Clark Quinn's Learnings about Learning
(The Official Quinnovation blog)

25 February 2015

mLearning more than mobile elearning?

Clark @ 6:17 am

Someone tweeted about their mobile learning credo, and mentioned the typical ‘mlearning is elearning, extended’ view. Which I rejected, as I believe mlearning is much more (and so should elearning be).  And then I thought about it some more.  So I’ll lay out my thinking, and see what you think.

I have been touting that mLearning could and should be focused, as should P&D, on anything that helps us achieve our goals better. Mobile, paper, computers, voodoo, whatever technology works.  Certainly in organizations.  And this yields some interesting implications.

So, for instance, this would include performance support and social networks.  Anything that requires understanding how people work and learn would be fair game. I was worried about whether that fit some operational aspects like IT and manufacturing processes, but I think I’ve got that sorted.  UI folks would work on external products, and any internal software development, but around that, helping folks use tools and processes belongs to those of us who facilitate organizational performance and development.  So we, and mlearning, are about any of those uses.

But the person, despite seeming to come from an vendor to orgs, not schools, could be talking about schools instead, and I wondered whether mLearning for schools, definitionally, really is about only supporting learning.  And I can see the case for that; that mlearning in education is about using mobile to help people learn, not perform.  It’s about collaboration, for sure, and tools to assist.

Note I’m not making the case for schools as they are, a curriculum rethink definitely needs to accompany using technology in schools in many ways.  Koreen Pagano wrote this nice post separating Common Core teaching versus assessment, which goes along with my beliefs about the value of problem solving.  And I also laud Roger Schank‘s views, such as the value (or not) of the binomial theorem as a classic example.

But then, mobile should be a tool in learning, so it can work as a channel for content, but also for communication, and capture, and compute (e.g. the 4C’s of mlearning).  And the emergent capability of contextual support (the 5th C, e.g. combinations of the first four).  So this view would argue that mlearning can be used for performance support in accomplishing a meaningful task that’s part of an learning experience.

That would take me back to mlearning being more than just mobile elearning, as Jason Haag has aptly separated.  Sure, mobile elearning can be a subset of mlearning, but not the whole picture. Does this make sense to you?

20 April 2012

elearning versus mlearning

Clark @ 6:45 am

Mayra Aixa Avilar (who I hope to meet someday, maybe at mLearnCon?)pointed to this post saying “mLearning is starting to diverge from eLearning not only in specific meaning, but in approach and design as well”, and I want to politely disagree.   Depends, of course, on what you mean by elearning, to start with.

The clear implication is that elearning is about courses on the desktop.  As I’ve discussed before, when I’m talking about ‘big L‘ learning, I’m covering research, performance, innovation, creativity as well as more typical execution. As a consequence, I’m talking performance support, social networks, portals, and more, as well as courses on the desktop.  The full spectrum of how digital technology, even desktop, can be supporting performance.  Of course, I acknowledge that, to most, elearning is the simple case.

Now, what’s interesting in mobile is that it’s many other things than courses on a phone.  Please.  While it might be courses on a tablet, it’s so much more.  In my workshops, I like to ask the audience how they use their mobile devices to make them smarter, and it ranges across info, contact, notes and calendar, snapping pictures, and more. So not courses.

Which is one of the reasons I like mobile learning, because it’s a real game changer.  As we look to how mobile devices can support performance, we then open the door to looking at how performance across the organization can be supported, and we start seeing how much more a learning unit could be doing besides courses (not replacing them, mind you, but stopping relying on them exclusively).

The post did mention that context-specific things could be done, and communication, but video can be captured, and software can do context-specific things at your desktop too. It’s just that we don’t tend to think about this, and we should. Yes, there is the mobility factor, and that’s a significant opportunity.  Yet this strikes me as an opportunity to redefine elearning to mean a bigger opportunity.

So I guess I’d reframe the conversation, and say that mlearning is helping us see what technology support for performance is, and that’s helping us revaluate elearning.  A good thing.

15 April 2014

What do elearning users say?

