Exploring Mobile Learning

Mobile Learning, mLearning, pairs mobile devices with electronic learning to taking learning anywhere and everywhere (Montalto-Rook, Asino, & Thanomsing, 2010).  Two areas of interest related to mLearning include research and best practices for instructional designers and the impact of mLearning with distance education learners.

Three theories currently exist related to mLearning:

Sharples developed a theory around lifelong learning that involves eight features. Shih and Mills developed a mobile learning model incorporating Keller’s ARCS model (2007). Sharples et al. (2005) and Wishart (2007) developed an evaluation framework for a mLearning theory (Montalto-Rook et al, 2010).

Instructional designers must ensure that while they want the design to include the above perspectives, it is just as important to make sure the content and data management are well thought out. With varying learning styles, it is important just-in-time and customization features are incorporated to meet the needs of the multitude of learners.

Taking a closer look at distance education learners is important when researching the impact of mLearning on education. “It is common for distance learners to be in full-or part-time employment and to have family or caring responsibilities thereby necessitating the use of multiple places for learning (Cross, Sharples, Healing, & Ellis, 2019, p. 224).  Being able to access lectures through a mobile device allows learners to keep up with course material while they are commuting (Chuchu & Ndoro, 2019).    

Distance learners have busy lives and need a flexible schedule to be able to access, search, read, and post assignments. With the use of mobile devices, such as smartphones, tablets, and e-readers, student have a larger variety of activities they can engage in such as: collaborative and social learning activities (Cross et al, 2019, p. 226). 

Living with a new generation of students who experience FOMO (fear of missing out), they have their smartphones at their fingertips. By developing mLearning tools such as mobile applications or content that is mobile friendly, faculty are meeting students where they are. Students might not have access to a computer or laptop at all times, but they have their smartphone with them at all times.


Chuchu, T., & Ndoro, T. (2019). An Examination of the Determinants of the Adoption of Mobile Applications as Learning Tools for Higher Education Students. International Journal of Interactive Mobile Technologies, 13(3), 53–67. https://doi.org/10.3991/ijim.v13i03.10195

Cross, S., Sharples, M., Healing, G., & Ellis, J. (2019). Distance Learners’ Use of Handheld Technologies: Mobile Learning Activity, Changing Study Habits, and the “Place” of Anywhere Learning. International Review of Research in Open & Distance Learning, 20(2), 223–241. https://doi.org/10.19173/irrodl.v20i2.4040

Montalto-Rook, M., Asino, T. I., & Thanomsing, C. (2010). Instructional design theories on mLearning: Developing a framework. In M. Simonson (Ed.), Proceedings of the Annual Conference of the Association for Educational Communications and Technology, Design and Development Division (pp. 195-198), Anaheim, CA.

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