From homeschooling to physical classrooms to m-learning, learning and education have come a long way. In the face of geographical, socio-economic and cultural factors, education (especially beyond schooling) could not be evenly provided to everyone. This lead to the emergence of distance learning and correspondence courses. In these courses, learners would be mailed the entire printed set of course materials to study at home and be required to attend weekend classes at a study center. Through these courses, people fulfilled their educational dreams and pursued degree and post-graduation.
With the revolutionary changes in the field of technology, communication and electronics, e-learning emerged and was followed by m-learning. Learning is confined to the physical classroom no more. Not just for formal education, these digital learning modes are being adopted by organizations to train employees and by anyone who wants to acquire new skills or subject or wants to supplement themselves with additional knowledge on a topic. There is a wide selection of online professional courses one could choose from today depending on one’s needs and purpose.
It is common for people to think e-learning and m-learning are one in the same. But they are not. Apart from being educational technologies that have taken the classroom outside the confines of a physical space, they do not have much in common. Let us explore and understand the differences now.
E-learning or electronic learning is the delivery of formal education through electronic media such as laptops and computers, and digital resources. Learning Management System (LMS), which operates using the internet, is generally used for providing access to learning resources.
M-learning or mobile learning is the delivery of formal education through handheld/ portables devices like smartphone, tablets, etc. and uses digital resources and the internet.
E-learning is a structured, formal and time-bound setup which is suitable for acquiring in-depth knowledge or specific skills on a given subject. The idea is to ensure comprehension and retention of knowledge. Some examples: Online professional courses, graduate and post-graduate education, diploma and certificate courses in management, advertising, marketing, human resource, cyber security, economics, etc. Skill training courses to acquire soft skills, hard skills, vocational skills, artistic skills and so on. Training courses by organizations like the organizational policy, research methodology, train-the-trainer modules, machine operation, etc.
M-leaning is an on-demand, timely and context-aware setup which is usually used along with an ongoing learning process to supplement learners with easily accessible capsules of information. The idea is the leaner can access the information wherever and whenever they want it. Some examples- to-do lists, podcasts, videos, gamification, etc.
Medium of Delivery
As mentioned in the definition earlier, e-learning courses are delivered through laptops and computers. The Internet is used in most courses and teaching learning happens through LMS or video conference or other platforms. A wider choice of digital resources is available to the trainers to impart knowledge like PDF or Word Documents, PPTs, Video Lectures, Audio-Visual Materials, web-based activities and exercises, and other e-learning software-based materials that can be uploaded to the learning platform. Tests and assessments too could be administered and checked using technology. There is also a choice between live streaming, pre-recorded, web conference-based lectures for trainers to choose from. E-learning courses could also be self-paced, live or blended.
M-learning, on the other hand, uses portable devices like smartphone and tablets to deliver courses. A learning app hosted by the OS or text messages can be used to deliver instructions and access learning materials.
Since laptops and computers are used in e-learning, there is a large screen at the disposal of course content creators. The courses are designed and structured to be appealing and for the leaner to sit through the entire course. Pixelated videos and inappropriately aligned content will not work.
M-learning has a smaller screen space at its disposal. For capturing and keeping the undivided attention of the learner, m-learning courses are optimized for mobile devices. The content fits on the small screen and the design is de-cluttered, simple and easy to navigate. Concepts are mostly spaced one on a page.
The time gap between learning and assessment/ practical application of learning is longer in e-learning while the assessments/ tests happen immediately at the end of a module in m-learning. M-learning gives organizations and service providers an insight on the level of comprehension and retention of the learner.
E-learning courses, with their objectives and purpose, are generally longer in duration and broader in coverage to get into the depth of a given subject. For effective learning and retention, these courses are split into modules of 20-30 minute duration. These could be single or multi-module courses.
M-learning courses are designed for a much shorter duration, 3 to 15 minutes only, considering the purpose of these courses and the shorter attention spans while using portable devices. These are to-the-point and brief in coverage as well.
In conclusion, one mode cannot be judged as better than the other. Usually, m-learning is used as part of e-learning courses.