M-learning impacting education ecosystem

While scope of Mobile-learning is growing fast, it is imperative to address the problems of low level of literacy, limited understanding of English language in rural and semi urban areas and text driven interface in order to reap the benefits of this technology.

Digital India project will see an outlay of Rs 1, 13,000 Crores and companies like CMC, NIIT among others, will be the potential beneficiaries. Within minutes of logging into the network on their mobile phones, Indian apprentices will get connected to their mentors, even overseas, who will take them through the techniques of weaving, welding, carpentry, food processing etc. This can be a reality for several talented people in rural India, all thanks to the growing scope of long distance education and mobile learning (m-learning).

As per 2011 Census, India is recognised as one of the youngest nations with a majority of its youngsters entering the workforce by 2015.This has instigated the demand for a different kind of an education system that should be capable to fulfill the necessities of quality and quantity aspect of the education system. This means it should such that increases the penetration of the education sector in remotest places and removes the barricades in quality education.

The target date of completion for the different programs of Digital India is fiscal 2016, which means there is a rigor for implementation of this programme. In this situation mobile as a tool for learning is an easier and cheaper way to educate millions of youth than a personal computer or laptop. According to Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) Report and Census 2011, mobile penetration in India is 76 per cent in comparison to broadband, which is only two per cent. This further solidifies the view that mobile is more optimal solution for intelligent young professional who want to pursue education. However, inadequacy of ICT infrastructure presents a huge roadblock. According to one of the estimates of TRAI during the coming year there will be an additional 200 million new mobile subscribers. This supports the research of wearesocial.net, that there are more than 898 million mobile subscribers in India, 292 million of these living in rural areas.

The availability of mobile network in the remotest area of the country facilitates to leverage the extensive use of technology through introducing modifications to the ecosystem of education sector through M-Learning. Technology has only reached class room of urban schools, where it is again limited to computer labs and audio-visual rooms. With improving infrastructure, the Indian Education system is already making strides towards adopting the M-education (KPMG’s the Cloud: Changing the Business Ecosystem, 2011)

Appreciating M-Learning just as a facilitator to distance learning using mobile technology, we should not ignore its deeper role of improving ecosystem of education. Curbing constraints of time, location and collaboration of traditional education system m-learning simplifies access to content and experts. Customization of teaching process and personalization of education solution for learners through interactive media is another advantage of M-Learning. It helps the learner to access local and global content and even approach the experts anywhere and anytime.

In India access to education is a critical problem due to insufficient number of schools with reference to population. Low household income also contributes to the problem and provides access to only the locally popular study material. M-learning platform offers access to globally acknowledged study material at low cost. M-learning solutions provide access to innovative teaching pedagogy to the educators which help to solve the training issue of undertrained educators.

Engaging learners and enhancing the understanding of the learner demands customizing teaching styles according to the needs and preferences of each learner. This is impractical in traditional classroom environment. More interactive formats and content tailored to individual learning styles developed under the m-learning platform has the potential to increase engagement levels of students to understand better. In comparison to traditional time consuming evaluation system m-learning provides regular assessment system during the learning process which helps the teachers to understand and determine the specific learner requirement for conceptual clarity.

The released report from the GSM Association and McKinsey & Company based on a number of early trials in mobile education across various geographies and education segments shows that there is a huge potential for m-learning due to one on one interaction and customization nature of mobile learning. The days are not very far when we will find educational institution is purchasing the m-learning solution for their learners to improve their learning capacity.

The remarkable rural mobile adoption growth rate and demand for varied educational content has opened new vistas in creating a market for mobile education. But the low level of literacy, limited understanding of English language in rural and semi urban areas and text driven interface is a roadblock in reaping the benefits of m-learning. We are in experimentation phase of m-learning field and both public and private sectors are identifying innovative application, it may be impulsive to celebrate its success and still miles to go for celebration.

About authors: Shisam Bhattacharyya is faculty associate, OMDS and Dr Nidhi Maheswari is assistant professor, HR-OB in Asia-Pacific Institute of Management, New Delhi