Mobile Apps in Blended Learning

We hear a lot about how mobile learning is bringing a sea change to how training is delivered using an LMS.  Is it hype or really happening? 

Like all binary questions involving eLearning, there is no simple yes or no answer.  It depends on the type of training you are trying to deliver and the applications you are using.

Let’s look at the example of learning a language, which has four basic skill levels:  listening comprehension, writing, reading and speaking.

There is a popular app on Google Play that advertises itself as teaching languages using small bite size lessons with gamification badges.  It’s also free.  Their pitch is that the app will not only save you a bundle, but it’s convenient.  You can learn to read, speak and write a language on your smartphone on a coffee break.

These kinds of resource apps definitely have a place in electronic learning.

Here’s an example. A group of us in a Spanish language discussion class were meeting at a pub on a regular basis.  There were native speakers at the table from various parts of the Spanish speaking world.  Different vocabularies and ways of expressing the language were in play. We would use the app on occasion to settle discussions on which word might be appropriate in a given context.

There were also translation and bi-lingual dictionary apps that people carried around on their smartphones.

At the end of the day, we were leaning on electronic learning as a resource.  All well and good when looking up a vocabulary word.   But what about the nuances of the language—like the complicated use of the subjunctive tense, which trips up many a tongue and mind when learning Spanish?

Who  better to discuss the use of subjunctive tense than a native Spanish speaker sitting at the table?   One of them was an instructor from Argentina who happened to have a hand-out with fill-in-the blank statements and questions involving the subjunctive tense.  Yes, old technology, but very useful particularly when delivered by an educator.

So, in a sense, we were using mobile technology as an adjunct to our conversation class in a blended learning setting.  It was fun, interactive, and informal learning.  And it worked for the speaking and listening comprehension part of the equation.  But it would have worked even better if we had gone home and hopped onto the web in a formalised eLearning class in Spanish and practiced what we had just learned in a more structured context for the written part of the learning.  We may even had taken an exam which would have given us instant feedback.

These type of instructor-led language classes are part of a group of learning subjects that can be delivered via Skype or any other technology that gives instant feedback.  The reinforcement comes via an LMS.

So definitely download those mobile apps as an additional resource.  They really do work and they are formatted to be delivered over the web on smart devices.  No squeezing into a small space with a oversized LMS.