The future of learning is mobile and it is global. Mobile learning – and its international twin, mobile learning localisation – are how companies and educators around the world are creating training and learning courses which deliver the best outcomes.
Making use of the increasing prevalence of mobile devices like smartphones and tablets, mobile learning localisation is opening up a truly global pool of talent for companies in every industry.
At the same time, it is reducing training costs and allowing students to access a more effective, personalised learning experience. One which gives them more control over the way they learn.
And on top of all of the usual benefits, in times of social distancing, mobile learning allows learners to get the same powerful, interactive learning experience when they can’t be in the classroom or office as they normally would.
If you are looking to ride the current wave of educational apps you can find in the App Store and Google Play Store, this article should give you a thorough grounding in how to get started:
What is mobile learning in a nutshell?
Sometimes referred to as m-learning, mobile learning is training or educational content delivered as digital media via devices such as smartphones, laptops and tablets.
Although it’s a relatively recent development in the field of education, mobile learning is already growing rapidly. Especially among forward-thinking companies which have already grasped the benefits it offers.
Mobile learning allows learners to learn when it is most convenient for them – even when they are on the move – via the mobile devices they use every day.
Training delivered in this way is frequently online, as well as being easy to monitor and measure. It might feature video content, games and a variety of microlearning and just-in-time learning techniques. All combined into one carefully tailored package.
Why is mobile learning becoming so popular?
The mobile approach to distance learning leads to flexibility which, in turn, results in excellent learning outcomes. Exam scores in some studies have been seen to rise 50% or even more – a stunning figure, but one reported in several studies – when students were given access to properly localised m-learning options.
M-learning also seems to reduce the number of students who might otherwise not complete a given course. One experiment showed that an additional 1 in 5 students who would normally have dropped out from lessons in a technical field chose to remain if the course was delivered via mobile learning.
Plus, from the course provider or educator’s point of view, in addition to promoting better learning outcomes, m-learning works to keep teaching and training costs lower than traditional methods.
The benefits of mobile learning
For learners and educators, mobile learning has several different benefits:
If you are a student taking a course delivered via m-learning, you can take your lessons anywhere. There’s no need to work anywhere other than the time and place you feel most comfortable.
Don’t have a lot of time to do your coursework? Do it quickly and easily on the train while you commute. Don’t have the ideal learning environment at home or in the office? Take your device anywhere you feel comfortable learning and get down to business.
M-learning is learning on-demand.
Younger generations, in particular, are becoming increasingly at home – or are, in many cases, completely acclimatised to – a life lived through mobile devices.
Mobile learning takes advantage of this familiarity to deliver education in a digital space which learners associate with a tool which is convenient and theirs.
Having this ownership of and familiarity with their device boosts the enthusiasm of students in any environment.
- For younger students in a classroom setting, the involvement of their mobile device in learning is almost universally seen as a plus.
- For students who are already qualified professionals, m-learning means avoiding a return to the classroom.
One additional benefit is that you have the familiar access to all of the other tools and apps which most mobile devices come equipped with at your fingertips.
Sometimes referred to as social learning, a group learning environment has been proven to improve learning outcomes for most students.
A user of a mobile device like a laptop, smartphone or tablet can easily create a shared workspace. Many e-learning and m-learning courses will feature discussion sessions facilitated by videoconferencing software as well as other group interactions like forums and blogs.
Contextual learning involves using the built-in capabilities of mobile devices to deliver learning through games, QR codes and more.
This is another advantage due to the pairing of the capabilities of modern mobile device technology with recent research into the best ways to learn.
The types of educational content which can be built into an e-learning course for mobile distribution might include:
- Different fonts and text styles
- Interactive tests and branching scenarios
And that’s just the start. A good variety of high-quality media and content types have been shown to improve learning outcomes.
There’s no need to travel across your city or move to a different area to start learning if your course is available through your mobile device.
In fact, it’s common for m-learning courses to be used by learners separated from their “teachers” by national borders and even oceans. After the course materials have been properly localised, of course.
This accessibility minimises travel time and travel costs while also potentially opening courses up to people who might traditionally not have been able to access this kind of learning.
Those minimised costs extend to the learning provider too. Not needing a traditional classroom-type set-up dramatically reduces the cost of providing training courses for employees and students alike.
Mobile learning has reached its current point – poised to become part of the mainstream way education is delivered – precisely because of its increased cost-effectiveness paired with all of the other benefits listed here.
Learners who are used to their digital environments being customisable at their whim are often frustrated by static learning options.
The flexibility in the “where and when”of learning which m-learning offers combines with the responsiveness of the design of the app or course itself to provide a responsive learning environment.
Most mobile devices are designed to be connection tools. Whether tablet, smartphone or laptop, the number of ways you can use any given device to communicate is large.
This makes them ideal for use as learning devices. Learners, educators and course providers can receive information and feedback from each other – or contact each other with ease where necessary – to perfect the service or when questions arise about the course content.
In studies about m-learning, mobile users were found to be twice as likely to generate or encourage feedback, either between peers or between students and educators. In turn, this connectivity encourages productivity and collaboration.
Because of the convenience, flexibility and other advantages m-learning offers, it often results in more productivity than other learning methods.
It also boosts course attendance levels, simply because students do not need to travel or have any particular onus placed on them to attend. Often, they simply need to pick up their phone.
