Mobile learning myths and the truth behind them

What do you use your smartphone for? How does that compare with mobile learning you’ve either designed or worked through? We’d bet that some mobile learning myths are causing a disconnect between the two.

mobile learning

New ways of thinking

We have the evidence of what works on phones right in front of us. We pick up our own phones around seven times an hour, totaling approximately four hours a day on mobile devices. We spend that time scrolling through social media, reading the news or an ebook, playing games, navigating, taking photos… the list goes on. We definitely don’t use our phones to spend twenty minutes tapping buttons to reveal hidden paragraphs of content. But despite that, our elearning designs for mobile often look more like the latter than the former.

This is probably because great mobile-first design directly contradicts a lot of “old school” instructional design principles we have absorbed, and requires us to imagine a new world for elearning.

Take a look at these three mobile learning myths, and the type of learning you can create if you bust them.

Mobile Learning Myth #1

Myth: We should build in lots of click-interactions, because people don’t like reading big chunks of text on mobile screens.

Busted: Actually, we happily read long articles and ebooks on our phones. Engagement comes down to well-written, interesting content – not clicks. If anything, clicks are frustrating on phones and scrolling is the intuitive navigation.

So, unleash your creative side and try turning your content into short stories and presenting them as chapters in an ebook or series.

Mobile Learning Myth #2

Myth: Complicated interactions, simulations or games are best saved for big screens.

Busted: Actually, in September of this year, four of the five most downloaded paid-for apps were games. This evidence shows that we love gaming on our phones – no surprise, as games fit perfectly into the short bursts of time we use our phone for.

Try turning your assessment into a game in the style of Quiz-Up, or building a short simulation rather than presenting content for people to read. You might be surprised at the uptake.

Mobile Learning Myth #3

Myth: People won’t watch long videos on a small smartphone screen, so keep them to thirty seconds or less.

Busted: Look around you next time you’re on a commuter train – you’ll probably see many people with their headphones on, watching TV on demand. We do use our phones to watch longer videos, if the situation is right.

The journey to and from work is a great opportunity for people to spend time on work-based activities like learning videos, so consider putting your SMEs in front of the camera for a short TED-style talk. There’s no need to spend a fortune on a production crew; a smartphone on a miniature tripod (or propped up with something sturdy) against a plain background will be high enough quality for mobile learning-friendly videos.


A good, responsive elearning design tool will automatically optimize your pages for mobile devices. But it can’t make initial design decisions for you. So, if your audience’s primary devices are mobile, consider mobile usage behaviors at the start of your project and design your project with them in mind. Choosing longer scrolling pages rather than a series of short pages with lots of clicks could be the difference between a learner who’s focused on the content and one who’s frustrated by the navigation.

Want to know how to optimize your mobile learning even further? Check out our 10 best mobile learning design tips:

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