#MlearnCon Recap: Where are we now with mLearning?

The sun is setting over San José at the evening of the last day of MLearncon. Time to review 2,5 days of mLearning. It is my believe that the technical possibilities are not the limitation for mLearning anymore. Of course better, faster and cheaper would be nice. The technique is there, the users have the devices and there is enough bandwidth. But I don’t see the growth I expected. Therefore the question is, what is really holding back the broader implementation of mLearning and what can we do about it?  This is the reason I focused this year on case studies, to see where the corporations and institutes are in their process of going mobile.

Sun is setting over san Jose

First a general observation. I found the atmosphere this year different from last year. Last year it was filled with expectation, a ‘it is going to happen’ atmosphere. This year it was much more ‘I know I need to do something with mobile, but I don’t know where or how to begin’.

I attended a whole bunch of case study sessions (I posted mind maps about the most of them) and I went to the DemoFest where 33 mLearning implementations where shown. Here are my observations.

First thing I noticed was that all the case studies I attended where done by large corporations or institutes (Microsoft, BlackBerrie, GE capital, Deloitte, Qualqomm, Sony, Federal reserve bank).  It is possible that the Guild thinks it is sexier to present case studies from fortune 500 companies instead of SME’s but the conversations I had with other attendees suggest it is more than that. Smaller companies are not yet ready to take the mobile step.

The DemoFest had 33 contributors, 23 of them are vendors. Among the 10 non-vendors 5 large corporations, three universities, two independent studies; again no SME’s.

So what is holding them back? There are a whole bunch of practical reasons: complexity, unfamiliarity, unable to gather the resources, resistance of IT and legal departments, security, lack of insight and skills, current (version) of LMS doesn’t support it, lack of budget. You name it and it is a reason.

Another clear trend is that people are wondering what the best way is to use mLearning. Courses on tablets are OK, but not on smart phones. What to put on them, how to do it and what to do with TinCan???? (Tincan was almost invisible at this conference, very strange).

In fact people are suddenly placed outside their comfort zone and skill set, which makes them insecure. The most inspiring example (and keynote) for me this week was from Qualcomm, They are years ahead from the pack. But the pack doesn’t have their resources (knowledge, skills, culture and budget). But Tamar had a great advise, just begin and see what happens.

For me as a vendor this conference was a success. I gained a lot of insight. It is not about functionality or TinCan. It is not about fancy features: we just need to make it simple and secure. On top of that we need to make clear what you can do on a smart phone (learning nuggets, exam training, videos) and support that. But most of all we need to make it possible to create that content and publish it to a mobile app with just one mouse click at low costs. We need to enable the first mobile step. As CEO of easygenerator I know what to do (and how to do this); I intend to show the result at DevLearn in October. Therefore I can end with a true Californian one-liner: I’ll be back!

My previous posts about mLearnCon:


  1. Many thanks for this excellent recap, Kasper! I was following your posts throughout this week and I couldn´t agree more with your final comments about the conference. I keep on wondering the same question “What is holding them (or us) back?” In my opinion, the major barrier is how attached we are to old technologies and educational practices. Even large companies seem to be confused and are not taking the right steps towards an effective mobile strategy implementation. A case in point is Deloitte and its mobile learning strategy through PPTs. I think that we need to continue talking and writing about innovative and disruptive solutions in order to involve more IDers, more managers, more companies and organizations in understanding the real benefits of mobile learning. This is not a fad, but a completely new way of interacting with content that is already impacting the way we learn and work.


  2. I liked what Robert said in the closing panel mark where he felt 1/3 of the sessions were technical and the other 2/3 were more administrative. The pre-con had very few technical hands-on courses. One of them, HTML5 Responsive Web Design, was cancelled because only a few people signed up. Robert went on to say that he hopes it changes around next year.

    Until SMEs role up their sleeves and learn how to develop, we won’t see the SME’s in the Demo Fest. I have a potential contract coming up this summer. If I get my way and can develop it my way with my learning methodologies, I’ll be showing this at next year’s demo fest. If another project manager runs it, then I’ll let her show the “clean” Powerpoint course she will build.


  3. Not every organization needs mobile learning. Mine for instance, is a large multi-national. We are an office environment, with PC’s at each work station. Why take the time, energy, and resources to produce mobile? Further, if your organization is dominated by non-exempt employees, they can’t and shouldn’t be expected to access training tools when off the job. I concur that there are good applications for mLearning. I’d also argue, that people argue too much about what mLearning is. Just a couple random points.


  4. Kasper, MlearnCon has moved on along in synch with the mobile learning industry. My take is that it’s successfully moved from last year’s event where mobile learning was considered as a possibility, to showcasing some good case studies this year. I’m looking forward to an even wider range of warts-and-all war stories from organizations of all sizes in 2014.


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