6 Mobile Learning Trends That Grew in 2012

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you might have heard by now that mobile learning is no longer the next big thing – it IS the big thing. In the past, smart phones and tablets were something only the “trend setters” had, but now that they are more affordable and accessible than ever (with Apple’s announcement of the iPhone 5 earlier this month, the iPhone 4S price has dropped to $99) it’s no wonder mLearning has taken off. Here is a quick breakdown of the mobile learning trends you need to be watching. All of these trends saw significant uptake in 2012… and look to continue.

1. mLearning in the classroom…and in the workplace.

Yes, teachers are now encouraging students to bring their smart phones and tablets to class and some schools are even providing them. There are thousands of apps available for the classroom that teach math, language, and even handwriting, and text message polls that encourage class participation. The best part? Research shows that it’s actually working. A study funded by the Department of Education showed vocabulary improvement by up to 31% in Title I elementary school students after just two weeks of using a particular educational gaming app. With such fantastic results in the K – 12 sphere, it’s no wonder mobile learning is seeing such rapid uptake in the workplace, too.

2. Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)

How will BYOD affect mLearning?

How will BYOD affect mLearning?

Many companies and schools are adopting this policy as it is more cost effective and encourages people to keep working even after they go home for the day…or at least, that’s what the buzz is about. Reality is not always matching  up so far. IBM was one of the first companies to implement this policy, and so far the results have been, well, nightmare-ish. Ideally BYOD would save companies money, but according to IBM CIO Jeanette Horan, it hasn’t. Instead it’s been a headache for IT and caused all sorts of security risks. We’re grateful IBM volunteered itself to be the BYOD guinea pig because once these issues get sorted out it’s bound to be a beautiful thing.

3. “Snack learning”

Just like it sounds, snack learning is “bite-sized” tidbits of information you can grab on the go. Meant to be consumed in a couple of minutes, snack learning is convenient when you have a five-minute break between meetings or need a quick tutorial on how to run a software program. It’s great for brushing up on an old topic or learning the basics of a new one and caters to all types learners, from those of us with short attention spans to the knowledge-hungry learners. Learning “snacks” are perfect for additional reinforcement, quick tutorials, and the immediate assistance that the workplace demands.

4. Tin Can API

Tin Can API is the new eLearning standard.

Tin Can API is the new eLearning standard.

Tin Can API is SCORM’s smart and attractive younger sibling. By using the “Noun, verb, object” statements it’s able to track the important stuff, like what is actually being learned or done. Rather than the old system of recording pass/fail data, Tin Can provides trainers with useful information that can help personalize learning. Unlike SCORM, Tin Can API is also easy to implement and major players like Articulate, Lectora, and Blackboard have already adopted Tin Can. We are big believers in Tin Can at BLP, so much so that we have developed the first Tin Can API compliant learning game engine – The Knowledge Guru. It’s launching at DevLearn 2012. Tin Can API is currently at version .95, but will be at 1.0 soon.

5. Location-based integration and workplace training

You may have already seen location-based integration in museums, colleges or other places where tours are common, but we know it can go further. Whether it provides auditory, visual or textual information or directions, we predict this will become a great resource for employers as they train new employees and welcome customers into their companies. With smart phone use on the rise, businesses would be absurd not to use this to their advantage. Getting creative with training, like recording podcasts for sales reps who spend most of their days on the road, is an efficient use of time and can boost productivity.

6. Cloud computing

Cloud computing is a convenient way to file share.

Cloud computing is a convenient way to file share.

It’s inexpensive (or free), easy to use and provides a central location for large amounts of information that need to be shared – what’s not to love? At BLP we use Dropbox to share files, but I also use it at home to share family photos with family and friends. Most companies offer free storage up to a certain amount, then charge incrementally. The convenience of cloud computing will leave users on cloud nine as it wipes out the hassle of attaching files via e-mail or uploading them to a thumb drive and creates a simple way to collect and distribute information. It’s already changing the way we learn and work… and is only going to grow.


