At the intersection of disruptive technologies—robust handheld computing and communications, sensor technology, and big data—mobile learning has emerged as a game changer for a number of organizations. Mobile meets learners at the moment of piqued interest and at the point of need, at once forming a great opportunity and unveiling a responsibility.

Mobile learning is one of those topics that’s so obviously important that everyone involved in workforce development and education needs to understand its breadth and width and then explore the little spaces in between. It deserves your focused examination and consideration; you owe it to yourself and to your customers to truly master this category. A great place to start (or continue) your journey is Chad Udell and Gary Woodill’s book, Mastering Mobile Learning.

Insights based on experience

Mastering Mobile Learning emerges from experiences of key team members at Float Mobile Learning (a leading mobile learning and development company) and pulls together some of the best and most important thinking from this group, many of whom are regular speakers and prolific writers. Chad and Gary have done an awesome job weaving a tapestry of critical thinking around mobile to help newbies and experienced professionals alike achieve a clearer picture of the overall mobile landscape as well as gain deep insights related to mobile strategy, design, development, and deployment.

Organized into 50 short “chapters,” the book is easy to read and digest. Even though I picked it up at a rather busy time of the year, I found myself stealing away minutes wherever I could to absorb another chapter—reading it on mobile devices, of course. And while it may sound cliché, I fully expect to turn back to this work frequently as I pursue mobile endeavors in the future—especially for strategy work.

Stated goals of the book include helping to shift thinking: seeing mobile learning differently than other forms of learning and helping reveal how large-scale mobile learning is doable. These goals, in my opinion, were addressed rather well throughout the work.

A roadmap for mobile learning implementation

According to the authors, the five parts of Mastering Mobile Learning are sequenced similarly to the roadmap Float uses to guide clients through the process of implementing mobile learning.

The first section, Understanding Mobile Learning, starts at the proper beginning. By exposing the business drivers behind mobile, out of the gate the authors lay the foundation for the mobile learning business case. This section discusses the benefits of mobile learning, disruptive shifts that are happening in the way learning is carried out in enterprises, and opportunities created by these disruptions.

The second section, Strategic Thinking about Mobile Learning, provides readers with fodder for creating a compelling business case for mobile. It gives guidance for strategic considerations; ties to core business drivers; insights around developing a mobile content strategy including quick and easy ways to create content; and suggestions for using mobile to improve customer engagement. This section also explores the implications of mobile device management strategies, including BYOD (bring your own device) and BYOT (bring your own technology); security considerations such as mobile device management and mobile application management; and change management strategies for mobile learning.

The Varieties of Mobile Learning Experiences explores ways you can use mobile for learning. The authors discuss categories of learning; affordances of mobile devices; using gestures and multi-touch; leveraging sensors; voice and messaging; alternative reality games; uses for sales training and assessment; the impact of mobile learning on assessment and evaluation in a broader sense; autonomous learning (mobile research); performance support; the implied personalization of mobile devices and their unique ability to presume intent; and the possibilities of mobile learning leveraging the uniquely personal and relevant information available through mobile devices.

In addition, one chapter of this section focuses entirely on ways you can use geolocation to make content more relevant. Another focuses on using the mobile camera as a learning tool. And a third relates Gary’s insights of working in “third spaces,” which is sure to resonate with more than a few of you.

Simply repurposing existing content in a mobile footprint will get you no farther in mobile than that practice did for eLearning in the early 2000’s—one result being “boring” eLearning, which damaged the category’s reputation. In fact, the authors clearly state their position that mobile is mostly not about formal learning. Design and Development Processes for Mobile Learning, the fourth part, focuses on how you should approach design for mobile. While it does include a chapter that addresses the topic of converting eLearning to mLearning, Chad notes that you “can’t really just move things around to make them smaller and expect that to work.” Fortunately though, the authors do share strategies that do work.

Additional topics in the fourth part of the book include content curation as an essential ingredient of your mobile strategy; tools for mobile learning development; instructional design patterns; digital publications; multi-screen design considerations; context; social media for learning; responsive design; learning management systems; geolocation-based applications; push notifications; web-based mobile apps (and performance considerations); the Experience API; and Mobile Metrics.  

In Part 5, Managing and Delivering Mobile Learning Projects, the authors cover mobile learning project management, security, social media, budgeting, and strategies for keeping up with the ever-changing landscape of mobile learning technology.

Closing observations

Mobile isn’t going away, and you need to understand its implications. As the authors state early on, “Full-scale adoption of mobile learning will have a profound impact on the structure of enterprise learning and development departments in ways that we are just beginning to understand.”

If you drink in Mastering Mobile Learning, as I did, I’m confident you will have an effective understanding of mobile learning and will have the foundation you need, with application and opportunity, to truly master mobile learning.