6 Differences between mLearning and eLearning

Why mLearning is not just eLearning on a mobile device!

The dynamic global rise of mobile devices was bound to affect the learning industry at one point or another. Mobile learning, also called mLearning, has become an important part of the online corporate training market. Still, many people consider mLearning as nothing else than eLearning that is just translated to the reality of mobile devices. This is a huge mistake that prevents people from fully understanding and benefiting from this learning innovation.

We use mobile devices in different ways than desktop or laptop computers. Consequently, the type of learning experiences available on mobile devices is different than the ones offered by traditional instruction or eLearning that both happen in special workstations.

Some industry experts claim that the difference between mLearning and eLearning is comparable to the disparity between eLearning and traditional instructor-led training. To design a great mLearning or eLearning experience, you need to grasp these differences.

Here we explain six aspects of these cutting-edge technologies to show you how mLearning differs from eLearning and help you benefit from this knowledge when designing your course.

Our 6 Differences between mLearning and eLearning

  1. User-generated content

eLearning programs are mostly unidirectional, which essentially means that learners receive pre-programmed information on their computers when participating in a course. In this learning environment, learners don’t share any feedback with each other. Because they’re unable to add value in this way, they might experience motivation and engagement issues. This goes especially for learners who like working in collaborative environments.

mLearning, on the other hand, involves a social learning dimension as mobile learning apps often encourage users to share their feedback. These apps often come with a communication platform for creating a meaningful relationship between learners. This is how learners can share their experience and learn from each other. Because mLearning apps can be accessed at any time and in any place, the contextual value of learner information is more important, which is a huge difference from eLearning.

  1. Simultaneous performance support

Because mLearning material is always available, learners don’t focus on memorizing information, but on capturing and sharing key insights. This is especially relevant to on-the-job performance, where every second of delay brings losses. Thanks to mLearning, learners have instant access to information and can then improve their productivity or make better-informed real-time decisions.

Contrary to eLearning, learners can benefit from mLearning apps after the learning process has been completed. Equipped with all necessary information on their mobile devices, learners can quickly check key pieces of data and review the information relevant to the task at hand. eLearning doesn’t provide this type of just-in-time experience, but instead inserts the learning process in a specific time frame.

  1. Contextual learning

Another important difference between eLearning and mLearning is related to the context. Because people use their mobile devices for much more than calling and texting these days, these devices have more processing power and memory than ever. This development perfectly matches the needs of app designers who always take into account the context in which learners use their devices. If they happen to find themselves in a city they don’t know, they’ll need an app to show them around and help them find things they want.

That same contextual value is present in eLearning, which insists on establishing the context before learning takes place. Contrary to eLearning, in mLearning, context is already surrounding learners and engaging them with the learning material. mLearning apps often leverage the value of context in polishing the learning process so it matches the current environment of learners.

  1. Learning schedule differences

Another significant difference between eLearning and mLearning is the timing of the learning experience. eLearning requires learners to sit by their computer and follow the course in their workstation. Moreover, learners are often asked to learn a specific amount of material during each session. eLearning is based on modules that require different amounts of time for completion and almost always feature deadlines for tasks.

mLearning, on the other hand, is available at all times and in all places. Naturally, this means that the learning duration will be shorter, especially if you add small screens to the equation. Individual learning sessions can’t be long because users will feel discomfort after spending hours with their eyes glued to smaller screens. In mLearning, learning objectives are rather small; these are usually data sets that can be easily absorbed during a short session, for instance, while waiting for a morning coffee.

  1. Different assessment methodology

When it comes to eLearning, there’s always a gap in time between the learning process and its application. In mLearning, learning and practice are one and the same because they happen simultaneously. Naturally, these differences have a major impact on assessment methods used in either of these learning strategies.

A series of questions that determine the success of the course on different levels of learning is enough for checking whether an eLearning program works. Focused on learner comprehension and knowledge retention, these assessments work because they happen once learning is completed.

In mLearning, we’re dealing with a very short time span between learning and application. That’s why it’s relatively easier to assess instant learner comprehension of the material. Knowledge retention isn’t as important as it is for eLearning. What counts are the changes in learners’ behaviors and development of new patterns, which lead to significant practice transformations.

  1. Information access

eLearning courses aim to stimulate learner comprehension and ensure knowledge retention. This knowledge will be applied later on, so it’s essential that learners understand and memorize key insights. With mLearning, the focus is on information access. This type of learning promotes convenient access to learning material and doesn’t rely on knowledge retention. That’s why mLearning may turn out to be ineffective for specific topics, especially ones that include lots of complex information and require learner comprehension before they’re applied.

How is mLearning different from other learning methods?

What’s special about mLearning is the fact that it can happen at any time and place, using methodologies that are completely different from ones we know from traditional classroom training or eLearning courses. mLearning programs combine valuable elements of individual and group learning to deliver learning experiences that benefit from all the technology but aren’t limited to a single user. mLearning builds a truly unique learning environment that is perfect for specific areas and topics.

While eLearning and mLearning are both valuable, it’s important to remember that they’re suitable to different situations and types of learning. Before settling on one type or the other, you need to fully understand the goals and context of learning. Choosing the best delivery method is the first step to ensuring the success and popularity of your learning program.