Global Mobile Learning

Mobile Learning…for the World

By Mark Sivy, Ed.D.

UNESCO and UN Women held the global Mobile Learning Week 2015 this past February. The purpose of this annual meeting is to bring together an international group of practitioners, researchers, and other stakeholders for the purpose of promoting mobile technologies as a means to advance education. This year’s theme of Leveraging Technology to Empower Women and Girls focused on how “with appropriate implementation and training, mobile technology can open doors of opportunity to women and girls who are often under-served educational.” According to the event description, the symposium explored “how newly affordable and increasingly ubiquitous mobile devices can improve access to education, strengthen learning outcomes and, ultimately, nudge the world closer to true gender equality, both in education and beyond.”


Why Mobile Learning?

Mobile learning is playing an increasingly important role in international training, talent development, and education processes by providing the means for convenient learning using a broad range of mobile devices (e.g. laptops, tablets, and smartphones) at a time and location of the learner’s choice. Mobile learning can provide personalized learning advantages to younger learners and can facilitate many aspects of the flipped learning space. When offering learning opportunities for young adults and adults, mobile learning provides such advantages as access to on-demand content, self-directed learning, and the individualized incorporation of new knowledge with existing experience.


To fully understand mobile learning, a common definition is necessary. Finding this is as elusive as a definition for many other contemporary terms such as e-learning, virtual learning, and web-based learning. A good generally applicable definition for mobile learning can be developed from. So mobile learning, based upon the 2008 Association for Educational Communications and Technology (AECT) description of educational technology, can be comprehensively explained as “the study and practice of facilitating learning and improving human performance through various mobile contexts and interactions by creating, using, and managing appropriate technologies, learning processes, and resources.” From this definition, one can see that mobile learning is a complex relationship between multiple components, including:

  • Study – having knowledge of learning theory and research that are associated with the use of educational technologies.
  • Various Contexts and Interactions – these can provide abundant learning opportunities, but also present many of the unknowns, barriers and issues that can arise.
  • Ethical Practice – increasing the likelihood of attaining intended learning outcomes by being responsible, maintaining a respect for of learner abilities and progress, applying appropriate methodologies, and using principled intentionality when innovating.
  • Appropriate Technological and Educational Processes and Resources – even with a valid need guiding the selection of technology and instructional methodology, the combined implementation can sometimes result in instructional complications and learning issues if the overall strategies are not well-planned.

mobile learning

Making It Work

Mobile learning can facilitate and leverage processes such as innovation, collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, problem-solving, productivity, and leadership, but is dependent upon addressing many factors. The implementation of a mobile learning strategy should be guided by learner needs, the available capacities to design and provide exceptional learning content, and learner access to the Internet and mobile devices. Properly trained IT staff are needed for the installation, maintenance, and administration of back-end systems. Talent development is necessary to prepare instructors to produce learning through positive and engaging experiences. Finally, mobile learners need understandable guidelines and readily available support.

Reflection Point: “If you could kick the person in the pants [who is] responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn’t sit for a month.”   ~ Theodore Roosevelt



Association for Educational Communications and Technology (2008). Definition. In A. Januszewski and M. Molenda (Eds.), Educational Technology: A definition with commentary. New York: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.


Information and Communication Technologies

ICT for Global Education Redesign

by Mark Sivy

Realizing that a well-educated populace is essential for boosting national prosperity and competitiveness in an international economy, top-level education departments and ministries around the world are now focused on ensuring that their P-12 curricula and instruction are adjusted to modern standards. This task involves ensuring that learners have the specific skills, literacies, knowledge, and expertise that will ensure their success in the global marketplace. A crucial piece in accomplishing this, both in terms of learning outcomes and instructional delivery, is ICT (information and communication technology). ICT

Learning Outcomes

As a driver of learning outcomes, ICT has played an important role in the development of new international curricular strategies. The Partnership for 21st Century Skills has been at the forefront of providing a basis for the remodeling and modernization of teaching, learning and curriculum, with ICT being a significant consideration. Even though established as a US K-12 education initiative, the organization’s recommendations have global relevance and implications. One of the major categories found within the Partnership’s renowned publication, P21 Framework Definitions document, was created in response to the fact that we live in a global environment that is infused with and dependent upon technology and media. This portion of the document offers the following guidelines for the knowledge, skills, and expertise that student should possess as a result of the learning process:

