, S. 2013. Mobile learning and personal metrics. Learning with ‘e’s, [blog] 10th October, Available at: [Accessed: 11 Oct 2013].

Image source: Iron Stairs by Chris Perriman (CC BY-SA 2.0)

  • Peter Reed

    Hi David,

    I’m starting to look into this (amongst other things) at the moment. I’ve done a bit of analysis of Mobile access at the University of Liverpool ( and I currently have a student survey running. Straight away I am/was surprised at the almost complete use of iPhones over Android alternatives amongst the student body.

    I think this is a necessary first step as we need to know what are students are using (device wise), and how they think they could/should use it before we go off on our own mighty ideas. Essentially practicing what we preach about evidence-based practice.

    There are of course angles of equity that will be brought up, and potential pedagogic debates to be had around the ability to actually be ‘learning’ whilst jogging/on the bus/ironing/etc. Also what constitutes mobile? Tablet use could be on the couch, when students could equally have a laptop.

    I wonder how much mobile use in education is actually ‘learning’ and how much is more of a convenience e.g. accessing slides on a device in class, accessing emails, etc.
    But as I said, I’m interested in this area so keep me in the loop.

    • Hi Pete -the biggest question here is “what constitutes mobile?” When the term was coined it was probably the difference between the home/work desktop PC and laptop which enabled learning both at home and work, but also in the coffee shop or park. Now, with the increase in tablet and phone use, this is obviously still mobile but they are also used at home, at work, and in the classroom.

      Do we continue to define ‘mobile’ as any device or learner not tethered to a physical location, or do we need to be more specific in that mobile learning is “anywhere other than where the learning should be taking place”? In which case, as you say, what is the impact of using the device in one location (in front of the TV, etc.) and how do you determine whether learning is taking place as opposed to just material ‘absorption ‘?

      Indeed, a tough direction.

      All the best, David