Kd's e-pathsala My Journals Mobile Learning for Education: Benefits and Challenges

Mobile Learning for Education: Benefits and Challenges

Ghosh, Sanjukta., Das, Koushik (January, 2022). Mobile Learning for Education: Benefits and Challenges. CONCERTO : An Anthology of Critical Explorations, ISBN: 978-81-955507-2-2, Vol-1, 114-137.

 Sanjukta Ghosh1, Koushik Das2

1Asst Prof, Department of Education, New Alipore College, E-mail-sanjuktaghosh2011@gmail.com

2Lecturer, Department of Education, New Alipore College, E-mail- kdas4647@gmail.com


ABSTRACT: 21st century is known as an age of learning. It was declared to be the age of information and communication technology due to the revolution of mobile technology. Along with the fast developments in mobile technologies, the need to learn mobile learning (M-Learning) has become more important. In our increasingly mobile world, portable devices play a central role in ensuring the continuity of the learning process and they also provide access to education and training. Mobile learning technologies become a valuable addition to traditional learning techniques, as students have the opportunity to participate in educational activities at any time and place. Mobile learning is a new research area that has become an emerging tool for our education system. The mobile learning can be used to enhance the overall learning experience of our students and teachers. This paper discusses the background of mobile learning and how it can be used to enhance the whole eLearning system. The paper also highlights the Characteristics, Significance, Benefits, Challenges & future challenges of mobile learning to support teaching and learning.


KEYWORDS: mobile learning, teaching and learning, blended, collaborating.

INTRODUCTION: what is Mobile Learning?

In this new millennium modern technology plays inevitable role in our lives. Without modern technology we cannot go forward. Now-a-days anywhere anytime education is made possible. The practice of providing education with the help of modern technologies is termed as e-education or e-learning or m-learning. Mobile technology in word open various ways for new educational technologies aimed at fulfilling the country’s educational needs. Mobile learning is learning based on mobility often through mobile devices like smartphones, iPads, other tablets, and wearable technology. Mobile learning, also known as m-learning, is a new way to access leaning content, this can be done using devices like your phone, laptop or tablet. You can learn wherever and whenever you want. With the advent of mobile learning, educational systems are changing. There are various ways to use mobile phones for enhancing learning. Mobile phones plays an important role in our day today lives in various purposes. One of the important purposes is learning. Mobile learning, as a novel educational approach, encourages flexibility; students do not need to be a specific age, gender, or member of a specific group or geography, to participate in learning opportunities. Restrictions of time, space and place have been lifted.


According to a UNESCO report (2013), mobile devices include any portable, connected technology, such as basic mobile phones, smartphones, e-readers, netbooks, tablets, iPads and computers. Marc (2001) points out that today students have not just changed incrementally when compared to those of the past. They are the first generation to grow up with electric devices of new technology. He adds that they have been using videogames, video cams, digital music players, cell phones, computers, and all other toys and tools of the digital age almost from their birth and are an essential part of their lives. He further says that today, mobile learning is a need but not a want. It is believed that by allowing students to use mobile devices in the classroom, motivation to learn and to achieve increases (Kunzler, 2011). Hepple (1998) pointed out that just in the development of technology where these devices are becoming a reality. However, it is yet understood how learning and teaching will change with the access and use of these devices. Without such understanding, we are left with an insufficient analysis that creates the conditions for ill-informed policy decisions at educational institutes. It is of vital importance for teachers to augment or change the way they teach in order to entirely educate students and prepare them for scientific and technological global competitiveness for the 21st century.

According to Wagner (2008), today‟s M-learning is slowly coming within practical reach of institutions, agencies, and commercial enterprises hoping to support the learning needs and interests of their distributed stakeholders. With the availability of better and more powerful personal digital devices and telecommunications networks, a growing mobile content ecosystem and widespread consumer adoption of said same devices and services, could true „„anytime, anywhere‟‟ learning and performance support finally be on the horizon. Advances in wireless communication technologies have provided the opportunity for educators to create new educational models.

