Mobile Learning infokit / Why mobile learning
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Why mobile learning

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Saved by Doug Belshaw
on August 31, 2011 at 11:03:36 am

Image CC BY-NC Curnen


Mobile learning is more than simply learning via mobile devices (see What is mobile learning?). Planned and implemented properly, mobile learning initiatives allow for educational institutions to reflect upon the nature of their provision for learners. Although the technology involved in mobile learning can be attractive to staff and students there are also tangible and strategic benefits that mobile learning can bring.

[Boxout: "Mobile devices give us a unique opportunity to have learners embedded in a realistic context at the same time as having access to supporting tools." (Futurelab, 2004, p.12)]

Institutional goals

Mobile learning aligns well with many goals of educational institutions, including:


  1. Curriculum redesign
  2. Personalisation of learning
  3. Student satisfaction*
  4. Digital literacies
  5. Reducing costs (doing more with less)
  6. Graduate attributes and employability
  7. Enhancing assessment and feedback
  8. Widening participation
  9. Improving student engagement and retention
  10. Energy efficiency


* This is especially the case in relation to the National Student Survey.


Many of those interviewed as part of the research for this infoKit commented upon how useful relatively simple uses of mobile technologies can be used to reduce frustration and retain students. Examples include SMS messages sent to inform students of cancelled or rearranged lectures, and keeping in touch with learners at risk of falling behind with (and therefore dropping out from) their studies.

[Boxout:"Mobile learning allows... students to exploit smaller amounts of time and space for learning, to work with other students on projects and discussions, and to maximize contact and support from tutors." (Traxler, J. (2007) 'Current State of Mobile Learning' (in Ally, M. (2010) Mobile Learning: Transforming the Delivery of Education and Training, Athabasca Press, p.18))]

Tangible benefits of mobile learning

[Boxout: JISC resource on link between benefits and context:]

There are many tacit benefits of mobile learning but those that can be measured and made tangible include the following.


  • Personal, private and familiar (reduce perceived barriers to learning)
  • Pervasive and ubiquitous
  • Fit into the lives of learners (allow for productive ‘dead’ time - e.g. when travelling or queuing)
  • Portable - allow anywhere, anytime learning
  • Immediacy of communication (including speech and data-sharing)
  • Allows access to learning by those in dispersed communities and isolated situations
  • Contextualisation through location-aware features such as GPS.
  • Allows data to be recorded and learning processes captured wherever they happen.
  • Access to mentors, tutors and others learners on-the-move.
  • Perceived as an acceptable way for learners to receive reminders and chasers - and to manage their time
  • Bite-sized e-learning resources can be delivered to learners (especially useful for basic skills or work-based learning)
  • Abstract (representational) and concrete (environmentally-situated) knowledge can be integrated.
  • Peer-to-peer networks make learning more student-centred.
  • Promotes active learning
  • Enable new learning environment
  • Increases accessibility for learners with special educational needs
  • Encourages reflection in close proximity to the learning event
  • Reduces technical barriers to e-learning

[Boxout: Epic’s 20 benefits of mobile learning:]

Wider context

Educational institutions both drive societal change and have to respond to it. According to GSMA (2011) a survey by Blackboard found that “virtually all students own a mobile phone and a third have [a] smartphone.” Indeed, GSMA cites data from Ofcom showing that “99% of people aged between 15 and 24 have a mobile phone, the highest penetration rate for any age group.” Whilst before the year 2000 ownership was restricted to the privileged few, it has become increasingly socially problematic and disabling not to own and use a mobile phone. This is the context within which educational institutions must operate to remain relevant.

[Boxout:"Looking at mobile learning in a wider context, we have to recognize that mobile, personal, and wireless devices are now radically transforming societal notions of discourse and knowledge, and are responsible for new forms of art, employment, language, commerce, deprivation, and crime, as well as learning." (Traxler, J. (2007) 'Current State of Mobile Learning' (in Ally, M. (2010) Mobile Learning: Transforming the Delivery of Education and Training, Athabasca Press, p.10))]

As is explained throughout this infoKit, mobile learning can be a ‘trojan horse’ for wider institutional changes. Considering the extent to which learning can be made more social through the use of mobile devices, for example, may force teaching staff to reflect upon the methods of assessment they use on a course. Similarly, if ‘content’ can be delivered in a personal way to mobile devices, educators may deem discussion, debate and practical ‘hands-on’ activities a better use of face-to-face contact time. As this diagram from Upside Learning shows, mobile learning can be used both for content delivery and as a performance support system.

A final point to consider is the ease with which mobile devices allow for the creation of user-generated content. Coupled with the rise of social networks and location-aware services, mobile learners can engage with the content and skills they are expected to learn in more ways than ever before.


GSMA (2011) Mobile Education in the United Kingdom (available online at:, accessed 23 August 2011)


Futurelab, 2004