Information Literacy

  • Accessing and evaluating information
  • Using and managing information

Media Literacy

  • Analyzing media
  • Creating media products

ICT Literacy

  • Applying technology effectively, ethically, and legally


Instructional Medium

As a medium for instructional delivery, ICT plays another significant role in the modernization of international education systems. One of the challenges in many countries has been the provision of a quality and equal education to all children regardless of their circumstances. Around the world, ICT infrastructures are being updated and expanded to provide Internet access to both urban and rural destinations and recipients. Additionally, these schools and learners are being provided with devices to receive educational web content that has been specifically designed and developed by subject matter experts, master teachers, and instructional designers who are highly specialized in e-learning and the variety of learning devices. Of particular interest and development are mobile learning, one laptop per child (OLPC), and other one-to-one initiatives. These will be examined in future posts.

Reflection Point – “As much as I love my laptop that is not the way world is going to learn. They are going to learn on tablets and phones. Better be on board or miss the train.” ~Jay Cross

Learning at a Distance


by Mark Sivy

In beginning to understand the current status of learning-at-a-distance, I thought a good starting point would be to offer a brief personal perspective on its evolution. During my professional and academic journeys, I‘ve come across a wide range of definitions and uses for terminology associated with learning at-a-distance. At times this has led to misunderstandings, confusion, and even the use of less than optimal teaching practices that result in poor learning outcomes. So based upon my experiences, I’ll give three general stages that have occurred in the evolution of learning at-a-distance, each being described by my views on what they involve in terms of the instructor, learner, and medium. The loosely defined time periods are based upon the years when the given methods of teaching and learning were fairly well rooted.


Distance Education – Web 1.0 (before 1994)

Distance education can be traced back to colonial America in a reference made to a mail-based correspondence course found in an advertisement in the March 20, 1728 issue of the Boston Gazette. It stated that “Persons in the Country desirous to Learn this Art [shorthand], may by having the several Lessons sent weekly to them, be as perfectly instructed as those that live in Boston”. Mail correspondence continued to be the medium of choice until evidence of technology-enhanced distance education began to appear in the early 1900s when educators began using inventions such as the radio, slide projector, motion picture, and television to produce learning.

Classic distance education used a course-centered approach to teaching in which subject matter was prescribed to the student. Delivery of content was very often via audio, readings, and viewings of video-based materials and lessons. Exchanges between teachers and students are often via mail, e-mail, and phone conversations. Communication and learning are primarily unidirectional, from the instructor.


Online Education – Web 2.0 (~1994-2009)

PLATOThe application of modern digital technology to education was first noted with the use of computers to form an organized and connected system of learning known as PLATO (Programmed Logic for Automatic Teaching Operations) in 1960 at the University of Illinois. Then in 1991 when Tim Berners-Lee’s efforts gave us the World Wide Web, the digital facilitation of web-based education was born.

This form of online learning is produced through student-centered methods of education. Websites and course management systems along with web-meeting applications are frequently implemented. Interactions between teachers and students are most frequently via e-mail and learning management systems. Communication and learning are typically bi-directional between the teacher and student, with some interaction between students.


Virtual Learning Environments – Web 3.0 (~2009 and beyond)

Through the development of new learning theories, technologies, and instructional systems practices, online education has evolved to become a more complex integrated system consisting of multiple learning strategies. This includes combining the benefits of such items as social media, virtual learning management systems, modern instructional design, mobile learning, semantic web principles, digital design, and gamification.

Web 3.0

Virtual learning environments embrace a community and context-centered philosophy through which there is the observation, discovery and synthesis of knowledge and skills via participation and shared learning. In addition to e-mail and learning management systems, participation and learning occur online via social learning and networking tools, collaboration tools and virtual environments, thus incorporating the benefits of interactivity and virtual presence. Communication and learning are multi-directional with the majority of this occurring among students. The needs for personal flexibility and mobility are addressed.

