Originally posted November 30, 2015, modified February 14, 2018
Pieri (2014) describes mobile learning as learning that occurs through "autonomous from electrical supply and small enough to accompany people" device. He also mentions that "mobile learning is not just electronic, it is mobile" and it is "natural evolution of e-learning" (Pieri, 2014). To understand differences between e-learning and m-learning we should look at the following contexts of learning: purpose, medium of delivery, design and duration.
While reviewing the differences between e-learning and m-learning in the purpose context we can say that e-learning is more formal, structured and refers to the teaching in-depth subject materials, while m-learning is referred to more informal learning, that is on-demand, just-in-time and context-aware.
Learning materials are usually delivered through the computers or laptops in e-learning settings and placed bound by electrical supply. M-learning on the other hand is considered to be on-the-go and uses portable (mobile) devices that does not to be tied to the electrical network.
The purpose and the medium of delivery creates a need for designing course materials in whole new different way for m-learning. This makes a mobile learning to stand out from the concepts of e-learning even more. The size of mobile devices, bandwidth and the purpose of learning materials makes design simpler, bite-sized, and intuitive, while e-learning materials provide more in-depth information, can use complex rich with interactivity and multimedia designs. Duration of the e-learning course materials are usually set to 20-30 minutes and m-learning is usually chunked into smaller 3-10 minutes sessions.
Brown (2005) describes m-learning as a natural extension of e-learning. He talks about another important difference of m-learning from e-learning that views mobile learning as supportive mode of delivery for learning materials when e-learning is viewed as primary.
Below is quick summary of the differences between e-learning and m-learning.
Primary mode of delivery
In-depth learning materials
Limited by the power supply
Location bound access
Limited to the Internet access
Rich interactive design
Supportive mode of delivery
Autonomous from power supply
Quick access to the information
Not limited to Internet access
Simple intuitive design
Although e-learning and m-learning share a common theme of use of technology, rich communication and interaction for education in an online environment, they are two separate modes of learning; and m-learning should be viewed as a separate science not as an extension of e-learning.
Mobile learning becomes more and more popular in the educational environment. Despite all the challenges that face adoption of mobile learning in education we can’t discard its great benefits. It makes learning portable; it enhances traditional learning by introducing new aspects of learning, making it more student centered; it supports collaboration, communication and creativity of students through the use of technology; makes building learning communities easier; and reduces cognitive load on students.
With a technology progress and users advancement in use of it, we can say with great probability that m-learning is a future of education. It is redefining the concept of what “traditional” education is and will become in the nearest future.
As stated by Traxler, “the synergy between mobile learning and distance learning holds enormous potential” (Traxler, 2009) and we are witnesses of how application of m-learning changing the educational landscape in the recent years.
Brown, T. H. (2005). Towards a Model for m-Learning in Africa. International Journal On E-Learning, 4(3), 299-315.
Pieri, M., Diamantini, D., (2014) From E-learning to Mobile Learning: New Opportunities. In Ally, M. (Ed.) Mobile learning transforming the delivery of education and training. Athabasca University Press (pp. 183-194).
Traxler, J., (2014) Current State of Mobile Learning. In Ally, M. (Ed.) Mobile learning transforming the delivery of education and training. Athabasca University Press (pp. 9-24)