/ 28 October 2020

The future of learning is here — and it’s mobile

Next Iphone 'to Be Cheaper, Not Bigger'
The smartphone is a crucial tool for enabling lifelong learning and has the potential to democratise education, particularly with internet penetration and access to data both continuing to rise


Internet search giant Google recently announced plans to launch its own learning platform. 

Dubbed “career certificates”, Google’s collection of courses is aimed at helping learners to obtain qualifications in high-paying, high-growth job fields without attending university. 

Google’s courses take about six months to complete, and cost a fraction of traditional university courses. 

This development, however, shouldn’t come as a surprise: it’s yet another sign of how the global education space is facing huge disruption. 

Over the years, our understanding of learning has changed radically, and our methodologies have evolved rapidly. 

There is a growing realisation that lifelong learning — from the classroom to the workplace and beyond — is crucial, and that technology is the main enabler for this. 

In this respect, the smartphone, in particular, is proving to be a game-changer as a learning tool.

Why mobile? 

Traditionally, mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets have been viewed more as a distraction than an educational tool. 

With smartphone usage surpassing the 90% mark in South Africa this year, and developments in the edtech space, however, these handheld devices are rapidly becoming more powerful learning tools.

To illustrate this, a growing number of educational-content providers in recent years have started honing in on a practice called “single-concept learning” when it comes to mobile devices. Very simply, this involves delivering education — whether on an app or via the mobile web — in bite-sized chunks, and has proven to be an effective way to boost retention among learners.

This method allows learners to consume nuggets of relevant information, rather than grappling with pages of text and ideas at a time. It also allows learners to repeat modules more easily, which helps greatly with deepening their understanding.

A learner’s progress is also tracked using these tools, helping educators to flag any shortcomings. 

More flexible

Thanks to mobile tech, we are presented with an opportunity to “leapfrog” traditional structures by cutting back on classrooms, learning centres, or even office-based training facilities. 

The mobile device, in this instance, becomes the facilitator.

By downloading the course material on to a smart device, learners can access their notes and assignments at a quiet time during the day, whether it be during a break, or in a taxi or a train. 

The opportunity for people to learn in their own space and at their own pace is a major benefit in today’s fast-paced world.

Offline ability

Although the vast majority of South Africans now own a smartphone, they are often connected to the internet only when near a Wi-Fi hotspot.

Mobile networks have faced calls for many years to zero rate educational content, and some progress has been made in this regard.

But to overcome the need for data, mobile learning offers offline capabilities, meaning that learners can download their education material when they are in a Wi-Fi hotspot and can then access the content offline. 

Accessing content is not as big a challenge as it used to be, and with ever-growing connectivity we can expect greater democratisation of learning. Statistics show that, in 2019, 56% of the South African population were internet users. But this figure is expected to jump to more than 62% by 2025.

Taking these factors into consideration, it’s clear that the mobile device has huge potential and benefits when it comes to learning. When used in conjunction with other technology tools and content, it becomes even more valuable.

As we shift towards an increasingly virtual world, there’s no doubt that this style of learning will become more entrenched.