M-learning (Mobile Learning)

What is m-learning? Think of this scenario- you are on a road trip, a long bus ride, long flight or layover. You have read all your books, are not in the mood to talk to the person sitting next to you.

M-Learning is also known as mobile learning. You think of all the readings or class assignments and wish you could just put them in a small device and take them with you to make the best use of your time. Therefore, mobile learning refers to learning that takes place using small, portable handheld computing devices such as iPods, cell phones, personal digital assistants (PDAs), MP3 Players.

One learning tool has been integrated in many learning environments is Apple’s iPod. Its use led to the coining of the term podcasting. Some argue that Tablet PC and Laptop Computers can be included in the category of mobile learning. Basically it implied “learning on the go”. So, how is mlearning used?

  1. Broadcast live talks/lectures to student: In one situation, you can have an instructor presenting a talk, and if they are connected, students can watch this on their phones, or MP3.
  2. Learners can create a digital video library of various clips that they may access or create on their own.
  3. Learners may also chose to exhibit their work online for others to have access to.
  4. Archive of talks, lectures, and presentations can also be created for students to later watch at their own time either online line or via their portable devices.
  5. In the last decade, it has has been expanding and continues to do so in many countries. Schools, workplaces, higher education are all embracing various aspects of mobile learning.

The Difference Between e-Learning and m-Learning

Essentially, one of the differences is in the technologies that are used. In many cases, m-learning is used to support e-learning, for example when learners may not have quick access to non-movable technical devices such as desktop computers (Charmonman & Chorpothong, 2005). Therefore, as noted in this article based in Canada, the main difference is that ideally m-learning is less restrictive because m-learning allows learning to occur anywhere and at anytime while in E-learning can be limited by mobility. Because of the small size of the devices, there are design implications for learning materials. For instance, the size of the screen requires more scrolling if there is too much text. To compensate for their small screen size the tools rely on rich media that combines texts, graphics, audio, and video. The differences are as a result of certain dynamics, which include the following:

  1. Connectivity, which is dictated by the technology available, available technology such as Bluetooth, WiFi, and GPRS.
  2. Expense: Sometimes connectivity may be too costly or the infrastructure may not be available.
  3. Devices’ hardware and software used affects what content can be delivered. Although mobile technologies are rapidly and increasingly powerful, there are still some data formats and that are best delivered via computes. For example, the file formats, size of the files, types of files, memory, and navigational issues.
  4. Location can also determine what format is most effective. In some areas, the size of the device and access to wireless connection is a great consideration.


Charmonman, S., & Chorpothong, N. (2005). Digital Lifestyle and the Road Ahead. Proceedings of the Fourth International Conference on eBusiness. December 5-9. Beijing, China. Retrieved April 24, 2007.

Keegan D. The future of learning: From eLearning to mLearning.

M-learning is therefore convenient, portable, flexible, and in many cases cheaper than other forms of e-learning. However, some issues that can arise are connectivity and device battery life, as well as screen size and key size.