According to Hahn (2008) “M-learning as a phenomenon has been in process, unintentional progress since the late twentieth century.” The unintended consequence of smaller and faster computing is the enabling of an anywhere and anytime learning. In the course of scientific discovery products are produced which have novel application that are wholly unintentional. This is the unplanned nature of science – phenomena occur and exist before being named and investigated. Students learn through new technology before educators have inquired to their attributes. In this way we now play a game of catch-up. M-learning represents a well-intentioned effort to further assist humanity in the development of its learning. For our highly scheduled, commodified, pressured students, there exists a need for any time anywhere information – structured information that is organized and accessible. Emerging from recent mobile technologies, mobile learning, or m-learning, is beginning to offer ‘stunning new technical capabilities’ in education. This new genre of leaning is viewed as a revolutionary stage in educational technology. By the end of the decade or sooner, the transition to ubiquitous computing will become a pervasive force that changes the ways of human communication. Ultimately, these increasing computing capabilities will fulfill the goal of equitable access, and therefore enhance the processes of learning and teaching. (Hsinyi, et al. 2009)

Laouris and Eteokleous (2005) emphasize the importance of defining and understanding the mobile learning process and call for an educationally relevant definition that “embraces not only technical, methodological and educational aspects, but also considers social and philosophical dimensions”. The distinction, they argue, is important so that a complete and accurate definition can drive and focus implementation efforts. They agree that a M-learning definition requires consideration of time, space, learning environment, content, and technology, but also add mental abilities and learning methods (Laouris & Eteokleous, 2005).

Yu and Chieh 2008 With the aid of wireless communication technology, educational practice can be embedded into mobile life without wired-based communication. With the trend in educational media becoming more mobile, portable, and individualized, the learning form is being modified in spectacular ways. 

Kukulska-Hulme & Traxler (2005) M-learning refers to the use of mobile or wireless devices for the purpose of learning while on the move. Typical examples of the devices used for mobile learning include cell phones, smartphones, palmtops, and handheld computers; tablet PCs, laptops, and personal media players can also fall within this scope. 

Other researchers refute the simplicity of these definitions, while Traxler (2009) notes that our early definitions were “too technocentric and imprecise” (p. 2), as well as unstable, as technology itself changes so rapidly to challenge the concept of what portability or mobility really means. Traxler references the work of Arnedillo-Sánchez, Sharples, and Vavoula (2007), which describes the benefits of mobile devices to take learning to the individual while enhancing and enriching traditional learning activities.

Another promising area of relevance is activity theory, built upon the works of Vygotsy (1978). He defined learning as a system where technology assumes an important role. He tells us that learning and development are active processes mediated by tools. This was a far-reaching perspective, developed long before today’s technological capabilities expanded the possibilities we see today. Studies on activity theory in education have been growing (Levy, 2008; Lim & Hang, 2003; Mlitwa, 2007; Scanlon & Issroff, 2005), as well as in the area of system design (Mwanza, 2001), and in the use of mobile devices in workplace settings (Marken, 2006).


Mobile learning can perhaps be defined as ‘any educational provision where the sole or dominant technologies are handheld or palmtop devices’. This definition may mean that mobile learning could include mobile ‘phones, smartphones, personal digital assistants (PDAs) and their peripherals, perhaps tablet PCs andperhaps laptop PCs, but not desktops in carts and other similar solutions. Perhaps the definition should address also the growing number of experiments with dedicated mobile devices such as games consoles and iPODs, and it should encompass both mainstream industrial technologies and one-off experimental technologies. In M-Learning, communication and information exchange occur over a wireless network and can be accessed from anywhere in the world, so training can take place inside or outside an educational institution, on-line or off-line, under a professor’s guidance. Mobile learning includes the following four components: 

  • education 
  • communication 
  • organization 
  • technical content 

Mobile learning is more flexible, informal, interactive and individualized. In general, the introduction of mobile technologies in education expands the scope of the learning process beyond the walls of the educational institution; allows disabled people to study without having to travel or even leave their homes; promotes better material learning and memorizing; supports a scientific research process; increases motivation and interest in the educational process and promotes efficient learning.


Figure 1: Characteristics of Mobile Learning

(i) Ubiquitous/Spontaneous: Mobile learning is more spontaneous than other learning types. It is this spontaneity that is probably the most defining characteristic of mobile learning. Mobile learning is context aware, meaning that students can learn everywhere. Wireless technologies such as laptop computers, palmtop computers, and mobile phones are revolutionizing education and transforming the traditional classroom based learning and teaching into anytime and anywhere education (Cavus & Ibrahim, 2009). 

