Much hyped but only moderately understood, mobile learning involves mobile devices woven into a learning or training scenario. Often, but not always, the learners themselves are mobile. Mobile learning has found significant success in areas where traditional training or learning are not working that well (such as hard-to-reach learners or traveling employees). It has also triggered a rethink about traditional e-learning modules. Mobile is great for instantaneous lookup, and small, chunk-based learning, but a poor tool for a drawn-out e-learning course.
The most important aspect to bear in mind is that mobile learning isn't just one thing. It is a toolbox of approaches that can be used how and when it's needed. Conversations about mobile learning in schools are likely to be very different from those in the college or work setting. Mobile learning is already making a huge impact in some industries and in specific areas. It will continue to do so, but don't assume it replaces all face-to-face experiences. Think of it more as an enriching and enhancing aspect of training.
Game-based learning has been described as the next big thing for the past 10 years. Two often repeated disastrous models are:
O An interesting game, often a first-person adventurer/puzzle-solving variety, with corny 2-D content quizzes scattered throughout. A fun game ruined by insufficient learning.
O A linear e-learning-style content course with a series of quizzes and knowledge tests that have been built up into a contest/competition format. The “game” just proves content knowledge.
There is very little evidence that either of these models works. There are a few instances where the latter can work well, such as where mastery of the subject matter required drill and practice (like learning vocabulary or practicing math).
Two interesting and more successful models are:
O Playing a real game, designed for entertainment, but setting challenges within it that build on learning.
O Doing real learning tasks, but using a badging system to show progress and gains. Mozilla's Open Badges framework offers good tools for this.
Mixing play with learning has always been effective and will continue to be so. But low-quality resources aren't magically improved by adding a quiz at the end, a leaderboard, or badges. Get the learning right first, then implement around it.
Bring Your Own Devices (BYOD)
“Bring your own devices” (BYOD) refers to initiatives that allow students or employees to use their own personal mobile technology devices at work or at school as part of their day. Opinions about this technique vary widely, although in most scenarios it is a useful and empowering approach. In colleges, the main concerns are about classroom management and fairness of access. In the workplace, concerns range from privacy of personal data to security of corporate data. BYOD is here to stay. Organizations need to adapt their policies to support it, rather than resisting the use of personal mobile technology devices. Resistance puts them in a race to provide equivalent devices and access.
Open Educational Resources (OER)
Historically, there has been an uncomfortable relationship between publishers and educators. Who owns the rights to the content used during teaching and training? How much should be paid for the books and resources? Enter the OER movement—open educational resources that can be used, modified, and shared for free. They're mostly used in the context of traditional education (not much in corporate training). Momentum seems to be moving faster in some countries than others, but many heavyweight backers, funders, and institutions are starting to put their money and weight behind the idea that educational resources should be made available for free.
It is still a fairly disconnected movement with many different stakeholders and various definitions of “free” and “open.” But a large range of very good resources and publications have already been made available. In some cases, teams of educators are working together to write their own collaborative textbooks as open alternatives to commercial ones.
Of note is Creative Commons, which offers a very simple licensing model to help users understand exactly how free content can be used and reused while still respecting the creator of the content.
Massive Open Online Course (MOOC)
A MOOC is a web-based course, often free, designed to offer learning to many thousands of students at the same time. Although they have been around since 2008, they have received a lot of attention since 2012, thanks to recent backing from some notable schools (Stanford, Princeton, and MIT, for example) and high-profile start-ups. However, the most recent hype is also slightly skewed to one specific genre of MOOC. Why is everyone suddenly excited about MOOCs? Several schools have started offering free access to their course materials. This is a real-world case of the democratization of learning. A student at an under-resourced school can now access the same content as an MIT graduate. However, the fast pace of change hasn't taken into account some of the unforeseen issues surrounding this broadened access. Once access to education is opened up and notions of paying for courses are removed, is the perceived quality of the course reduced? Should a nonresident student be able to earn a degree from the college offering a course? Is distance learning devoid of a pastoral context equivalent to the full collegiate experience? The debates surrounding MOOCs have compromised the perception of them. Some see them purely as a distribution channel for prerecorded mass learning. Many of the most inspired MOOCs are not modeled on a traditional lectureor classroom-based experience at all; rather, they're built on learner-centered, connectivist environments where students work together, albeit remotely.
To try to distinguish between these, one of the founders of the MOOC movement has suggested renaming them xMOOC and cMOOC. xMOOCs are modeled on a traditional lecture-based experience, with professors handing over the knowledge; and cMOOCs are collaborative courses, where learners work together the generate their knowledge. For the purposes of this discussion we have coined a new term, domain MOOCs. These are MOOCs designed for individual access, to teach a specific subject by making the content available for free, to be used in other platforms. Aligned with these are sites offering indexes to all of these courses, styling themselves as MOOC aggregators.
If so much information is available online and quality time with a teacher is hard to find, why waste the time you have together by sitting quietly in your chair and listening to a lecture? Far better, perhaps, to watch the recorded lecture before you come into class and then spend the face-to-face time discussing it, asking questions, and doing activities. This is the idea behind the flipped classroom, and it has some great stories around it.