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April 2, 2010 / compassioninpolitics

Advantages and Disadvantages of Mobile Learning

Here are some advantages and disadvantages I’ve thought about–note the “disadvantages” are more like challenges to be navigated rather than full scale disadvantages. Feel free to leave comments about the advantages, disadvantages, and challenges that you think of.

Advantages of mobile learning:

1) Just in time learning. Learning at the point of need.

2) Ability to access learning (almost) everywhere. This means down time can be leveraged for learning.

3) Potential to be two way and multi-media. Video, powerpoint, podcasts, and quizes are all potential outputs to iPhone devices. This provides a great deal of flexibility for mobile development.

4) Potential for location based learning. This means the phone can alert the person when they are near a potential learning experience based in the context in which the learning will be used–which potentially can help retention and return on investment.

Challenges of Mobile Learning Delivery and Development:

1) Which device will win? Which tech is best now and over the longer term? This question determines the technical constraints you are working with–in other words which devices are most popular with the target population and can it technologically meet our needs best?

2) Interface size and immersiveness. Interface richness/immersiveness and how does it compare versus more traditional options like desktop/laptop. This question is critical to the engagement factor of the learning.

3) Potentially never disconnected. There are advantages to having time to incubate. The need for employees to be plug-in in their downtime means that they may not get the opportunity for incubation, which is critical to the creative process. Also, learning requires time for incubation, critical thinking, and reflection. Access to an abundance of mobile learning and information may tempt learners to abandon traditional informal learning or time for deep reflection. Although, perhaps this can be avoided by leveraging the mobile for deep reflection.

4) Challenges of initial cost threshold. (ie the cost of development or the cost of buying cell phones which meet your technological constraints) However, low cost options like Twitter and mini-podcasts can provide alternatives which are relatively low cost.

5) The issue of return on investment (ROI) and tracking success. This is critical to getting future funding and making strategic learning decisions for your organization and target population.


Leave a Comment
  1. Fehmeen / Apr 4 2010 10:14 am

    I hadn’t known about some of these challenges, so thanks for the post. I’d like to add 2 other challenges:
    – literacy levels of the population (reading/writing)
    – mobile phones are highly personalized devices so unless mobile penetration is high, mobile learning will be a slow process.

  2. compassioninpolitics / Apr 6 2010 3:08 am

    Literacy is certainly an issue. I’ve heard of using symbols to combat this issue–but obviously that is not a 100% solution.

    I ran across this article on the subject, which provides some decent insight on mobile learning:…/VavoulaSharples-mlearn2008.pdf

  3. Fehmeen / Apr 7 2010 6:36 pm

    Symbols would certainly help complement the service and I might add the poor are generally quick to learn the use of mobile phone applications, as experienced by AppLab in Uganda. But even then, there’s a danger of widespread ‘incomplete information’ if this technology is not used or developed properly. An example would be incomplete medical information.

    The link doesn’t seem to be working…

    P.S. I’ll mail you the guest post as soon as it’s done!

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