(ii) Portable size of mobile tools: Mobile learning tools are small and portable (Quinn, 2000; Ahonen et al., 2004; Cavus & Ibrahim, 2009). Students can use it everywhere during their learning activities. 

(iii) Blended: Teachers can use this approach with blended learning model (Uzunboylu, Cavus & Ercag, 2009). Students can use mobile tools for homework, projects or etc. in the education. Blended learning, which combines classroom instruction with m-learning, can maximize the benefits of both face-to-face and online methods (Bonk & Graham, 2006; Ocak, 2010). 

(iv) Private: M-learning is private. It means that only one learner at a time usually has access to the mobile tool and that when students want to access information connects and downloads independently from other learners (Chidi, 2002; BenMoussa, 2003; Zhang, 2003; Virvou & Alepis, 2005). 

(v) Interactive: M-learning environments which utilizes the latest technologies to bring an interactive learning environment into learning and teaching activities (Cavus & Uzunboylu, 2009). Students are not passive, the functions of mobile tools and environments allow varying levels of interactivity. Sharples et al. (2005) indicated that the technological layer represents learning as an engagement with technology, in which tools such as computers and mobile phones function as interactive agents in the process of coming to know. 

(vi) Collaborative: Mobile technologies are support communication between students and teachers. So mobile technologies may use for collaborative learning activities in the education (Uzunboylu, Cavus & Ercag, 2009; Virvou & Alepis, 2005). (vii)Instant information: Using a mobile tool is all about immediacy (Eteokleous & Ktoridou, 2009; Cavus & Ibrahim, 2009). According to Cohen (2010) the need is for quick answers to specific questions. Learning content must reflect this requirement by providing material that enables a learner to quickly zone into information. Examples of instant information are definitions, formula, and equations, etc.


Figure 2: Significance of Mobile Learning

1.  Usability : Usability relates to the ease of using mobile devices for learning purposes in respect to screen size, battery life, size, weight, memory, processing power, compatible applications and user interface (Koole, 2009, Kukulska-Hulme, 2005b). Other than these basic usability issues, Koole (2009) includes a number of other factors such as aesthetic appeal of the device, simplified display, fewer steps required to perform a task, ease of navigation, customization options and environment or climate of the place where the learner is located. Besides the usability features of mobile devices, Kuen (2006) provides a usability guidelines framework for designing mobile learning portals which focuses on analyzing the learner’s usage skills, human-mobile interaction and interface design as main categories to develop usability guidelines for designing mobile learning portals containing mobile learning content and applications. Bearing in mind the fact that current mobile devices, and the ones used in previous pilot projects such as PDAs and smart phones, are not built for learning purposes, it is more likely that learners will face usability problems. 

2.  Collaboration : Collaboration demonstrates the level of communication and interaction between the learner and the teacher as well as among other learners (Parsons and Ryu, 2009). A number of studies around the world have shown International Conference Mobile Learning 2013 that mobile learning will make learning processes more informal and collaborative (Mifsud, 2002). Collaboration in learning has been proven to enhance learning outcomes. Parsons et al. (2009) argue that collaborative learning gives better understanding of the subject matter to all contributors or group members and this in itself is a good reason for accepting mobile technologies in learning environments. 

3. Context : Context refers to the physical environment of the learner or where the learning takes place (Frohberg et al., 2009). Mobile learning presents learners with a variety of contexts where they can learn and experiment in real-world situations (Geddes, 2004). Learners can interact with the environment and make sense of the objects with location awareness of mobile devices such as museum tours; an example is the Tate modern Multimedia tour pilot project and MobiLearn project where learners experienced contextualized learning using mobile devices during the tour that provide information about objects on display (Proctor and Burton, 2003, Bormida et al., 2002). A study by Chen et al. (2003) reporting on the observation of birds on a farm is another example of context in the mobile environment where students, on a field trip, learn about birds by observing the physical activities of birds and use mobile devices to record information and identify objects. 

4.  Control : Control refers to the amount of grip a teacher or a learner has on the learning process for smooth continuity and best outcomes (Frohberg et al., 2009). When designing mobile learning environments, it is very important to emphasize the role of the moderator who mediates the learning process, controls it to a certain extent and creates the learning environment which nourishes learners with guided reflection; otherwise, learners may be at risk of losing direction (Sharples et al., 2005). 