Reflection Point – “Web 3.0 will be the ‘intelligent web’. Apps are getting smarter, because data is getting smarter.” ~Nova Spivak

E-Learning is Going Strong

E-Learning Spreads Across the Globe

by Mark Sivy

GlobalE-learning continues to expand globally as a fundamental means of education and outreach. Schools, businesses and governments are adding online learning strategies such as courses, media, documentation, coaching, and collaboration to their organizational processes. It has been realized that e-learning can level the education playing field between urban and rural settings as well as between top-tier nations and developing countries. With an expected annual growth of e-learning in North America and Western Europe being less that 6%, other areas of the world such as Eastern Europe, Asia, and Latin America are anticipating an annual increase of over 14% (Docebo E-Learning Market Trends and Forecast, 2014-2016).

According to the GSV Advisors 2012 Education Sector Factbook, e-learning is expected to grow at an average rate of 23% during the years of 2013-2017, with the global market size being anticipated to go from $90.9 B to $255.5 B. Based upon Watson, Murin, Vashaw, Gemin, and Rapp’s annual high school e-learning course enrollments, the 2012-2013 numbers represented an over 131% increase in enrollments when compared to the 2008-2009 school year. In 2010, Mincberg projected that it is possible by 2020 for 50% of all high school classes to be delivered online. Additionally given current trends, it can be estimated that by 2019, half of all college classes will be e-Learning based.

Online Learning

By using e-learning, corporations are realizing that they can save over 50% on the cost of creating and delivering a traditional course, not to mention that they can make it readily available to a large number of employees when and where they need it. This global trend has been found to be the case with both small and large companies, and is due to the acceptance of e-learning as an efficient and cost effective means to quickly educate a geographically distributed workforce. WorldWideLearn points out several other factors that are leading the continuing growth of corporate e-learning, with some of the most notable being the development and delivery of consistent high quality content, the rapid development of employee skills, and modular learning.

Talent Development

Why is e-learning so very alive and doing well? Many factors have been found that are contributing to its popularity and reach. Some of these are:

  • Mobility created by the expansion of wireless access and the growth in mobile device (e.g., tablets and smartphones) sales.
  • Personalized learning and adaptive learning that address the diversity of learner backgrounds and needs.
  • Gamification, which motivates learners and improves the level of interaction with the content.
  • Pervasive learning occurring through a variety of informal, social, and formal modalities, which better match learner needs and interests.
  • Popularity of cloud-based technologies and software-as-a-service (SaaS)

There may be some misconceptions or opinions out there due to “bad” experiences that may lead some people to believe that e-learning is on the decline or is ineffective. Some common reasons for this are:

  • E-learning adoption being driven by the desire to have a technology rather than by having actual learning needs that are addressed with technology after thorough analysis and planning. A classic case is the rush by many schools to implement one-on-one (1:1) laptop or tablet initiatives before the learning needs, benefits, and support requirements have been identified, explored, and vetted.
  • Failure to create an ongoing budget for scalability, maintenance, and upgrading of both software and hardware. Often, money is only allotted for the initial costs and setup or too little recurring funding is set aside.
  • Inadequate stakeholder notification or buy-in.
  • Lack of instructional design that is appropriate to the e-learning method that is being used. An example of this is uploading PowerPoints and other content from a traditional course into on that is online.
  • Absence of or insufficient training, professional development, and user support.

In most of these cases where there negative thoughts have resulted about e-learning, these could have been avoided by clearly identifying learning needs, thoroughly researching project requirements and options, involving stakeholders in the process, applying strategic vision and planning, and ensuring sufficient funds.

Reflection Point 1 – “E-Learning doesn’t just happen! It requires careful planning and implementation.” – Anonymous

Reflection Point 2 – “Teachers need to integrate technology seamlessly into the curriculum instead of viewing it as an add-on, an afterthought, or an event.” – Heidi-Hayes Jacobs



Mincberg, C. (2010). Is online learning a solution in search of a problem? Retrieved from the Litmos website:

Watson, J., Murin, A., Vashaw, L., Gemin, B., & Rapp, C. (2013). Keeping pace with K-12 online & blended learning: An annual review of policy and practice. Retrieved from Evergreen Education Group’s Keeping Pace website: