Mobile learning (m-learning) in 2023: benefits, How to’s & tools

Definition: Mobile learning (also called m-learning) is a digital learning method targeted at mobile devices. It allows students and professionals to use any mobile device (basic mobile phones, smartphones, tablets, laptop computers, notebooks) to keep learning anytime and anywhere, online or offline, synchronously (instructor-led live courses) or asynchronously (pre-recorded training content).

Mobile learning (m-learning) is anytime, anywhere
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What is mobile learning ?

With 76% of the advanced economy’s population owning a smartphone (and 94% owning a basic mobile phone, source), all using advanced technology similar to that found on desktop PC’s, no wonder learning is going mobile !

Mobile learning uses 3 delivery methods:

  • text messages,
  • websites accessible with a mobile browser
  • IOS or Android mobile applications.

Mobile learning contents and features include:

  • live classes, masterclasses, or conferences via video conferencing
  • pre-recorded audio (such as podcasts), videos, or animations
  • text-based content, from 140-character SMS, Whatsapp, or Twitter messages to long-form presentations or books (preferably in a mobile-friendly responsive format that adapts to screen sizes)
  • learner engagement features such as quizzes, polls
  • social learning features such as forums, live chats
  • collaborative features that allow learners to share their knowledge and experiences

Benefits of mobile learning

Boost student engagement and completion rate

When done right, mobile learning courses can boast completion rates as high as 99%. See this case study of mobile training for airline personnel in an international environment.

Mobile learning is user-friendly. Thanks to bite-sized content, mobile learning is much more digestible than regular e-learning, hour-long content. No need to set apart “learning hours”: learning can take place anytime, even while working to look up information to work more efficiently.

Mobile learning is also ubiquitous. It goes where learners go because it’s delivered on a device they always carry with them: their smartphone (on average, Millenials carry their smartphone 100% of the time).

And since mobile learning doesn’t require learners to be sitting at a computer, it fits more easily into their schedule. They can learn while they’re commuting, on break, or even waiting in line at the grocery store.

All these factors explain training engagement rates that are unknown to other digital learning methods.

Keep your employees engaged and motivated

It can be incorporated into any work schedule and is usually less time-consuming. It’s more effective in retaining information, as it’s easy to consume. Mobile learning will help you keep your employees engaged and motivated by providing them with bite-sized learning modules. The best part is that they can access this content anytime, anywhere.

Improve job performance

Due to the popularity of mobile devices, people are now more accustomed to smartphones than laptops or desktop computers. With mobile phones being the center of our lives, it makes sense that more companies are encouraging employees to use their mobile phones for work purposes as well.

75% of people say their smartphones help them to be more productive (Google).

Nearly 80% of IT executives said employees cannot do their jobs effectively without a mobile phone, and three-quarters said mobile devices are essential to workflows (Samsung/Oxford Economics).

The widespread adoption of mobile devices in the workplace has led to a massive shift in how we learn and work. Thanks to mobile learning apps, employees can now access training materials on their own time and at their own pace without having to be tied down to a desk or computer. This freedom and flexibility results in improved job performance as employees can learn new skills and knowledge at their convenience.

Reduce production costs

As mobile courses have to be simpler and shorter than long-form, desktop-oriented classes, their production costs are usually lower.

Additionally, using a mobile learning management system (LMS) can also help reduce costs as they are typically more lightweight and easier to use than their desktop counterparts.

Mobile learning on a smartphone
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Boost employee retention rate

Upskilling and retraining employees through mobile learning can help boost your employee retention rate.

This is because mobile learning courses offer employees the freedom to learn new skills and knowledge on their own time and at their own pace.

This flexibility results in improved job performance and work ownership, which in turn leads to increased job satisfaction and a lower turnover rate.

Benefits for digital learners

Mobile learning is more fun

The mobile learning experience is more fun because:

  • Gamification features make it more appealing: competing with other learners, earning points and rewards
  • Social learning and collaborative features give more sense to the training experience
  • The ability to use mobile-only features such as taking pictures or recording videos enhances the learning experience

Mobile learning allows me to share my knowledge

All employees, and in particular front-line workers (those in contact with the public, they represent 42% of the workforce in the US) face many specific situations that formal corporate training may not envision. Thanks to their mobile device, they’ll be able to share them to show their co-workers how they responded.

Mobile learning saves me time

With an average work commuting time of 25 minutes in western countries (source EU, source USA), the ability to make the best of use of that time with mobile learning is a time-saver.

In public transportation, digital learners will be able to watch videos and read or answer quizzes.

While driving their car, listening to podcasts, recordings of classes or video conferences will allow commuters to keep learning.

Mobile learning generates better knowledge retention

Anyone who has ever tried to learn a new skill or recall information for an exam knows that repetition is key.

The more you review material, the better you retain it.

This is one of the advantages of mobile learning, which allows educational content to be accessed anywhere, anytime.

Studies have shown that learners using mobile devices are more likely to achieve educational goals thanks to the ability to repeat content as often as needed without cognitive overload.

This is especially beneficial for language learning, as students can review vocabulary and grammar rules on the go.

With mobile learning, educational content is always just a few clicks away, making it easy to review and learn new information.

And with its short contents, it avoids cognitive overload that causes most learners to forget most of what they’ve seen, heard, or read in the following minutes.

Examples of mobile learning in higher education

Mobile learning is very adapted to university studies for several reasons:

  • It allows students to access their learning resources from their mobile devices, which is convenient for students who are always on the go.
  • It also allows students to learn at their own pace and on their own time, which is ideal for distance learning programs.
  • In addition, mobile learning technologies provide students with the flexibility to learn in a variety of ways, such as watching videos, listening to podcasts, or reading articles.

A few examples of Universities that have deployed m-learning programs:

1) The University of Southern Mississippi offers a mobile learning program that allows students to access their learning resources from their mobile devices.

2) The University of New Brunswick has developed a mobile learning app that allows students to access their courses, learning resources, and student services from their mobile devices.

3) McGill University has created a distance learning program that uses mobile learning technologies to provide students with the flexibility to learn at their own pace and on their own time.

Examples of mobile learning in corporate education

Mobile learning for onboarding

When starting a new job, onboarding is the process of learning about and adjusting to the new company culture.

While onboarding programs vary from company to company, they all share the goal of helping new employees feel comfortable in their roles and part of the team as quickly as possible.

To make onboarding more efficient and less overwhelming for new hires, many companies are turning to mobile learning.

It allows onboarding content to be accessed anywhere, at any time. New hires can complete onboarding tasks on their schedule, making the process less disruptive to their lives.

In addition, mobile learning can be more informal than traditional onboarding methods such as lectures or classroom-based.

Mobile learning for compliance training

Compliance training is usually dense, complex, and unattractive to most employees.

Given in a classroom environment, it generally results in low memorization rates.

M-learning can make it more appealing, thanks to:

  • bite-sized content that makes it more digestible
  • gamification in the form of competition that makes it enticing
  • spaced repetition that boosts information retention

Mobile learning for just-in-time learning

As its name indicates, just-in-time training consists in delivering the specific information that resolves a work issue.

M-learning is the perfect solution when just-in-time learning is required because:

  • It is always available, no matter where the issue arises (at the office desk, on the field, while working remotely)
  • It is short and highly targeted, avoiding distraction
  • it can be consulted without leaving the work situation (i.e. without leaving the desktop application that requires help or leaving the work environment where the issue arises)

Mobile learning and micro-learning

Mobile and micro-learning are often associated, although they are 2 different concepts.

Micro-learning is a teaching and learning strategy that delivers educational content in short, digestible bursts. It can be delivered on mobile devices, but also on a computer screen (think of all the help messages in desktop applications).

Similarities. Both micro-learning and mobile learning are:

  • Convenient: Both micro-learning and mobile learning can be accessed anywhere, at any time. This makes them ideal for busy learners who don’t have a lot of time to dedicate to formal learning activities.
  • Flexible: Micro-learning and mobile learning are both flexible in terms of how and when learners can access them. Learners can dip in and out of micro-learning content as and when they need to, and mobile learning can be accessed on the go, making it perfect for busy learners.
  • Interactive: Both micro-learning and mobile learning are interactive, meaning that learners can engage with the content in a way that suits them. This makes both approaches more engaging and enjoyable for learners, which in turn encourages them to stick with the content and learn more effectively.


  • Micro learning is small by definition, mobile learning not necessarily: micro-learning content is designed specifically to be consumed in short bursts, whereas mobile learning is any type of learning that takes place on a mobile device. This means that micro-learning content is usually shorter and more focused than mobile learning content, which can be anything from a few minutes long to several hours.
  • Micro-learning is great for busy learners who want to learn in short bursts or to reinforce key elements of blended training. However, it is not adapted to more complex notions that require longer demonstrations. On the other mobile learning is more flexible as it allows for longer content, but it can be harder to keep learners engaged to the end.

Mobile learning and e-learning

Mobile learning is one of several e-learning methods that exist.

Mobile learning activities are typically self-directed and task-based, making them well-suited for learners who are looking for just-in-time information or who want to learn at their own pace.

In addition, mobile learning can be less cognitively demanding than other e-learning methods since it doesn’t require learners to process large amounts of information at once.

Virtual classrooms, by contrast, often involve lectures or group discussions that can lead to cognitive overload.

Mobile technologies also offer new opportunities for social and collaborative learning, which is why many experts believe that mobile learning will play an increasingly important role in the future of education.

When to use mobile learning or e-learning

E-learning will be better suited for:

  • learning that requires a lot of cognitive processing, such as learning new concepts or complex processes
  • learning that needs to be very structured and well-organized, such as learning that requires a certification process.

Mobile learning will be better suited for:

  • Learners who want to learn in short bursts or who need just-in-time information
  • Front line workers on the field, who need to access information without using a computer
  • Learning that doesn’t require a lot of cognitive processing
  • Learning that can benefit from social and collaborative elements
  • The knowledge that needs to be updated regularly on the field. For instance in the retail environment (new product arrivals, new promotions) or the healthcare environment (new procedures, new medicine..).

How to build your mobile learning courses

How to choose your mobile Learning Management System (LMS)

We will go into more details in an article dedicated to mobile learning LMS, but here are a few criteria to choose your mobile-first LMS:

  • An authoring tool easy to use
  • The capacity to track learners’ progress
  • Gamification features
  • Certification features
  • Social learning / collaborative features
  • Possibility to give assignments
  • Notifications
  • Pre-built course library
  • Presence of a dedicated mobile application

Tips to build engaging mobile learning experiences

Optimize your mobile learning experience

Learners have become very demanding and have a daily experience of a great user experience (UX) with the numerous mobile applications they use.

To optimize the m-learning experience, think about these features:

– Make sure your mobile learning content is well-designed and easy to navigate. Layout and navigation are key on small screens.

– Use engaging and interactive content to hold their attention. Audio, video and gamification are must-haves.

– Take advantage of mobile features to make learning more convenient for them, and take advantage of other mobile apps present on the mobile device (social networks, Youtube, note-taking apps…).

Build responsive m-learning courses

Screen size is a crucial factor when dealing with handheld devices: between a 6-inch smartphone and a 11-inch tablet, the user experience is radically different!

It is particularly critical for m-learning displayed in web browsers, thus not using a dedicated mobile app.

Two factors are critical here:

  • Navigation: are the buttons clearly displayed and adapted to all screen sizes? To read, will learners need to zoom in to read text or tap on buttons?
  • Documents: PDF documents are typically not easy to read on mobile devices.

Utilize social learning features in your mobile app

If you’re looking for ways to boost engagement and retention in your mobile app, one strategy is to utilize social learning features.

Social learning happens when users interact with each other to learn new information or skills. This can be a powerful way to keep users engaged since they’re not just passively consuming content but actively participating in the learning process.

Additionally, social learning can lead to higher retention rates, since users are more likely to remember information that they’ve learned through interaction with others.

By incorporating features such as forums, chat rooms, and user-generated content, you can create a space for users to interact with each other and learn from one another.

In addition to promoting engagement, social learning can also lead to higher retention rates. Studies have shown that users who can interact with each other are more likely to stick with an app over time.

So if you’re looking for ways to keep your users coming back, consider adding social learning features to your app.


So what does the future of elearning look like? It’s mobile.

According to a report by Learning House, “By 2019, it is predicted that 78% of all Internet traffic will be from video. Of this, 69% will be from mobile devices. This means that if your organization has not started creating content for mobile delivery, you are behind the curve.”

The writing is on the wall—or rather, on our phones and tablets. If you want to stay ahead of the curve in e-learning, start building courses with a mobile-first mentality today. Are you ready to jump into the world of mobile learning?

The good news is that it’s not hard to get started with mobile learning. There are several great tools and resources available to help you create your courses.

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