The question in the title of this article may beg the question: Is it a distinction without a difference? I don’t think so, and my intent is to help resolve the fundamental reason for “doing mobile learning first” as a development strategy.

Ambiguity about the learner

The first two analysis questions have to do more with the learner and the device than about the learning.


While many reasons for mobile learning fall into the category of benefits, there is a more fundamental question: Can every employee access it at any time? We often assume that everyone has a mobile device that supports learning, but that is not necessarily the case. There is a great diversity among mobile devices, and there may be a significant number of employees who do not have a device or may not have one with a compatible operating system.

Generation and skill sets

Without falling into a generational fallacy, be sure that your employees have the support they need in order to use the learning package.

How is mobility a factor?

If the employee will be in different locations from day to day, needs delivery flexibility (the learning is supported on multiple platforms, including the device, the web, or podcasts), and the employee has a compatible device and the skills needed, then the learning is mobile. Otherwise, the employee’s mobility is the key concern.

If the employee may need to complete the learning on any of a number of devices, then the learning is mobile and should be designed first

Employee availability varies

If there are times and locations at which the employee would find it inconvenient to access the learning, the learner’s mobility is the concern. There are other situations in which the designer must give priority to learning.

Quality of experience

Regardless of the outcome of the designer’s analysis of the employee’s situation, the essential question for the designer is, “Does the employee’s experience support better performance at work?’” If the answer is “no,” then the design will need to be modified appropriately to improve the outcome, including the provision of support in the flow of work.