Can you learn on a mobile device? The Pros and Cons

If you think mobile devices have changed corporate eLearning, you’re right. Over the last few years the mobile movement – particularly across tablets and smartphones – has made corporations rethink their training strategies and about creating mobile-ready learning programs.

If you were also thinking about implementing mobile training for your company, here are some points to consider:

  • Recent research done with American Fortune 500 company eLearning departments revealed more than 75% of them are either using or planning to introduce the use of mobile learning by the end of 2015.  
  • Because 90% of adults in the first world now own a mobile phone, mobile devices are destined to play a central role in how people access information. 
  • There is no ultimate ‘happy path’ for mobile learning – poor battery life, unreliable network connections and device usability issues are the primary barriers against the adoption of the smartphone as an essential learning device.  
  • On the plus side, mobile users are twice as likely to enable learners to learn and communicate from each other, encouraging peer-to-peer feedback, and allowing the sharing of experiences and the solving of problems online.
  • The main growth in portable devices will be tablets. It is expected that by 2016 global tablet sales will exceed 400 million units, an increase of almost seven times the units sold by the end of 2012.

Mobile learning is here to stay. The prevalence of devices that will enable this form of learning practically guarantees it.

Of course, this raises the question, can one learn on a mobile device? In this respect, there are pros and cons, which we can describe as follows:


  • Instant Access: Mobile learning provides employees access to training ‘just in time’ (especially if they work in the field, for instance, machinery repair or on outdoor sites).
  • Retention: Mobile learning allows for instant and easy access to training material that enables the repetition necessary for counteracting the Forgetting Curve.
  • Increase Total Learning: Mobile learning lets employees learn anytime and anywhere (waiting for an airplane, stuck in traffic, etc.) providing more opportunities to learn.
  • Ease of Access: Access isn’t just instant, but ubiquitous; One can access lessons from anywhere, including trains, buses, and any public place.
  • InteractionInteraction with fellow students and instructors is better facilitated with mobile. Learning is easier when information is shared and questions answered through combined study.
  • Portability: Portability is a very big plus, enabling learners to take notes or enter data directly into their mobile device.
  • Flexibility: Most smartphones and tablets are comparatively inexpensive, and already owned by most people. Students can access the LMS whenever and wherever they are. Each student can learn at their own pace – students who pick up things fast can speed through basic lessons.
  • Affordability: There will be a huge saving in the cost of learning materials.

But the picture is not completely rosy; there are some downsides to mobile learning.


  • Lack of use: Your employees may not be technically-savvy enough to navigate the mobile environment; maybe inconsistent 4G coverage means they can’t connect; or maybe they don’t want to do training away from the office.
  • Expensive: Mobile learning can be expensive and takes time to implement. Development across multiple devices adds to development cost, as does the purchase of mobile devices to support mobile learning.
  • Possible security breaches: Smartphones and tablets with sensitive training information are easier to lose than laptops.
  • Inconvenience: Size is a definite inconvenience, making text harder to read and preventing the complete display of large graphics.
  • Storage limitations: Storage capacities of mobile devices are limited, preventing the caching of materials that can speed performance.
  • Battery life: Short battery life and frequent battery changes are inevitabilities that will impact training quality.
  • No common hardware platform: There is no common hardware platform; size of screens, fast or slow processors, inadequate or adequate speakers. The lack of consistency makes it extremely difficult to develop content for use by all.
  • Devices become outdated: Devices can become quickly outdated and course developers must always be aware of the ‘lowest common denominator’.
  • Limited wireless bandwidth: There is limited wireless bandwidth, and with the number of users increasing, likely to decrease further.

Do the pros outweigh the cons? We think so! It’s the way forward. Even though there are a number of challenges that must be confronted when developing for mobile devices, on balance, they have a role to play in the eLearning world. Can you learn on a mobile device? The answer is yes. How you rollout that training, and the results with which you are subsequently rewarded, are a function of how well you are able to meet those challenges and capitalise on the many advantages.

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