The Comparative Degree: mLearning Vs eLearning


It has been some time since we last did the comparative post. And so, we thought why not a have a comparison between Mobile Learning (popularly known as mLearning) and eLearning to set things back into motion.

While most of us know that it’s not just the alphabets ‘E’ and ‘M’ that set them apart, it is still a popular belief that mLearning is just a compressed version of eLearning (read more about the common mLearning misconceptions here). What we need to understand is that there is more to eLearning than just being online learning and that though mLearning is a sub-set of eLearning it still has significant differences.

Without further ado, here are the key differences between mLearning (aka Mobile learning) and eLearning.

1. Devices & Technology

Well, that’s a no brainer. As the terms clearly suggest mLearning is basically for smaller devices starting from tablets to the smallest screen sized mobile devices (at times even extending to wearables), while eLearning is generally for desktops, laptops to notebooks. Correspondingly the technology or the packaging differs too (.html, .exe for eLearning; apk, .ipa etc. for mLearning).

2. Purpose

The basic purpose of eLearning is usually to cover a whole topic in depth, while in most cases mLearning is used to support the learning either in form of short snippets-microlearning for revising specific topics or as performance support. Though mLearning is also used as standalone model, the way the topic is delivered can greatly differ from that in form of eLearning. mLearning many a times for performance support.

3. Content Design & Development

The instructional design approach for eLearning and mLearning differ mostly because of the screen sizes and interaction models. Though the basic content could be similar, the way it is represented can differ vastly (read the detailed process of creating mLearning here). For instance, topics listed in the form of images along with text can be represented as simple labelled images in mLearning supported by clickable elements. mLearning would also requires greater level of interactivities in comparison to eLearning. The usage of multimedia elements too can be vastly different.

The development time too can differs depending on the topics covered. Considering the fact that mobile learning is short and simple, the duration for development is often shorter than its eLearning counterpart.

4. Length

As mentioned before, eLearning usually covers a large topic or covers multiple subtopics in order to provide comprehensive learning. The length usually ranges from 20 mins to 1hour or even longer at times. mLearning is usually created as short targeted learning modules, 5-10 mins long. It also takes into consideration the short attention span of learners.

5. Access to Content

mLearning is truly 24X7, anytime, anywhere learning as it also covers the issues related connectivity (offline mode) which is not as prevalent in eLearning. While eLearning too can be downloaded, and stored for reference, the shorter length of mLearning often makes it a preferred choice. Also, the size of content is usually highly optimized for easy access in case of mLearning.

Aspects such as like Social and Collaborative learning too are easier with mLearning as most Apps can be linked easily. While it is embedded in eLearning too the impact is usually different. Same is case with feedbacks, tracking etc. Assessment models too differ with respect to the devices.

While eLearning and mLearning do have evident differences, both are equally valuable. The choice usually depends on the context of learning. But, before making the final choice it is always advisable to thoroughly analyze the learning objectives, the organizational policies, infrastructure etc.

If you feel confused or have queries regarding which option best suits your requirement, then drop a message at Our learning experts are always ready to assist.

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