Why the Future of Adult Learning Is Mobile Learning

Evidence from my wife.

September 28, 2016

Is the future of learning mobile? Maybe, maybe not.

Traditional postsecondary digital education has not yet lived up to the mobile promise. Over half (56.5%) of Facebook users may login only from a mobile device, but we are no where close to that percentage with campus learning management system (LMS) use. 

When it comes to edtech, we still seem to be stuck in a web-first - as opposed to mobile-first - world.

Adult learning may be different.

I’m here to say that the future of adult learning is mobile learning.

I say this with some degree of confidence - as over the past 6 months I have watched my wife study for a high-stakes professional exam on her iPhone.

Is it fair to predict the future of an entire educational sector based on observations from a single data point?  Sure.

Should legacy publishing and edtech companies be building mobile-first (or mobile only) educational service for adult learners based on the experience of my wife? Definitely.

Is there a huge market for mobile test preparation tools for licenses, certifications and high-stakes tests? Of course - and there is probably some fierce competition trying to fill this niche.

The materials that my wife had on her iPhone for her test preparation included video lectures, slide decks, and question banks.  This mobile learning platform was not very sophisticated. No adaptive learning platform. No gamification. Nothing as slick as Duolingo.  

Still - she found the mobile study materials far preferable to web-based training.  Mobile was also better than classroom instruction.  Why?

Portability:  The study materials were always with her - everywhere she went.  The barrier for studying was low as the transition from doing something else to working on her phone was so quick.

Bursts:  The good that is most scarce in my wife’s life is time.  She has about zero extra minutes in the day.  The ability to study in short bursts was essential if she was going to study at all.

Gaps:  The main time she had to study was during gaps in-between other things.  Between meetings.  At halftime of soccer games.  While waiting for her work Windows machine to boot up.  Mobile learning fits into these gaps.

Downloaded:  Having all the materials downloaded was key. Her videos started right up - and started from where she left them.  There was never a worry about needing to get online, or losing a signal, while studying.

Formative Assessment:  Testing should be a learning tool.  Testing is problematic for all sorts of reasons as an evaluation tool - because summative assessment tests the ability to take a test.  (Nor does summative assessment tell us much about long-term retention or the ability to apply the material).  But formative assessment is wonderful - and short bursts of questions on a mobile device may be the best method we have for learning by quizzing

Watching my wife study over these past few months has been like watching the future of education.

How do we move from the the browser to the phone?

Is there really a different in adult learning and "regular" (traditional 18-22 year old) learning?

Should mobile edtech companies go first for the adult learner market?  Are they doing this?

What is your favorite mobile-first / mobile-only app or platform?

Who is going to disrupt the legacy LMS world with a mobile-only approach?


Back to Top