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When learning is at your fingertips - Deccan Herald
When learning is at your fingertips
Balaji Sankaran,
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DeccanHerald
Nudging the learners
Enrolling to higher education through distance learning is like buying a gym membership - it is triggered by good intentions, started with great enthusiasm but hard to sustain for most. Learners pursue higher education to further their career ambitions and acquire new skills in emerging areas. Working professionals find it easy to take the distance education path for their higher education since it enables them to learn at their own pace and is respectful of their time constraints.

A university-level survey stressed that three aspects are key for distance education learners. They are: students must feel that they would be able to complete the course despite their time constraints, they should reduce their anxiety in performing time-bound critical tasks like paying fees, and students should have a constant channel of communication with the university. It is here that mobile learning technology can help learners by being a digital companion.

Mobile learning is a disruptive game changer. Across categories, K-12 with Byju’s and Khan Academy, language learning through Duolingo and digital marketing through Google Prime are great examples of how mobile learning has positively impacted education. Khan academy unravels the concepts in basic mathematics and science through easy to understand videos. Duolingo gamifies the learning experience by allowing users to learn through short quizzes that reinforce learning. Google Prime delivers digital marketing knowledge as easy to digest short summaries.



Mobile learning eliminates the most fundamental barrier to learning - access to content. How many times have you been stuck in a long queue wishing that you had carried the textbook of the course you were enrolled in? Mobile phone is always with the user and can be used at every convenient opportunity to get a quick bite of learning.

Content in Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) and ePUB formats are friendly to read on the mobile even for long form content like textbooks and reference material. Digital natives who are used to reading their books from Kindles and iBooks find it natural to read their entire textbook on their mobiles.

Today, mobile phones have become the veritable digital water cooler for groups to congregate and chatter about events, news and their own stories on social platforms like Facebook. Members of learning communities constantly seek reinforcement from other individuals that belong to it.

Mobile apps that provide constant updates motivate individuals to do their work within the scheduled time. 'Oh, all my classmates have submitted the assignment’ is a force that pushes the most lethargic learner into action more than any reminder can. By populating the social feed with accomplishments from other members, it can serve as a reminder and gently nudge the individual to complete it.

Gamification is a concept that is spilled over from video games into learning. Having learners challenge each other and getting rewarded with trophies after winning has proven to be a great way to make people learn. Some start-ups have pioneered in leveraging gamification in helping people get an in-depth understanding of their chosen topics.

As some may have to be pushed to study their online lessons, it is here that the mobile push notifications can help the learner to engage with the lessons. With push notifications, the excuse of 'Oh! I forgot that this assignment was due’ is outdated. Mobile notifications can be automated to remind the users of assignments that are due and that a number of days has passed since the last time they have studied. This can goad the learners into action. Learners in the information overload age need to be reminded constantly to bring their focus on priority items that help their
career.

Eliminating friction points

Through all these mobile-centric capabilities, distance learning for higher education can eliminate key friction points in adoption. By building communities, making learning assets easy to access and nudging the user along the way through gamification, distance learning can deliver a rich academic experience along with the convenience of being available at the time and place of the user’s choice.

In the age of robots, where every individual is looking to constantly update himself or herself, mobile enabled higher education through distance learning is a godsend. Next time, when people complain that they haven’t been learning enough or are focusing on their fitness, tell them that there’s an app for that!

(The author is with Manipal Global Education Services, Bengaluru)

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