Design Patterns for Mobile Learning Environments

By Bucky J. Dodd, Ph.D.Chief Learning Innovation Officer, Director, Institute for Learning Environment Design, University of Central Oklahoma

Bucky J. Dodd, Ph.D.Chief Learning Innovation Officer, Director, Institute for Learning Environment Design, University of Central Oklahoma

Mobile technologies have emerged as a strategic consideration for today’s education leaders. Our lives are “on-the-go” and we expect to bring our technology with us. The use of mobile technologies to support learning has also been part of this digital transformation. While mobile platforms represent a new channel for delivery, the design of mobile learning environments continues to be a central consideration for successful learning and engagement experiences.

This article highlights several design patterns education leaders can use as they create strategies for mobile learning environments.

The Rise of Mobile Technologies

According to the Pew Research Center, 81% of Americans currently own smartphones compared to only 35% in 2011. This level of market saturation for one type of mobile technology presents important opportunities for educators seeking to expand access to digital learning and engagement opportunities. While many people think about smartphones as “the” mobile technology, the types of mobile technologies are constantly expanding and evolving to include laptops, watches, digital notepads, Internet-connected equipment, and digital wearable devices. Market indicators seem to suggest that mobile technologies and experiences will continue to be defining aspects of our lives for years to come.

Mobile Personalization of Learning Experiences

With the expansion of mobile technologies also comes the importance of designing for mobile experiences. This is especially important for using mobile technologies to support learning.

One of the key benefits mobile technologies often provide for learning experiences is the ability to personalize. Pause for a moment. No one smartphone is like another. Once we set up the device, we add apps, customize settings, and add accessories to make it uniquely ours. This type of flexibly provides education leaders new ways of providing personalized learning experiences at scale.

"Mobile technologies will continue to be a defining element of the modern learning ecosystem"

The following sections of this article highlights key strategies for designing mobile learning environments.

The Mobile “Collector”

Mobile devices provide a unique capability to collect and organize information and experiences. For example, note taking tools provide a quick and accessible way to collect and integrate information in organized ways. When designing mobile learning environments, educators can embrace these capabilities by encouraging learners to use using mobile devices for curating existing information and resources. When designing mobile learning environments, considering the collection capabilities of the technology can provide opportunities to encourage reflection and integration of learning experiences.

The Mobile “Guide”

Another use of mobile learning technology is to provide learners a “guide”. This can be as simple as provide a task support checklist or using of GPS to support physical navigation and way finding support. Some exciting examples of this design pattern include helping people navigate museums or other physical learning environments while presenting additional data and augmented reality using the mobile device to enhance the experience.

The Mobile “Creator”

Mobile learning technologies provide exciting opportunities for learners to become creators of content. Many mobile technologies include cameras, audio recording, or other content creation capabilities. This allows learners to not only consume content, but to create content for others to learn from.

Learning Connected to Life

Mobile technology offers new and exciting ways to support learning experiences. A central benefit of this is connecting and embedding learning in our lives. Mobile technologies provide information and resources at the moment and context of where people need it. Mobile technologies will continue to be a defining element of the modern learning ecosystem.

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