5.  Connectivity : Connectivity, in respect of mobile technologies, refers to how mobile devices can connect wirelessly using a variety of cellular and wireless access technologies such as GPS, EDGE, GPRS, GSM, 3Gs, 4Gs, WiMAX, WiFI, WLAN (Roschelle, 2005, Ambient-Insight’s, 2008). Mobile connectivity includes voice telephony and internet access for data transmission. Connectivity, as a mobile learning characteristic, relates to how effectively a learner can access the required information or learning material on a mobile device (Koole, 2009). Network access technologies work as an interface between users, mobile devices and learning resources. Learning resources may be accessible through a wide range of mobile technologies and devices. In the mobile learning arena, a few researchers have used the term ‘accessibility’ for network access capabilities and access technologies; however, accessibility is generally referred to in relation to the provision of proper facilities for the people with disabilities (Rainger, 2005). 

6. Mobility : Mobility is sometimes used as an interchangeable term with flexibility and portability (Koole 2009). It is the ease of accessing learning material and collaborating with peers regardless of time and space (KukulskaHulme, 2005a). Mobility is one of the key constructs in the design of mobile learning systems and environments because mobility is, as noted by Sharples et al. (2002), a shared attribute of mobile devices and the conceptions of learning; students learn in different places and different times when mobile devices support them to learn anywhere-anytime (Pachler et al. 2012). Naismith et al. (2004, 4) define mobility as “the ability to link to activities in the outside world also provides students with the capability to ‘escape’ the classroom and engage in activities that do not correspond with either the teacher’s agenda or the curriculum”. 

7.  Blending : Blended learning is a ubiquitous learning solution which combines the benefits of various learning domains such as mobile learning, e-learning, face-to-face learning and contextual learning (Chao and Chen, 2009, Peter, 2007). Ally (2009) defines blended learning as a variety of learning approaches with virtual and physical learning resources combined appropriately. Accessing learning content on mobile devices is advancement in the blended learning arena as it takes the learning experience to be lifelong and informal (Pieri and Diamantini, 2009). Wan and Howard (2007, 187) mention that the ubiquity of mobile devices enables blended learning in terms of resources available on mobile devices and a number of learning activities that a learner can perform such as “concept-mapping, organization, note-taking, writing, researching, reading e-documents, doing worksheets and submitting them for checking, watching animationsand movies, drawing graphs, calculating mathematical problems, data collecting, doing their homework, keeping a reflective log, undertaking recording (voice and stylus) and interacting with simulations and multimedia educational materials. 

8.  Content : Mobile learning content refers to the learning resources for students in a format compatible with mobile devices (Frohberg et al., 2009). Low (2007) has formulated a set of mobile learning standards in the Australian Flexible Learning Framework for creating, adapting, accessing and modifying learning content or learning material for mobile devices. Mobile learning content development depends on what kinds of learning activities are required for a specific learning scenario. The literature suggests a range of mobile learning activities such as accessing information remotely, file sharing, taking photos, recording and playing audio and video files and sharing these files remotely and creating collaborative content online (Parsons and Ryu, 2009, Naismith et al., 2004b). Traxler (2005, 264) in his definition of mobile learning, calls it “spontaneous, informal, bite-sized, light-weight, context aware, connected, personalized, interactive”; these terms indicate the type of content suitable for mobile learning. 

8.  IT or Technical Support : Making mobile learning a seamless learning opportunity is not possible without technical support for teachers and students. Chen et al. (2010) suggest that the lack of appropriate technical and administrative support is one of the biggest factors influencing teachers’ adoption of mobile learning. In particular, if teachers are digital immigrants and have to redesign courses for mobile learning, they would need quite a lot support to make the content bite-sized. 



