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LoD Viewpoints October 2006

Learning to Go

Wayne Hodgins, strategic futurist at Autodesk, has argued that the future of learning is about getting just the right content to just the right person, at just the right time, on just the right device, in just the right context, and in just the right way. eLearning via desktops and laptops is clearly more limited than learning via mobile devices—particularly because about 60% of the workforce do not sit behind a desk. This Viewpoints examines recent developments in mobile learning and the handheld-device industry and discusses the likely evolution of the field in the near future.

Mobile learning—the use of handheld or wearable devices to support learning—is growing. Nintendo has sold nearly 5 million copies of its Nintendo DS "brain-training" games, education-related podcasts are becoming almost commonplace, and the supply of powerful, low-cost, portable devices is growing by the day. Despite these developments, few organizations have a clearly defined mobile-learning strategy, and most "mobile learners" are on their own to find content and solutions.

Earlier in 2006, Mark Oehlert, a learning-technology consultant with Booz Allen Hamilton, shared his thoughts with the eLearning Forum (full resources from the meeting, including presentations and audio files, are available at Oehlert pointed out that mobile learning is a clear opportunity because only about 40% of the workforce sit behind a desk. He argued that people are already using mobile devices to learn (for example, by accessing educational podcasts), and the challenge is how to encourage this activity and improve upon it. Oehlert warned about the dangers of imposing structured, formal learning material on mobile workers and about unsuitable applications "like typing a report on a mobile phone." Given this caution, Oehlert argued that any mobile-learning effort should be sure to incorporate "feedback loops" to assess how people actually use the applications and devices—and not just assume that actual use mirrors the use that the designers intended. In the same spirit, Oehlert argued that organizations should embrace content that users may create themselves on a mobile device—and not impose too many processes or standards that restrict this type of content by, for example, requiring a certain quality for photographs.

Download the report here:
Learning to Go