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The merging of Informal and Mobile Learning

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mobile and informal learning In this blog post we would like to combine two topics: the recent trends in the use of mobile technologies for learning purposes, and the engagement of adult learners in informal learning. We would like to suggest that these two trends are merging, and at this point that I would ask: is it possible to engage people in mobile learning projects without pushing informal learning?

The use of mobile devices has now become commonplace around the world, with non-Western countries showing the highest rates of current growth. In the meantime the “average time spent daily using smartphones is growing fast. In fact it’s difficult to determine a precise average time – some analysts agree that we check our smartphones around 150 times/ day, for an average of 2 hours of total time spent! Check out this post for more on these stats! Finally, the number of adults adopting smartphones is also growing – both for personal and business purposes.

Now let’s move to the 2nd concept – informal learning – and focus our attention on different data.

Research on learning outside the institutional context indicates a high level of informal learning in the adult population: up to 98% of adults engage in informal learning. But, what is informal learning?  It can be defined as follows: ‘self-directed informal learning [..] is most simply understood as learning that is taken on the learner’s or learners’ own terms without either prescribed curricular requirements or a designated instructor.’ (Livingstone)

Here we are at the point where adults use smartphones and are highly engaged with informal learning. The combination be very successful for our elearning projects!

In a recent paper on Motivation and Mobile devices, I found the best list of reasons why mobile informal learning might be motivating:

  1. control (over learners’ goals)
  2. ownership
  3. communication
  4. fun
  5. learning-in-context
  6. continuity between contexts

In my last blog post on motivation and learning style we already discussed that one of the intrinsic motivators for learners is control over their learning goals. In the informal learning context learners have control over their own goals and the freedom to choose the activities they want to join.

Some analysts also call this consumerization. Mobile devices seem to give their users a strong sense of ownership and they are much more likely to be viewed as individual personal property than other kinds of digital tools. This is also one of the reasons behind the growing acceptance of the BYOD trend within Enterprises.

Three out of the ten most common actions taken on smartphones everyday relate to communication: messaging, calling and sending email. These behaviours strongly support and empower collaborative learning (and we know that working with other people is in itself motivating).

FUN 🙂  
We all know that mobile devices are widely used for entertainment! The most downloaded apps are often games – that implies by default that mobiles have become identified as ‘fun’ devices.

Learning in context:
Learning on the go doesn’t just mean that you multiply the places where learning can happen, but also that learning can happen where it is really needed. This is one of the reasons for example behind the wide acceptance of mlearning in specific industries such as Hospital and Retail.

Continuity between contexts:

The simple fact that learners always bring their mobile devices with them opens the way to reuse learning in different contexts. Anytime they feel they need learning content they can retrieve it from their mobile devices.

In conclusion, if your are planning to start a mobile learning project ask yourself: how many of these motivators am I enabling? And try to avoid some common reasons for failure in mlearning, such as having a rigid learning plan, prohibiting informal communication, and/or having strict rules about which devices to use!

If you want to explore this in practice with your learners in real life, start by activating Docebo’s 14-day free trial


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