What is mobile learning localisation?
Mobile learning is increasingly being seen as the way the education of the future might be delivered. Mobile learning localisation is the way that education is going to reach around the world.
M-learning localisation involves adapting your course materials both linguistically and culturally so that they are completely natural for someone who was raised in a different culture, speaking a different language.
This isn’t just a matter of changing the way dates are written, names entered or a direct translation or the textual parts of your course. It involves carefully localising everything from the words you’ve used to the visuals you’ve included to the way your app itself functions so that it appears to have been designed for someone from a different culture.
Why is m-learning localisation so important?
For international companies and course providers alike, the most obvious reason why mobile learning localisation is important can be seen in app usage figures:
- 4 out of the top 5 countries for downloads on the Google Play Store are non-English speaking.
- 5 out of the top 10 countries for downloads on the App Store are non-English speaking.
- Apps with multilingual options see a major uptick in downloads. A figure of 20% more revenue is a figure found in some studies. But is often thought to be on the low side!
If the purpose of your educational app is commercial, these are important figures to bear in mind. As is the fact that the app market in Asia is currently undergoing a huge expansion. While those in the UK, US and many other English-speaking parts of the world are beginning to reach their peak.
Of course, if the purpose of your app isn’t commercial, you still need to consider the realities of learning as a multilingual person:
- Speed – people learn faster in their native tongue.
- Knowledge retention – if you learn in your native language, the information is easier to recall and put into practice where necessary.
- Clarity – even if an employee’s level of English is very high, there can always be room for misunderstanding. Native-language learning eliminates this issue.
Companies in all parts of the world are starting to realise this. In Latin America, for example, the m-learning market was valued at nearly £1.1 billion in 2017. And Latin America isn’t even at the top of the table.
Mobile learning localisation isn’t just something that’s going to happen in the future. It is becoming the way which companies in many industries operate now.
Mobile learning localisation – how to make yours succeed
Mobile learning localisation is almost a no-brainer for most course providers and for any company which offers m-learning to a multilingual workforce.
But creating an app or course which is going to be easy to localise is always going to stand you in good stead if you think localisation is even going to be something you’re going to consider in the future.
The process of readying an app for localisation is sometimes referred to as internationalisation. The process of creating a localisation-ready app or course will often involve:
1) Prioritising cultural neutrality
Try to avoid the use of elements in your course which depend wholly or in part on an understanding of a certain culture.
The only exception to this would usually be if you were creating a cultural training course for employees moving to a different region. But even then, it’s important to make sure your course offers explanations and information in as culturally-neutral a way as possible.
It can often be surprising to realise the number of physical gestures, actions and imagery which can be confusing or outright offensive to someone raised in a different culture. The same is true for things like app icons.
When it comes to the language you use, it is usually the best policy to avoid including:
- Humour (which can be beneficial for learning outcomes, but which is often culturally-specific)
- Dialect words
- Cultural or historical references (unless they are part of your course, and even then, with care)
2) Internationalise the course not just the words
If you are intending to internationalise your course ready for later localisation for different regions, you need to consider how you will adapt your course as a whole.
Will the original intent of your course be clear to someone raised in a completely different culture? How about its objectives? Does your style of presentation come across well? Is that kind of content going to be accessible to your new audience?
Deep knowledge of your target culture is always going to be vital here. It’s the reason why, at Asian Absolute for example, we only ever use native-speaking linguists of your target region. Only they will understand and be able to shed light on concepts such as there.
A non-native may simply offer an effective translation without being able to tell you that an underlying premise of your entire course needs to be adapted for this region.
3) Choose your target regions with care
It’s important to remember that not all countries are homogenous blocks. Nor are all regions where a given language is spoken.
You might picture a country like India or Malaysia, each of which has more than 100 languages in everyday use within their borders. Localising your course “for India” then, has little meaning.
Equally, localising “in Spanish” isn’t very specific. Do you mean one of the different dialects of Spanish spoken in Latin America? South America? Europe?
Be specific in the languages and regions you choose to localise for. Do your research and make sure there’s a demand for your course there too.
4) Make your UI design ready for adaptation
Your choice of font and the amount of space you leave in your design – among numerous other factors, not least the tools you use to develop your app – need to at least consider flexibility as one of their priorities.
Because when you localise your mobile course or app, you need to be ready to accommodate things like:
- Right-to-left languages
- Languages written with characters instead of words
- The way text tends to expand or contract when translated between languages
5) Create a glossary of terms
A termbase is going to be a huge help to your Language Service Provider when it comes time to localise your course.
A glossary of terms will improve clarity and consistency both within and across projects. Not to mention giving a major boost to the speed and accuracy of the translation process.
The future of learning is mobile and global
Mobile learning is trending upwards in a big way. Mobile learning localisation lets you extend the reach of your course to potential learners in any part of the world. Whether they are your employees or potential buyers of your educational app or course materials.
If you want to get the most from your training and learning materials, localising your m-learning is the way to do it.
Do you need to localise your mobile learning to reach a specific audience?
Asian Absolute specialises in m-learning and e-learning localisation. We’ve already helped companies in every industry successfully reach audiences in more than 120 languages.
Let’s talk. And let’s see who we can help you reach.