The number of smartphones is projected to reach the 5 billion dollar mark in 2019, which means that 67% of the world’s population will own a mobile phone. There is an impressive data on the penetration of mobile internet-usage worldwide, and it will not be incorrect to assume that learning is happening formally/ informally through mobile devices already. Since the reach of mobiles phones is increasing each day, it is essential that educational technologies be oriented to embrace the new conduit of learning and teaching.
With apps and other available LMS Software, the usage of mobile phones for live face-to-face interaction between instructor and learner is not an issue any-more. Students who now opt for online distance courses stand to benefit and learn just by opening up specific mobile apps to consume learning material.
Distance education has evolved with the advent of distance learning platform. There are two types of course formats that online distance education has adopted. One model is asynchronous, and the other is synchronous.
Facilitating 2 Types of Online Learning courses in Distance Learning
- Self-paced learning (Asynchronous) – these are online courses that are available for the student/ employee to consume at his/her own pace. There is no starting or ending date for these courses.
- Instructor-led learning (Synchronous) – These are time-bound online courses with virtual live interactions with the instructor. Here the students can interact in real-time and ask questions to the instructor or amongst themselves.
These courses are created on LMSs and, if available their mobile applications. Many individuals have benefitted from learning through online courses and making a difference in their career. They either opt for a self-paced course which they can complete while working. Alternatively, they choose an instructor-led course which may be accredited or may even have a degree that the student will receive when he/she completes the course.
Benefits of Mobile Learning for Distance Education
The reason why corporates, training and tutoring institutes, vocational academies, and test prep and tutoring institutes want to invest in LMS enabled mobile learning applications is because of the ease of use of mobile phones by the learners. Mobile phones push instant reminders, updates, and are very handy to catch the students attention.
- Cost – It is more cost effective to let the students use their own devices or purchase mobile devices which are less costly than buying desktops and laptops. Also, school infrastructure costs go down considerably.The school does not have to arrange for test centres for examincations. Online tests can be created in the same format as a paper test.
- Learning Methodology – With affected attention spans, the new learning strategy is microlearning where information is divided into small chunks so that it can be quickly processed and remembered by the student. Microlearning works on a mobile phone as the learner can promptly consume information and move on to other tasks without concentrating for long on the mobile phone.
- Instant learning – According to research, one in 10 Americans are ‘smartphone-only’ internet users. The expectation is that their queries will be met within an instant and just when they require it. Informal learning has been spurred immensely by mobile phones.
- Supportive Learning Applications – Instructors can access other applications of game-based learning, interactive, inquiry-based learning which enhance and support fun-based learning. Inquiry-based learning has been around since the 1970’s and is used to teach subjects like math and science. In this method, instructors give moderate guidance to the students and push learners to come up with answers and proofs by themselves. Inquiry-based learning has been able to foster a deeper understanding of subjects like math and science and helped students to retain information better.
- Reach – Instructors can reach out to students around the world with their online courses and modules via the mobile. Most students do own a mobile phone, if not a desktop or computer- hence this is a great option to reach students even in sub-urban regions.Not just that, any attempt to take classes physically in a war-torn nation or a location which faces weather extremes may not be possible. With online courses, learners can be reached out to and engaged. Learning can happen in difficult environments easily.
- Time – Students can save time and effort in learning and accessing material. Since the modules are on the mobile apps, the access to the module or course is at their fingertips. Even instructors want their students to make effective use of time.
There are many benefits to using the mobile phone for education. However, there are some challenges that the students will face while working on their mobiles. Some issues include the battery life of phones, data security and budget constraints of the client. The providers are continually improving technology (such as operating systems) which can prompt compatibility issues too. That being said, LMS providers are well aware of these challenges and always try to stay ahead of the curve to improve customer experiences.
Future of Mobile Learning in Distance Education
The future of education through mobile learning platform is exciting. Statistics say that ‘reliance on smartphones for online access is especially prevalent among younger adults, non-whites, and lower-income Americans.’ Their reach to education is literally at their fingertips. Mobile technology indeed is powerful, and by promoting education through this, a change can be brought about in the society.