Saturday, January 2, 2010

My mLearning Predictions for 2010

After many years of sitting on the sidelines and reading the postings of others, I've decided to enter 2010 with this new mLearning Trends blog where I can post my own scattered thoughts and musing about all things "mobile learning" and begin sharing my own experiences in the design, development, deployment and support of mlearning solutions for the enterprise. While I'm quite familiar with where mobile has come in the educational space, and our experiences have some nice overlap, the reality is our "world view" is very focused on how businesses seek to leverage mobile technologies to educate, inform and connect their workers, partners and extended business ecosystems. In short, we think about what managers and management need to do, not what teachers and administrators are trying to accomplish. So, these pages and all future posts will likely stay in that vein.

After 6+ years of experience working on more than 100 different projects, pilots and proof-of-concept efforts in the mlearning space, we've got insights aplenty to offer here and I'm convinced the benefits to sharing these experiences will easily be reciprocated through a continuing and open exchange of ideas, tips and strategies for all. I'll start things off by offerings my own list of mobile learning-related predictions for 2010. As we reflect on the "ups & downs" of the year just passed and catch our breath before beginning anew, some interesting trends seem to await us in this New Year and their immediate and lasting affects are likely soon to be realized.

By virtually anyone's take, 2009 was a challenging year for all and especially so wherever new technologies and IT budgets/spending were concerned. And mobile learning is still in its infancy where both mass market acceptance and adoption are concerned. After years of false starts and miscues, market acceptance for enterprise mobile learning in 2009 was largely stymied through slashed corporate spending and canceled next generation (or hopefully just postponed) projects. Thankfully, our company experienced an uptake in interest during the 4th quarter that actually led to several forward-looking companies deciding that waiting on the sidelines for a full year might prove a strategic blunder when preparing to catch the first waves that will front the anticipated market recovery we're all hopeful for.

Moreover, cross-market trends in mobile applications, content, devices, web access and general awareness are now unstoppable and every organization must now move beyond the "pondering stage" and into the "action stage".

Knock, Knock!!
Who's there?
Mobile Who?

So, where to start with this year's predictions? As with all things tech-related, we can anticipate several important events and introductions that will shape the next 12 months and consider them self-evident and thus there's no need to list them including strong technical advances from all of the top mobile device OEMs which will all spur innovation, broaden reach and ensure continued market adoption for mobile learning. We can all expect advances in next generation devices and capabilities from Apple, Google/Android, RIM/BlackBerry, Microsoft, Palm, Nokia and others. It is also easy to anticipate that informal/self-service learning will begin to trump formal/assigned learning in terms of "monthly seat time" as mobile learning begins to facilitate learning and contributing anywhere at any time.

So, without further ado and in no particular order, I offer my early January predictions for mlearning in 2010. It will be interesting to see what transpires over the coming months and where things stand at year end. I'm also very interested in hearing any reactions as well as any and all contrarian opinions the blogosphere has to offer.

  1. Traditional "e"-learning vendors will all jump into the "m"-learning and social networking spaces with "first generation" offerings they believe will address the mobile requirements of their customers and prospects; these early efforts will prove largely ineffective as evidenced by their many iterative and incremental updates, retrys and course corrections.
  2. Rather than getting easier, the mlearning landscape will actually grow wider/deeper and far more complex as enterprises are forced to include/support several disparate mobile devices and changing end user demands; this scenario will drive further demand for enterprise-grade content authoring and delivery platforms for mobile learning.
  3. Mobile learning will meld with social networking on every learner's mobile device making the two technologies a fully integrated experience; support for these two technologies will be an essential part of every mlearning vendor's core offerings.
  4. Tablet-based content delivery of mlearning will win our "hearts & minds" over netbook-based content delivery thanks largely to the arrival of Apple's much rumored "iSlate" tablet offering. Others vendors will quickly follow/respond.
  5. The acceptance and adoption of "cloud computing" resources for mobile learning will become commonplace as IT budgets remain strained and the complexity of mobile authoring and delivery continues to increase - especially in larger, more complex environments.
  6. Mobile learners will begin to expect (and demand!) the ability to seamlessly manage and synchronize assignment access, delivery, review and completion between their desktop PC and their mobile device(s).
  7. Mobile learning projects delivered in established and emerging global markets will outnumber those delivered in North America (USA/Canada) due to greater interest, faster uptake and willingness to leverage mlearning on both basic feature phones as well as advanced smartphones.
  8. In the smartphone realm, mobile web-delivered content will prove to be a less compelling mlearning experience as compared to mobile application-delivered content (at least through 2010).
  9. Security will become a MUCH bigger issue for mlearning deployments and all vendors will need to step up their game to ensure content/IP protection and integrity while making access easier.
  10. The arrival of Adobe's Flash Player v10.1 for (most) smartphones will prove far less significant of an event due to the fact content navigation and onscreen interactions will prove difficult on most of the currently deployed enterprise smartphones. For instance, completing a "drag and drop" exercise originally designed for desktop delivery on a BlackBerry Curve/8310 will prove impossible.
  11. By year end, HTML5 will make rich media playback on mobile devices more practical and compelling too making Flash-based content on mobile less of a need.
  12. The first several "sizable" enterprise mlearning projects using Apple iPhones and Android-based smartphones will be delivered into the marketplace as mitigated security concerns make way for a superior on-device experience versus today's standard corporate-centric BlackBerry, WinMo and Symbian (Nokia) interfaces.
  13. Augmented reality applications for mobile learning will begin to appear but because solution development is expensive, technically challenging, and device dependent, AR will capture more headlines than actual budgets.
So, that's my 2010 Predictions list and inaugural posting for the mLearning Trends blog. I am looking forward to seeing how it all plays out and excited about sharing the coming weeks and months with others in active discussion and creative deconstruction.

Happy New Year to all.


  1. We are in the beginning of 2011, and your predictions read quite accurate.

    I am curious about how you feel #7 turned out. We create content for one of the largest global retailers. I'd be inspired to delve into internationalization options if there was a real story there.

    Appreciate your thoughts.

  2. Hi Sarah,

    Thanks for posting your comment. In our experience, the level of interest in mobile learning continues to grow across all markets but we find it interesting that enterprise uptake on smartphones and tablets is accelerating much faster in North America and EMEA than it is elsewhere/ROW (rest of world). That's a turn around from a few years ago when interest in mobile learning was moving faster in the ROW markets using Symbian and MSFT-based handsets - since that time, the growing popularity of iOS and Android devices here is driving new enterprise demand and they now want content that looks great/performs well across all their target audience devices. Finally, we see stronger uptake in ROW markets with simple content that works on feature phones like SMS notification series, interactive quizzes, and short audio-based lessons delivered as ring tones or voice-connected services/IVR.


Thanks for leaving your comments. I will try and respond directly to any positive ideas or active discourse as soon as possible.