Mobile learning is exciting, the trends are important, but effective learning experiences still come down to rock-solid instructional design. Use these technologies, enjoy them, but always make sure decisions are driven by the ways people learn — and what motivates them.






  • http://twitter.com/aohanian Ara ohanian

    Stephanie, a great summary of how far mobile has progressed so far this year. The one point I’d add to your list is the delivery of “in-context-information” by mobile. In the past we have been focused on learning and that’s often left us producing courses based on short titbits of information. Increasingly though, it doesn’t matter if this is how the knowledge is learnt as long as it reaches the person who needs it. It’s a sure bet that there are more trends to come – in a fast moving world, alot can change in the three remaining months of 2012!

    • LessonsOnLearning

      It is the in-context information that ultimately helps us solve that next problem in our work. Great point!

  • Mim Bizic

    Just last Friday, I visited the outstanding MIM (Musical Instruments Museum) of Phoenix, Arizona! When they gave us the headsets at the desk, I was skeptical as to whether they would work or not. How many museums I’ve been in where you’re supposed to push a button and listen, but it would say, “Out of order.” BUT, this was like magic! You have the headsets on, and as you approach a display, the video starts, there is singing, or people playing instruments, etc. from ALL over the world! The huge complex has rooms by continents, and I would recommend it to ANYONE in the Phoenix area. It was just a fabulous experience, and I loved using that wonderful technology!

    • LessonsOnLearning

      Thanks for sharing such a cool use of location based tech! Truly awesome.

  • Pingback: Six 2012 Growing mLearning Trends : The eLearning Site()

  • http://twitter.com/MirrorIP MirrorIP

    For workplace learning you might be interested in the European project MIRROR reflective learning at work. The project creates apps and 3D serious games that facilitate reflection and learning at the workplace, all based on a model that focusses on when reflection and learning take place. If you want to know more, please go to http://www.mirror-project.eu or follow us on twitter (@MirrorIP). Members of our LinkedIn group can get access to our apps and test them for free. http://www.linkedin.com/groups?home=&gid=3357670

  • eworkinguy

    Overall, this is an excellent article, making great points and really good insights. However, when you say: “IBM was one of the first companies to implement this policy, and so far the results have been, well, nightmare-ish.” this is not only misleading but flat out wrong. IBM, like HP, AT&T, Cisco and several others, are all pioneers in formalized distributed work, some starting programs in the late 80′s. No doubt there were growing pains and course corrections to be made along the way, but the only nightmares were experienced by managers who were…and some who still are…reluctant to manage their team by work output, not by counting butts in seats. Many organizations have saved millions of dollars in real estate costs through distributed work, and their organizational cultures are so well adapted to this workstyle, where people work it simply not mentioned…they just work!

    • LessonsOnLearning

      Thanks for the feedback! The resources we found online (cited in the article) all pointed to some of those course corrections and growing pains you mention in your comment related to IBM’s BYOD policy. We strongly believe in the benefits of BYOD, but also thought it worth mentioning the potential challenges that should be planned for along the way. If organizations are to save those millions of dollars, they must implement the program wisely.

  • Pingback: 6 Mobile Learning Trends That Grew in 2012 » INNOV – Le blog USJ des pratiques innovantes d'enseignement()

  • Pingback: Mobile Learning trends in 2012 » INNOV – Le blog USJ des pratiques innovantes d'enseignement()

  • Pingback: 6 mobile trends in 2012 » INNOV – Le blog USJ des pratiques innovantes d'enseignement()

  • Pingback: #DevLearn 2012 Conference Backchannel – Curated Resources [David Kelly]()

  • Pingback: » 6 Mobile Learning Trends That Grew in 2012 » Bottom Line Performance | Patti Portfolio()

  • Pingback: 6 mLearning Trends that Grew in 2012 | Dallas()