Is mLearning the shape of things to come?

In the absence of formal educational infrastructure, mobile technology will be instrumental in transforming education in under-resourced areas, reveals a new study conducted by the Global System for Mobile Communications Association (GSMA). Over 1200 youths from Ghana, India, Morocco and Uganda were polled, and in spite of the geographical divide, there were many striking parallels in how they interact with mobile technology.

Entitled Shaping The Future – Realising the potential of informal learning through mobile, the Report was launched at eLearning Africa 2012, Africa’s largest annual gathering for eLearning and education professionals.  The GSMA worked with the MasterCard Foundation (an eLearning Africa sponsor) to find out how much access young people in developing countries have to mobile technology and what sort of content they favour.  Music, local news and sport topped the list, and in Morocco, a country which happens to enjoy 10% mobile broadband penetration (ITU, 2010), 43% of respondents said that they used their mobile devices to conduct research for school.

Education was considered a priority by 39% of respondents, coming third only to family and health. The GSMA study further posited that mLearning approaches ought to take these young people’s preoccupations into account.  “Mobile is already entrenched into the daily routines of most young people, and so there is likely to be a receptive audience for services which help young people achieve better futures,” the Report states.

Exorbitant school fees and the need for some youths to drop out of school to support the family through piecemeal work are factors which limit many young people in developing countries, the study showed. The GSMA asserts that mobile technologies could be used to reach all those who no longer have access to formal schooling.  The Shaping The Future Report states that “the potential for mLearning to close the gap between young people’s ambitions and their access to educational opportunity is enormous.” The study suggested that the mobile industry ought to capitalise on this discrepancy by working with governments to identify educational initiatives for this particular niche. Furthermore, as electricity supply is still erratic in many countries, it was suggested that mLearning providers must devise alternative solutions for recharging handsets.

The Shaping The Future – Realising the potential of informal learning through mobile Report presents a series of insightful case studies alongside the survey data. Download your free copy here.

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