The computing and communication devices such as smart phones, laptops and PDAs with the connection to wireless networks facilitate M-Learning. M-Learning enables educator, learner and teacher to extend beyond the traditional schoolrooms (classroom, tutorial room, laboratories and lecture theatre); the schoolrooms, portable computing and communication devices provide instructors and learners increased flexibility and offer new interaction opportunities. The benefits of M-Learning are as follows:


1. Learn Anywhere, Anytime: Mobile learning allows for flexibility by eliminating the need for learning to happen at a particular time and place. Mobile learning takes learning flexibility to another level by making instructional content like videos, podcasts, and other multimedia formats available on smart phones and devices. Learners have an added advantage of accessing the content wherever and whenever they want. Mobile learning seamlessly integrates learning into the daily routine of the learner, which results in successful course completion and retention of knowledge.

2. Improves Knowledge Retention and Recall: Mobile learning leads to improved knowledge retention thanks to the fact that learners are more likely to remember crisp and concise data at the moment of need, which they find relevant and relatable. Thus, they will be able to recall information while at work and perform their job to the best of their ability, given that they have committed the subject matter to their long-term memory.

3. Personalization leading To a Higher Rate of Engagement: One of the widely known advantages of mobile learning is personalization. The tailor-made courses promote a higher rate of engagement and motivation for learners. Moreover, the fact that mobile learning is accessible at any time, any place helps learners stay on track with training.

4. Availability: When you adopt mobile learning in a digital training strategy, there is a unique advantage of 24x7availability. Whenever an employee is about to perform a task, for example, or give a sales pitch about a recent product, they can quickly take out their phone and launch a short course that helps them brush up their key concepts. Such a just-in-time Performance Support lays a strong foundation for the employees.

5. Easy Adoption and Future Proofing the Content: We’ve all experienced how certain websites that look great on our PCs do not come across well on our smart phones. And same would be true for mobile learning if it weren’t for responsive design. Responsive design enables the interface to adapt to multiple device sizes, whether it’s desktop, laptop, smartphone, or tablet. Responsive design goes hand-in-hand with mobile learning. This shift has helped to “future-proof” the content and design, as mobile technology advances.

6. Flexibility to Learners: Flexibility is not limited to any one place or time anymore! Flexibility in mobile learning also involves learning using videos, podcasts and other popular multimedia assets on Smartphone’s.

7. Better Completion Rates and Higher Retention: The content presented in the mobile platform is chunk-sized and concise. The flexibility offered by the bite-sized mobile learning content is immense, as it enables learners to complete courses and initiate the next course as well. This fact eventually leads to a seamless, successful mobile learning user experience.

8. Collaborative Learning: Engaging learners towards the establishment of online learning communities is more effective using mobile devices. This is one of the biggest mobile learning advantages, as learning as a process quite often suffers from lack of collaboration among e-Learners.

9. Higher Engagement: Extant research and statistics reveal a higher engagement rate when courses are delivered using the mobile format. One of the advantages mobile learning offers is that of personalization, which adds to the sense of engagement and motivation of the users. 

10. Multi-device support: Perhaps one of the most significant benefits of mobile learning in education is that of multi-device support. In a mobile learning environment, the same course is available on various devices ranging from PCs, laptops, tablets and Smartphone’s.
11. Increased Mobility: Learning is not restricted to fixed locations any more. Mobile devices allow learners to access learning content and learning interactions anywhere, such as factories, museums, hospitals, shopping malls, cafes and outdoor areas. 

12. Time-Saving: People can now study when they are commuting and traveling. Environmental-friendly: It is amazing to find out how much information a mobile device can carry despite its light weight. Less printing is required. 

13. Interactive: Mobile technology enables students to closely link with their peers, teachers, distant partners, and even interest groups worldwide. 
14. Interesting Design Formats to Learn from: Mobile learning features design formats that are popular with learners and also create a better retention and recall. These include formats we often use on our smartphones (videos, animated videos, interactive videos and so on).
15. More options to Create Engaging Learning: Micro learning has changed the format of training delivery. It is increasingly used to offer both formal training and as part of the ecosystem to promote informal learning. Micro learning nuggets can be optimally consumed on mobile devices. Similarly, you can integrate Mobile Apps for learning in your overall strategy.
  • Better opportunities to acquire skills at one’s own pace, with a degree of privacy that may be missing when using shared computer facilities or relying on equipment belonging to somebody else. 
  • Good support for preferred modes of interaction, e.g. accessing audio content or participating in social networks on the move.
  • Catering for interests beyond what is provided in class, through access to additional content such as podcasts or free learning materials (e.g. Open Learn). 
  • Handheld devices are often an everyday part of business, so learning can contribute directly to enhancing employability, life skills and work practices. 
  • Opportunities for learners to give immediate feedback on their learning experience. 
  • Better assessment and diagnosis of learning problems as they occur. 
  • Psychological support for those at risk of dropping out, through social networks or personal guidance from a mentor. 
  • Catering for disadvantaged social groups for whom mobile learning presents an opportunity to improve their life chances. 
  • Turning geographically dispersed learners into a valuable teaching resource by enabling them to contribute their local knowledge and research data more easily. 
  • Making the learning experience more tailored to the changing needs of individuals, encouraging learners to return for knowledge updating and further study. 
  • The learning material is mostly colourful and inviting which may prompt students to go back and forth and practice more. Learner gets stimulated in learning. 


