Grant, M. (2019). Difficulties in defining mobile learning: Analysis, design characteristics, and implications. Educational Technology Research and Development, 67(2), 361-388. doi:10.1007/s11423-018-09641-4


The rapid use of mobile computing devices, data services, and applications together raises questions about mobile learning. First, the author examined existing research of definitions of mobile learning. Also because of this issue, mobile learning may not contribute more to educational technology research. Second, the author developed seven design characteristics for mobile learning to identify and explain the affordances of mobile learning. The authors have augured for “the use of design characteristics of mobile learning environments over definitions” (Grant, 2019, p.380). Last, four broad areas were provided to expend future research and implications for instructional designs of mobile learning: mobility of technologies, mobility of learning, mobility of the learner, research designs.

Summary of key points

  • An examination of definition of mobile learning:
    • Relationships to distance education and eLearning: user recourses, experts, and information searches at the times of learners’ need, and analogous to web-based learning;
    • Exploitation of devices and technologies: highlight the use of devices and network to support teaching and learning;
    • Mediation with technology: focus on how interactions with environments and individuals are mediated using mobile devices and services;
    • Nomadic nature of learner and learning: learners not in predetermined or common location.
  • Seven design characteristics of mobile learning: learner is mobile (autonomy, self-regulation, self-directedness, and metacognition), device is mobile (mobile devices have no space limitations), data services are persistent (including mobile data networks, limited access and continuous availability), content is mobile (learning context is adaptive, variable based on learners’ need) , and tutor is accessible (tutor is accessible synchronously), learner is engaged (reflecting learners’ motivations for formal, informal, and semi-formal learning).
  • Four future research and implications for ID:
    • Mobility of technologies: includes both the functionality (portable mobile device and instant connectively mobile data services) and affordances (creation, searching, research purpose, etc);
    • Mobility of learning: learning is true and practical.
    • Mobility of the learner: learning is flexible and personalization afforded by mobile devices;
    • Research designs: there are so much room for improvement based on existing mobile learning research.

Design principles

In order to better understand what is mobile learning or what is not mobile learning, design characteristics of mobile is more important than definitions, because they are “a mechanism for explaining, operationalizing, implementing, and then evaluating affordances of mobile learning environments” (Grant, 2019, p. 380.).

Discussion question:

  1. According to author’s examination on definition of mobile learning, what are issues existing?
  2. What are the design chrematistics of mobile learning environments?
  3. Author stated four broad areas to suggest future research of mobile learning (Grant, 2019, p. 376 – 379), which one(s) have you seen in your ID field?

Additional resource:

Mobile learning practice: https://elearningindustry.com/getting-mobile-learning-right-6-best-practices


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