Mobile learning describes the capacity to distribute learning via online and mobile devices anywhere, anytime. During the 2000s many educators and institutions became aware of the potential to reach people with fully online mobile courses that they could undertake when and where they chose.
Mobile learning would be a term that also has a range of nuanced meanings. Blended learning describes learning that mixes both face-to-face methodologies with online components. The ‘flipped learning’ movement arose out of mobile learning – introducing the notion that the learner could pre-learn a topic prior to a scheduled class and use the class time to apply the learning in different ways.
Distributed learning and distance learning have similar meanings. Learning distributed to the locale and context of the learner. Traditional distance education systems (correspondence or paper based) have progressively adjusted to online contexts.
The WEF report on Schools of the Future: Defining New Models of Education for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, includes a specific focus on the importance of accessible and inclusive learning. It highlights that mobile learning can provide systems where everyone has access to learning.
(Schools of the Future pg. 21).
In less than a decade, mobile technology has spread to the furthest corners of the planet. Of the estimated 7 billion people on Earth, 6 billion now have access to a working mobile phone. Africa, which had a mobile penetration rate of just 5% in the 1990s, is now the second largest and fastest growing mobile phone market in the world, with a penetration rate of over 60% and climbing.
Historically speaking, the potential for mobile learning is still in its early days.
Providers have struggled to develop quality controls with respect to both content and pedagogy in the online, mobile learning environment. The US based nonprofit organisation, The Aurora Institute seeks to catalyze the transformation of K-12 education policy and practice to advance powerful, personalized, learner-centered experiences through competency-based, blended and online learning. iNACOL has established useful resources that set standards for delivery in the online world. (http://www.inacol.org/resources/resource-search/?resource_topics=16)
Open School, BC, Canada
British Columbia (Celebrating 100 Years of Learning) provides an excellent example of a long-term focus on mobile learning. In 1919 it established its first correspondence school providing distributed learning to children living in remote communities across British Columbia - an early version of mobile learning. By the 1990s, the concept of learning in remote communities was well established and with the advent of online opportunities, the programme name changed to the Open School, supported by OSCAR online resources.
The School of the Air (Education over the airwaves to Australia's most remote students)
Another long-term example of mobile learning is the School of the Air, founded in 1951, in Australia. School classes were initially conducted via short wave radio. The advent of wireless internet technologies meant that the programme switched to online delivery.
Online learning in senior secondary school education: practice, pedagogy & possibilities
A goal is to use a digital platform that supports face-to-face learning 24/7. Learners should be able to merge the virtual and real worlds of learning as they are seamlessly integrated.
Mobile learning means that many of the traditional structures of education such as content delivery, timetables, classrooms and the like, no longer have relevance. Mobile learning has brought real time anywhere, any place learning into being. Learners can work collaboratively with teams across the globe, or can themselves be highly mobile, but maintain consistency of learning regardless of location. Mobile learning opens up multiple possibilities, limited perhaps only by the capacity of an individual to be self-directed and focused.
Some learners choose to undertake parallel learning programs that lead to a specific credential, perhaps necessary for a particular direction in further learning. Such courses can be undertaken as fully online external courses.