BENEFITS OF M-LEARNING (Elias, 2011; Crescente and Lee, 2011):  
  • Relatively inexpensive opportunities, as the cost of mobile devices are significantly less than PCs and
  • laptops  Multimedia content delivery and creation options 
  • Continuous and situated learning support  
  • Decrease in training costs  
  • Potentially a more rewarding learning experience  
  • Improving levels of literacy, numeracy and participation in education amongst young adults.  
  • Using the communication features of a mobile phone as part of a larger learning activity, e.g.: sending 
  • Media or texts into a central portfolio, or exporting audio files from a learning platform to your phone.


Mobile learning is a natural extension of E-learning. It has the potential to additional extend when, where and how students learn and perform in all aspects of their life. One of the main benefits of mobile learning is its possibilities to improve students’ productivity by making knowledge and learning available anytime and anywhere, enabling learners to participate in learning activities without the traditional place and time restrictions. Mobile technologies support accessible and widely available learning than the learning that used in the existing E-learning environments. Mobile learning supports performance with easy access to information, which can immediately impact students’ performance in a learning environment, facilitating their education. 



The previous benefits do not come without challenges. The rapid proliferation of mobile applications has outpaced the traditional software applications. Some Challenges facing by Mobile learning- 

  • Mobile devices can be a great distraction for participants. Children like learning on tablets, but gaming on tablets seems to be even more fun! As a teacher you are not always able to control what your pupils are doing on their tablets.
  • Using mobile devices for e-learning could be an issue if your users don’t have Internet connection or electricity readily available
  • There is no denying that the storage capacities of PDA are limited. 
  • Device may become outdated quickly and students have to keep combating obsolescence. 
  • The buttons on the keypad or styles pens are small and can be trickily for some people to manipulate. There are attachable keyboards available for some devices but these are also small, can be different to use to cost money. 
  • Usable with some models only. 
  • Responsive design and device and software compatibility
  • Multitasking might not be the best for learning retention
  • Mobile device user interfaces (UI) which provide a new mechanism of human computer interaction sequences such as multi-touch interfaces, image recognition, code scanning, etc… that have not been previously explored in research and there is not any established user interface guidelines exist. 

Some Technical Challenges for Mobile Learning include:  

  • Connectivity and battery life 
  • Screen size and key size (Maniar and et. Al. 2008)  
  • Meeting required bandwidth for nonstop/fast streaming  
  • Number of file/asset formats supported by a specific device 
  • Content security or copyright issue from authoring group 
  • Multiple standards, multiple screen sizes, multiple operating systems  
  • Reworking existing E-Learning materials for mobile platforms  
  • Limited memory (Elias, 2011)  
  • Risk of sudden obsolescence (Crescente and Lee, 2011)


The Future Challenges of Mobile Learning are as following: 

  • May make it easier to cheat. 
  • Finding the best infrastructures. 
  • Creating universal user interface. 
  • Design an effective context aware mobile application. 
  • The problem of learners trusting the wireless network. 
  • Prevent the disclosing of the learner information via network. 
  • Could require additional learning curve for non-technical learners. 
  • Enable the use of M-Learning application across mobile platform. 
  • Can create a feeling of isolation, separation or of being out-of-the-loop. 
  • Could give tech-savvy learners an advantage over non-technical learners. 
  • Might render some content outdated because of rapid upgrades (here today, outdated tomorrow).




M-learning is that merely increases the amount of screen time a student indulges in one day. It can be said traditional learning should be carried along with M-learning.




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