Yes, folks, it’s true - mLearning or mobile learning, at least in concept, has been around for decades. In fact, I remember learning conversational Spanish by listening to audio tapes on my Sony Walkman (oops, I think I just dated myself) over 30 years ago. Although only somewhat effective and heavily reliant on one’s dedication to repetition, my conversational Spanish on tape was a form of mobile learning.
So what’s the big deal now? Why is it being talked about so much? Why are so many organizations considering this approach? And why do we have conferences and expos that are dedicated to this concept?
Well, in my opinion, it’s an explosive area and one that needs further definition or, dare I say, no singular definition at all. Just as "learning" can be an umbrella term for a lot of things such as training, education, knowledge sharing, performance support, etc., so can "mobile learning" mean a lot of different things to different people.
Many of the existing definitions of mobile learning are usually too learner-focused or too device-focused. A singular, widely accepted definition seems improbable...so for now, we need to generalize our description of it to allow for a growing number of mobile learning scenarios as well as future capabilities of new technology and device types.
Mobile learning should be viewed as a way to augment the learner through the use of technology that provides access to content and information, anytime and anywhere. Unlike other learning technologies, mobile learning is unique in that it can accommodate both formal and informal learning in collaborative or individual learning modes.
I am sure we will get to a point sometime where we can be more definitive of what we are striving to develop, e.g., mobile training, mobile performance support, mobile content management, etc. But for now, most of us are only comfortable using the blanket term...mLearning...whatever that means for your organization.