Educational Theories,  Educational Tools,  Teaching & Learning

The Future of Education: Mobile Learning in Higher Ed

Reading Time: 2 minutes

When I started working on this post, I downloaded a PDF to my MacBook. I read a bit of it in my office before heading over to an event. I AirDropped the PDF to my iPad to continue reading and start doing some annotating using GoodNotes. On my way home, I asked Siri to record some notes that I wanted to include in this post. The next morning, I AirDropped my notes to the MacBook, pulled up the annotated PDF on my iPad, and began typing. 

Then I stopped and thought: I did all of this without thinking. Like it was normal.

I was so overwhelmed with this growth of technology and multiple device syncing and bluetooth and wifi that is so commonplace in our current day that I had to stop and take a picture. Oh and then I AirDropped the picture to my MacBook so I could caption it and include it:

A MacBook, iPad Pro, and coffee in a Ninja Turtles mug sitting side-by-side on a wooden coffee table

Using technology in this manner is something I had to learn, but for the current generation (Gen Z) of learners that walk on this campus, it’s commonplace. Gen-Zers* are digital natives in that they grew up with the technology, are surrounded by it, and haven’t known a time without it. In fact, EDUCAUSE’s (2019) most recent Horizon Report found that 95% of undergraduate students own smartphones (p. 21). As a result, Mobile Learning (or m-learning) has become more and more popular. 

M-learning has existed almost as a commodity thus far, acting just as a supplement to the already existing content. But this same Horizon Report is forecasting a shift to mobile content that is “responsive instead of adaptive” (EDUCAUSE, 2019, p. 21). 

In other words, m-learning in Higher Ed could pivot from “Hey, cool! I can access Canvas on my phone!” to “This assignment can only be completed using the Canvas app on my phone. Or my tablet.”

Institutions are already adapting to this change. Some faculty development topics now cover adapting to a more mobile-friendly learning environment. According to the Horizon Report, these topics include “learning how to structure content for shorter times on task, selecting mobile-friendly file types and formats, better optimizing files, and communicating to students when content will not be available on a mobile device.”

EDUCAUSE is forecasting that this is a development on the immediate horizon—having an impact on instruction in a year or less. So how can you develop your instruction to keep up with the changing needs of the students in your classroom?

To start, if you have never read a Horizon Report, I highly recommend it! If you enjoy looking ahead at what educational technology trends are coming down the pike, it’s a good read. Check out the EDUCAUSE Horizon Report: 2019 Higher Education Edition. Along with giving emerging and emergent trends in higher education, the Horizon Report provides helpful resources to start exploring. And if some of these prospects sound a little daunting, don’t worry. We’ll be keeping up with the trends in m-learning and helping you apply the principles and best practices in your courses.

* I’m not sure if that’s the official term. If it’s not, dibs on trademark.

EDUCAUSE. (2019). _2019 Horizon Report._Retrieved from

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