E-learning and m-learning have become extremely important buzz words of the education technology revolution; each characterising a whole raft of ideas and resources for the tech-savvy teacher. But the two terms are not always used correctly, with some confusion about the differences between them and where they overlap. And in more complex terms, thinking about the differences between e-learning and m-learning can be particularly useful for teachers who use technology in the classroom, as it can help them to pick out which techniques are best for which education scenario.
E-learning refers to electronically supported learning and teaching of any kind. Any form of learning in which digital communication, electronic devices or the internet is used to support the learning process might be described as a form of e-learning, which also comprises education technology. E-learning includes such processes as computer based learning and internet based learning, but it is important to remember that it does not necessarily require either a computer or an internet connection but only the use of electronics. So learning a language using a CD Rom, for example, or watching an educational television program would also count as e-learning. However, the advent of the internet was the real catalyst for many important advances in e-learning and many of the resources and processes the term is now used to describe involve internet-based activity such as collaborative online learning or interactive educational resources.
M-learning is an abbreviation of mobile learning, which means learning using portable devices that allow the student to learn in different environments and whilst on the move instead of being restricted to a classroom setting or tied to a desk. Mobile learning is, of course, by its electronic nature, a subset of e-learning, but it refers far more specifically to these handheld devices and portable technology. The term has grown enormously in popularity in the past few years, with the advent of handheld wireless devices such as iPads and tablets and increasingly sophisticated mobile phones such as iPhones and android handsets expanding the potential applications of the concept exponentially.
It is also particularly effective for flipping the classroom. The ‘flipped classroom’ is a new model whereby teachers allow students to use their homework time to study new topics and learn the basic information they need to know, which they usually would have had imparted to them in class. Class time is then used to go through activities and exercises to reinforce and test their understanding of the new concepts – an activity that usually would have formed the basis of homework. E-learning is fantastically effective on both sides of the flipped classroom, with great online resources like Chem Collective allowing students unprecedented learning experiences in their own homes, whilst brilliant programs like Fifty Sneakers make testing and evaluation fun and exciting back in the classroom.
M-learning is best used in scenarios where there is concrete gain to be had from the potential for mobility. On class field trips, for example, allowing students to use mobile devices is a fantastic way to keep them engaged and working whilst still giving them the freedom to explore. Brilliant new innovations like the Scavenger Hunt app present exemplary opportunities to take advantage of roaming whilst learning.
It is also extremely effective to use m-learning in classroom environments where modern technology may not be available to all students, or in schools where there are not sufficient resources for all students to be able to use a device. In such a situation, using a mobile learning device like a single tablet, which may be passed easily from hand-to-hand or shared amongst a group of students, is a great way to ensure that pupils are still able to benefit from the diverse opportunities presented by education technology. An app like Mind Snacks, which presents language learning in simple, digestible chunks with fun, easy-to-use games, is a great example of an m-learning solution that can be simply and quickly passed between students as they reach new levels to enable successful team-based learning.
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What are your favourite e-learning and m-learning applications? Let us know below!
First image courtesy of Flickr, vancouverfilmschool
Second image courtesy of Flickr, thebarrowboy