Melissa Cater, PhD
It seems as if every day brings a new opportunity for expanding our educational delivery methods. While e-learning, or web-based content delivery, is the star of the moment, mobile learning (m-learning) offers new territory for reaching our target audience. Mobile learning differs from e-learning in that it focuses on content that may be delivered via mobile devices like cell phones, tablets, and MP3 players to name a few.
As consumers, we daily encounter mobile learning opportunities. The use of QR codes (quick response codes consisting of black modules arranged in a two-dimensional square) are becoming so common that you find them in magazines, on product packaging, and in numerous other locations. The codes are scanned by a smartphone and quickly link to product information, videos, or additional educational content. Possibilities exist to connect our Extension clientele to an m-learning experience in agriculture, families, or youth with QR codes embedded into newsletters, Louisiana Agriculture articles, or factsheets, just to name a few.
The exploding app market provides another method for delivering educational content. A recent Journal of Extension article described a turfgrass management app which delivers research-based information on weeds, diseases, insects, and turfgrass species in real-time (McCullough et al., 2011). The beauty of this technology is not only that clientele are able to access it quickly and easily but also that the information is available compactly on the phone in their pockets.
The shift to m-learning should not exclusively center on traditional content delivery but should also include strategizing ways to actively engage clientele in the learning process. Most mobile devices offer access to cameras and many include video capabilities. Additionally, the wide range of apps available, ranging from blogs to photo and presentation editing, and social media apps are a developing frontier for learner engagement. Educators should give consideration to how all of these technologies could be leveraged to make the learning experience more interactive and memorable.
While the possibilities for m-learning are both numerous and exciting, the planning for effective utilization of this delivery method could be time-consuming. Here are a few resources to begin your exploration of m-learning. Please post other resources that you find useful in the comments section.
McCullough, P., Waltz, F., Hudson, W., & Martinez-Epinoza, A. (2011). Turfgrass management at your findertips: Information delivered through “smart” phone technology. Journal of Extension, 49(3) Article 3TOT10. Retrieved from http://www.joe.org/joe/2011june/tt10.php