Clark @ 7:17 am

Towards Maturity is a UK-based but global initiative looking at organizations use of technology for learning.  While not as well known in the US, they’ve been conducting research benchmarking on what organizations are doing and trying to provide guidance as well.  I even put their model as an appendix in the forthcoming book on reforming L&D.  So I was intrigued to see the new report they have just released.

The report, a survey of 2000 folks in a variety of positions in organizations, asks what they think about elearning, in a variety of ways.  The report covers a variety of aspects of how people learn: when, where, how, and their opinion of elearning. The report is done in an appealing infographic-like style as well.

What intrigued me was the last section: are L&D teams tuned into the learner voice.  The results are indicative.  This section juxtaposes what the report heard from learners versus what L&D has reported in a previous study.  Picking out just a few:

  • 88% of staff like self-paced learning, but only 23% of L&D folks believe that learners have the necessary confidence
  • 84% are willing to share with social media, but only 18% of L&D believe their staff know how
  • 43% agree that mobile content is useful (or essential), but only 15% of L&D encourage mlearning

This is indicative of a big disconnect between L&D and the people they serve.  This is why we need the revolution!  There’s lots more interesting stuff in this report, so I strongly recommend you check it out.

4 February 2013

Real mLearning

Clark @ 5:01 am

Too many times, at conference expos and advertisements, it appears that folks are trying to say that courses on a tablet (or phone) are mlearning. On the contrary, I’ll suggest that courses on a phone or a tablet are elearning. Then, what is mlearning?

My argument is pretty simple: just because courses are on a different device, if they’re a traditional course – page turning with knowledge test, a virtual classroom, or even a simulation – if it’s only made touch-enabled, it’s still just elearning. Even if you strip it down to work on a phone, minimizing text, how is it really, qualitatively different?

Now, if you start breaking it up into chunks, and distributing it over time, we’re in a bit of a grey area, but really, isn’t that just what we should be doing in elearning, too?  Learning needs to be distributed, but this is still just a greater degree of convenience than doing the same on a laptop.  It’s a quantitative shift, not tapping into the inherent nature of mobile.

So, when is it really mlearning? I want to suggest that mlearning – and here I’m talking about courses, not mobile performance support, mobile social, etc, which also could and should be considered mlearning or at least mperformance – is when you’re using the local context to support learning. That could be restated as when you are turning a performance situation into a learning situation, wrapping the performance context with resources and support to take a performance experience and turn it into a learning experience.

Most of our formal learning involves what IBM termed ‘work-apart’ learning, something that happens away from your regular job.  And most training and online learning are just that, separated from work. We artificially create contexts that mimic the workplace in most of our learning.  And there are occasionally good reasons to do that, like handling multiple people and when failure can be costly or expensive.

Now, however, when we can bring digital technology wherever we are, we can use our real work to be the base of the learning experience. We don’t need an external context, we’re in one!  We can provide concepts, examples, and feedback around real contextualized practice. Or, we can add a layer to performance support that educates, not just supports, as Gloria Gery had proposed (but is still to be seen).

And, if the work context is using the desktop, then mobile isn’t necessarily a sensible solution. However, on those increasing circumstances when we’re on a site visit, meeting, at an event, and generally away from our desks, mlearning as I’m construing it here makes sense.

I don’t want to discount the value of elearning on mobile devices, particularly on tablets (where I have argued that the intimacy may have uniquely beneficial impacts), but I do think we shouldn’t consider context-free courses on a small device as anything other than just elearning. So, the question I’m wrestling with is whether mlearning includes mobile performance support, informal, etc, or do we want a separate term for that? But I kinda do want to keep mlearning from not meaning ‘courses on a phone (or tablet)’. What say you?

7 September 2012

mLearning signs of growth: now Asia

Clark @ 6:17 am

As I mentioned in my bit on the general stage at mLearnCon, mobile is the fastest-growing giant industry in history (quoting Tomi Ahonen), reaching a billion dollars in the shortest time ever.  This growth has been paralleled for mlearning as well.  I’m seeing signs everywhere…

The eLearning Guild’s excellent mLearnCon mlearning conference has grown every year since it’s start 3 years ago.  There are more vendors, more attendees, more interest.  It’s been a very valuable conference for mlearning.  And my mobile learning strategy workshop was so popular at mLearnCon that we’re running it again at DevLearn!

