It all started with face to face learning. Then, the times changed to more distant learning methods and the initial communications were through printed material via ‘snail mail’. With time, the technology improved and at present, for many, distance learning means web based learning or in other words, on-line learning. But, it didn’t stop there. In modern times, teaching and learning tends to evolve itself to cater the demands of the modern man. The demand was for learning while on the move or which is independent of the place, and thus, came ‘m-Learning’ or ‘mobile learning’.
With rapidly developing communication technologies and relative affordability of such tools and technologies for a wider group in the society, lead to the development of mLearning. It refers to learning that takes place through mobile devices such as mobile phones, PDA, pocket PCs and other such devices. It also is mindful about the time and place of the learning as well. Therefore, a comprehensive definition of mLearning would be, ‘the learning that takes place through mobile devices without a pre-determined or fixed location at the convenience of the learner’.
When considering the technologies that have paved way for the mLearning to come into the limelight, following can be listed at the top.
* Introduction of broadband access to mobile devices via 3G, GPRS or Wi-Fi
* Development of authoring tools that has the capability of catering to mobile devices such as WAP and Java ME.
* Mobile devices such as PDA, mobile phones, tablet PC, Game consoles, netbooks, hand held voting devices…etc.
Although the technology is already present, not all would require these newer methods to be incorporated into their learning. Therefore, the adoption of mLearning should be context specific and even then it would be somewhat limited in its ability to provide a comprehensive learning.
When considering the potential benefits towards the learners through mLearning, following can be highlighted.
* Less hindrance on mobility
* Less adaptation to technology
* Less threatening
* Invariably collaborative
* Facilitates just in time learning
* Cost effective
The use of mobile devices in the learning process should not only be limited to learners who are at a distance. The technology can be used with in the class room as well. For instance, the students would be able to vote for a question raised by the lecturer, using a mobile voting device. In another scenario, the students who are going on a field visit can be guided using their mobile devices. It can further be used as a way of managing the learning activities by making use of in sending deadlines, schedules, venue changes, important messages…etc.
Thus, the use of mLearning would see a rapid expansion in the next few years and when and where it will be used as well as how effective it would be is yet to be widely felt in order to make any assumptions. But, the general consensus would be, it will facilitate the learning process for betterment rather than being a negative influence.