mLearning is Not eLearning

Happy Holidays!
Here’s a quick blog for your Christmas Eve, or your first night of Hanukah. 

In one minute, this video describes the differences that should be considered between eLearning and mLearning. It was created for my INTE 5680, Producing Media for Learning course.

The learning technologies community has purposefully separated the terms eLearning and mLearning (for Mobile Learning) because they are two very different learning experiences. You might assume that Mobile Learning – being on a device with a screen and an internet connection – would fall under the umbrella of eLearning. But, because of their distinct natures, these two types of learning experiences must be differentiated.  

What makes them so different? eLearning’s and mLearning’s differences can be categorized in four characteristics: Navigation, Location, Information, and Duration. These distinctions influence they way mLearning should be designed.


mLearning occurs on smaller devices, typically a smartphone or a tablet. Because of the smaller screen size on these devices, designers must be economical with the user interface, and configure the content to adhere to the size. This will also influence how much information can be presented at any one time, which changes how the content may be segmented. eLearning has the convenience of being on larger screens. Designers have more real estate to present content and instruct. Note: Some people may think laptops are mobile technology, after all their mobility was advertised as one of their advantages over desktop computers. Nevertheless, with smartphones and tablets now in the marketplace, laptops are seen less as mobile devices, and more as sit-down workstations.


mLearning can occur anywhere! Because the smaller mobile devices can be transported freely, designers should consider how the learning experience can be enhanced by the device’s mobility. mLearning can take advantage of mobile devices functionalities like GPS or the camera. Designers can create augmented realities as learning experiences through mobile devices. eLearning is restricted to desktop computers or laptops, which obviously lack the mobility of small devices. Though they may have some of the same functionalities as mobile devices, like cameras, their ease of use is arduous compared to mobile devices.


Because mLearning is on-the-go, can be used anywhere, and has smaller screen size, the content is limited, and must be presented in smaller chunks. eLearning requires people to be more purposeful in their learning; they must sit down at a computer and be prepared to address the materials, allowing the eLearning environment to provide more robust, even deeper, information for the learners to retain. mLearning can occur more casually, as well as in a pinch. Therefore, a single mLearning object may only skim the surface of the content, or it must quickly focus on the crux of the content.


Also due to its mobility, mLearning is asked to serve information fast. In an eLearning experience, the learners are dedicated to the task, and are willing to forfeit more time. But people are more impatient when using their mobile devices. Mobile learning materials must be focused and quick in order to provide people the information they seek immediately.

When developing an mLearning solution, keep these four differences in mind. mLearning is not eLearning. An eLearning experience will not translate well if copied into a mobile device. 


Mitchell WollComment