More people are contributing (and not just the bandwagon folks).  Complementing pioneers like  Judy Brown, David Metcalf, Jason Haag, Robert Gadd, Kris Rockwell, etc. are new folks with valuable perspectives like RJ Jacquez and Mayra Aixa Villar. (See the Designing mLearning resources page for twitter handles.)

New books are coming out too.  Chad Udell’s new Learning Everywhere is a valuable addition to the canon, complementing Gary Woodill’s analyst take on the space in the Mobile Learning Edge and my own two books on design.  It goes deeper into development as well as having a nice business perspective.

And Inge “Ignatia” de Waard is hosting a MOOC on mobile learning.  All this is exciting stuff.

The capstone, to me, is that the first mobile learning conference in Asia is being launched this fall.   In full disclosure, I’m honored to be keynoting (it’s becoming real, with my travel planned, and schedule set), but it looks like a great launch to what will hopefully  be a continuing event.  If you’re in the Asia Pacific region, and are interested in mLearning, it’s the place to be.  There are a number of names I recognize and more to meet.  If you do go, say hi!

19 May 2011

eLearning Guild Mobile Learning Research Report now available

Clark @ 6:04 am

I’ve had my head down on a couple of projects, but I can now announce one of them: the eLearning Guild’s Mobile Learning Research Report is now available. This is a timely release to help set the context for their upcoming mLearnCon mlearning conference.  (And, yes, I’m speaking, running a pre-conference workshop, all the usual. :)

In it, I review the latest trends in the mobile market, and then synthesize the results of the Guild’s member surveys.  Here’s the marketing blurb:

Mobile learning is not just a fad. It is instead a transformative opportunity both for learning, and the learning organization. Mobile learning means both augmenting formal learning, and moving to performance support, informal, and social learning as well. If you have not yet done so, it is now both possible and desirable to put in place a mobile experiment to create an mLearning strategy articulated with the overall learning, performance, and technology strategy.

The actual implementation of mLearning is growing faster in some capabilities than others. According to eLearning Guild research data collected from thousands of members worldwide, the use of mLearning for social networking and communication is more prevalent than it is for the development of custom applications, with 38.1% of organizations either implementing, designing, or building the business case for social networking and only 25.7% for custom application development.  Of those who have conducted an mLearning implementation, 50% are seeing positive returns.

In this report, author Clark Quinn begins his examination of mobile learning by establishing a foundation with some context and a discussion of devices and major categories of application. Clark then analyzes eLearning Guild research data about how people are currently using mobile, and discusses implementation issues, before taking a look to the future.

The report is free for all paid members of the eLearning Guild, with plenty of other benefits.  Check it out.

31 December 2010

Update: Designing mLearning

Clark @ 6:00 am

Well, it’s been a bit of a saga, but there are some new developments about my forthcoming: Designing mLearning: Tapping Into the Mobile Revolution for Organizational Performance. It’s the usual good news/bad news scenario, but only mildly.

First, for the bad news.  The book, which I’d been told would be available “around” January, will be available around January, if you agree that February counts.  The book, I’m now assured, will ship on 2 February.  I’m glad to have a firm date, and the only real problem with 2 Feb is that it makes a dodgy proposition of having the book available for the very good TechKnowledge conference (where I’m presenting a mobile learning workshop on 1 February).  Though, of course, you’ll be able to order the book (and you can preorder now).

The good news is I’ve finally got a downloadable PDF sample of the book, including what I think is a clever cover design (caveat, my idea :), the ‘about the book’ section, Ellen Wagner‘s gracious foreword, and the short section introduction and first chapter.  It tells the story of what the book’s about and why it should be of interest to the target audience (which hopefully includes you).

I’ll also be giving some webinars to promote the book to a variety of audiences, including the always great eLearning Guild, ASTD, and Training Industry Quarterly.  Stay tuned to your usual channels, which includes the Quinnovation News page (which always points to what I’m up to).

