Getting an education was once only possible within the confines of a brick and mortar classroom, but mobile learning, or M-learning, has made school accessible with a tap on the touch screen. M-learning allows students to complete assignments directly from their smartphones or tablets rather than reporting to a physical location. While it's flexible and convenient, mobile learning has numerous technological and social drawbacks that prevent it from being a fully accepted method of education.
Multitasking May Not Be Best
Scrolling through social media, listening to music and doing homework all on one device may be second nature to today's students, but that doesn't mean this aspect of M-learning is necessarily beneficial. Multitasking may seem to save time, but it can keep the mind from retaining information, according to a 2012 article in Forbes magazine. For students participating in M-learning's on-the-go lifestyle, the distractions of daily life combined with the ongoing social and entertainment activities on mobile devices can be detrimental to their classroom performance and ability to focus solely on their assignments and classes.
Technology Presents Problems
Mobile learning may be fast and efficient, but a lack of device standardization can cause it to become more challenging than simply showing up at class. Because tablets and smartphones access a variety of hardware and operating systems, keeping all students on the same technological page may pose a challenge for M-learning educators. Many students may be unable to load coursework and participate in mobile messaging discussions because their devices are not compatible with the class's software and websites. Likewise, changing technology may quickly render some devices obsolete, making it harder for students to keep up with changing trends.
Small Screens Can Be Big Hazards
While students might be accustomed to reading text on the relatively small screens of their handheld devices, they could be endangering their eyesight in the process. At the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary in Boston, every eighth patient that visits the office complains of eye strain and headaches related to cellphone use, states ophthalmologist Dr. Matt Gardiner. A 2013 study by David Allamby, founder of Focus Clinics in Great Britain, also revealed a 35 percent increase in cases of shortsightedness since 1997. Mobile students who spend long hours doing required reading from their devices could develop what Allamby calls "screen sightedness."
Connectivity May Be Limited
The phrase "dropped class" may take on new meaning for students who experience problems with their Internet connection during a mobile learning course. M-learning requires all students to have a mobile device and a consistent wireless connection, something that may be unavailable to students in isolated areas or with limited incomes. As a result, data plans for smartphones and tablets can quickly skyrocket, limiting affordable Internet access for some students. While M-learning may be convenient for students with reliable wireless Internet, it may become a hardship and inconvenience for others.
- Forbes: Why Multitasking Doesn't Work
- International Journal of Computational Engineering Research: Mobile Learning for Education -- Benefits and Challenges
- Boston Globe: Tiny Screens Can Be a Big Strain on Eyes
- U.S. Finance Post: Eye Surgeon Blames Increasing Cases of Shortsightedness to Use of Smart Phones
- Teaching with Technology: Mobile Devices -- Are They a Distraction or Another Learning Tool?
- Mobile Learning: Transforming the Delivery of Education and Training; Mohammed Ally
- Andersen Ross/Blend Images/Getty Images