Forget Compatibility, Mobile Only Learning Is Coming

By Henry Kronk
November 10, 2017

Today, education technology and learning management system (LMS) vendors love to emphasize their products’ ability to run on multiple platforms.

Learners, they reason, want to be able to access educational material and resources whenever they can grab a few minutes of free time. They want to be able to study on the train, during their lunch break, in bed, in the elevator.

But some adventurous eLearning innovators have gone a step sideways. Instead of designing their material for any device, they’re choosing just one.

Mobile only education technology is springing up as the latest attempt to bring eLearning to everyone.

Bursts of mobile only learning

The Australian company By Degrees has just announced their launch. Their app will help English language learners in India (for now) get ready for the Pearson Test of English, one of the most widely accepted English proficiency test.

mobile-only learningHere’s By Degrees’ philosophy: many successful English language learners practice and test their knowledge by getting active on social media in their new tongue. They form message groups, share content, and casually interact to boost their skills.

Burst Learning seeks to replicate this experience with a specific test in mind. “It looks like a Whatsapp conversation,” said By Degrees CEO Danny Bielik, according to The Pie. “And over the years people have established ad hoc learning groups this way anyways.”

Just as most people participate on social media platforms primarily through their phones, By Degrees will be available only on mobile devices.

Especially in communities where Wifi and internet access are not easily available, mobile only learning allows for online to offline transfer of content so that learners can extend their potential learning time. What’s more, with advancing mobile data infrastructure, going online is getting cheaper and cheaper.

Today a child in the middle of Africa has faster and greater access to information on their smart phones than Bill Clinton did in the 1990s,” Chris Haroun, CEO of Haroun Education Services, according to Forbes. “A single smartphone has more processing power today than every computer in the world that was used to put the first person on the moon.”

For the general public, this means that they’ll be able to more easily Tweet and post, but Haroun has grander visions. “All problems in the world can be solved by education—every single one, without exception,” he said. “I firmly applaud and support edtech startups, governments, and organizations that help to make affordable and accessible technology-enabled education, which is just as much of a right for humankind as water, air, freedom of expression and freedom to coexist.”

Growing trends

By Degrees is just the tip of the iceberg for eLearning, but in other industries, it’s already a growing trend.

In October, AdWeek cryptically reported that one of the BAT (Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent) Chinese giants will shut down desktop development altogether and go all mobile all the way. There are 1.1 billion mobile subscribers in China alone.

A recent study by the eLearning Guild found that 80% of respondents use smartphones and 27% only use them. When it comes to desktop use, only 14% of people use a computer. What’s more, a solid majority prefer a vertical alignment when consuming any kind of content.

Beyond user preference, there’s reason to believe that developing mobile only learning can improve the way we learn. Ambient Insight found that learners who completed modules on their mobile devices were more engaged, more motivated, and actually completed their programs 45% faster on average.

Today, mobile only learning sounds both like a risky business strategy and a potential turn off. But mobile only learning allows for designers to make their educational content for a mobile setting in the first place. By making software available on multiple devices, engineers typically design for personal computer use first and then adapt for mobile. Most often, these designers do a great job, and the experience between devices is more or less comparable. But it’s not necessarily the best it can be. Mobile only design let’s designers focus more on user-friendly, intuitive, or downright effective features.