For my sins, of course, it appears there’s more mobile writing in my near future, which will likely impact my blogging a bit, but as always I’ll try to keep a balance.  At least the travel’s done and holidays are essentially past.  Hope your holidays have been good so far!

7 August 2007

mLearning = mPSS?

Clark @ 8:45 am

There have been some great discussions swirling around the eLearning Guild’s mobile learning 360 research report team (along with the relative merits and flaws of the iPhone ;). The question came up as to whether the fact that mobile devices focus on communication means that they can’t really deliver learning. My response to this was:

Don’t think about formal learning when you think about mLearning. As David (Metcalf) points out in his mLearning book, think of a mobile device as a learning *adjunct*. It’s a broader view of learning, where we take our learning process and augment it with mobile components. And take a performance focus: what will make people perform better!

It’s NOT about delivering an entire motivating learning experience through a 2″ screen (it *can* be, but that’s not the point). Which typically only is needed when you have a full skill-set change needed. Practitioners and experts can get away with just the facts, ma’am.

SO, we might ‘communicate’ concepts, examples, even practice (though interactivity is still the big barrier in mobile, re: the standards issue Judy (Brown) rightly raised) as *part* of a learning experience.

Or ‘communicate’ job aids/information as performance support.

It’s useful, it can lead to learning, but we need a broader definition of learning when we talk about mobile learning.

And, as the discussion re: Treo/iPhone illustrates, as we asymptotically approach the full capability of a desktop, the cognitive capability asymptotically approaches a full learning experience.

What do you think?

12 September 2006

UK eLearning Mission Report out

Clark @ 11:20 am

As I previously mentioned, I got the privilege of co-hosting a day of meetings for the UK’s visiting mission on eLearning. Sponsored by the Department of Trade & Industry, these missions send a small panel of experts from industry and academia to review and report on relevant international activity. They each have specific areas of responsibility, and are to bring back the outcomes that they determine. I have to say that the group seemed very experienced and aware, and I was eagerly awaiting the report.

The report (PDF) is now available to all. This report includes chapters on mLearning, games, performance support, and more. I haven’t yet read the whole thing, but what I have read looks suitably insightful. I recommend having a look at this critical evaluation of eLearning in the US.

1 February 2017

Other writings

Clark @ 8:04 am

It occurs to me to mention some of the other places you can find my writings besides here (and how they differ ;).  My blog posts are pretty regular (my aim is 2/week), but tend to have ideas that are embryonic or a bit ‘evangelical’. First, I’ve written four books; you can check them out and get sample chapters at their respective sites:

Engaging Learning: Designing e-Learning Simulation Games

Designing mLearning: Tapping Into the Mobile Revolution for Organizational Performance

The Mobile Academy: mLearning For Higher Education

Revolutionize Learning &  Development: Performance and Information Strategy for the Information Age

They’re designed to be the definitive word on the topic, at least at the moment.

I’ve also written or co-written a number of chapters in a variety of books.  The books include The Really Useful eLearning Instruction ManualCreating a Learning Culture, Michael Allen’s eLearning Annual 2009,  and a bunch of academic handbooks (Mobile Learning, Experiential Learning, Wiley Learning Technology ;).  These tend to be longer than an article, with a pretty thorough coverage of whatever topic is on tap.

Then there are articles in a variety of magazines.  These tend to be aggregated thoughts that are longer than a blog post, but not as through as a chapter. In particular, they are things I think need to be heard (or read).  So, my writing has shown up in:


Learning Solutions


The topics vary. (For the eLearnMag ones, you’ll have to search for my name owing to their interface, and they tend to be more like editorials.)

And then there are blog posts for others that are a bit longer than my usual blog post, and close to an article in focus:

The Deeper eLearning series for Learnnovators

A monthly article for Litmos.

These, too, are more like articles in that they’re focused, and deeper than my usual blog post.  For the latter I cover a lot of different topics, so you’re likely to find something relevant there in many different areas.

I’m proud of it all, but for a quick update on a topic, you might be best seeing if there’s a Litmos post on it first.  That’s likely to be relatively short and focused if there is one. And, of course, if it’s a topic you’re interested in advancing in and I can help, do let me know.

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