The last two articles I wrote (Mobile Learning from the Learners’ Perspective and 9 Ways to Support Learners Through Their Mobile Devices) talked about mobile learning from a learner’s point-of-view. In this article, I talk about the design considerations, specifically, the top questions to ask while designing a mobile learning solution. So here goes…

1. Why mobile?

What are the reasons a mobile solution is being pondered? Is it because:

a. Over 90% of the user base carries a mobile device, which you want to leverage?
b. People are constantly on the move, so you want them to be able to access content on the go?
c. You want to make good use of what could otherwise down time in an employee’s day?
d. The content is best delivered on a mobile device?
e. Mobile learning is hot, and so you want to jump on the bandwagon as fast as possible?

Whatever your reasons are, it helps to know and be clear about them upfront, so you have a solid basis for your design.

2. What is this for?

What is the solution meant to do? Are you designing it to…
a. Build skills
b. Develop attitudes
c. Impart knowledge, or
d. Disseminate information

Your answer could lead to another series of related questions, which should ultimately lead to the solution.

For example, if your answer indicated that you are trying to teach people how to use a timesheet system, and at the same time, you want them to be honest about the time they are logging, then you’re trying to build skills and develop attitudes (a and b above) at the same time. Therefore, you would want the solution to address both. While the first part (how to use the system) can be addressed with a simple video explaining the application, and made available on the Intranet for reference any time, the second part (being honest while reporting) might need to be more in-depth, covering reinforcement at periodic intervals, not necessarily only through mobile.

Note that the solution need not always be a mobile learning course. It can take many forms, such as a peer network for online collaboration, a forum for questions and answers, a performance support tool that can be accessed just when the need arises, and so on.

3. When and how do you expect learners to access this content?

Once a day for a few minutes? 60 minutes each week? At their own time and pace? Or only when they need it? This would largely be dictated by the nature of the content and your goals. And, your answer to this question would determine the solution.

At this stage, you would also need to think about how this would fit in with the audience’s day-to-day workflow. If your expectation turns out to be unrealistic, no one will benefit.

4. How close is it to the context?

Once we had a client requesting a standalone mobile course to train users of a software application. It was a banking application, with dozens of fields in every screen. On closer scrutiny, we found that the application can be accessed only on desktops. The client’s reasoning was that since the application takes time to learn and get used to, learners can access it on their mobile devices while commuting to and from work, thus utilizing their time to learn about the application.

However, considering the application was not suited for comfortable display on mobile devices, we convinced the client to go for a desktop-based course. This was the better solution also because the course can serve as performance support (in addition to being a learning module) at the time of using the application. Users can keep the application and the course open side-by-side, and then follow the instructions in the course to use the application.

As for utilizing commute time, we came up with short learning games that employees could play to learn about banking terminologies.

5. Does it stand alone, or is it part of a larger program?

Again, a huge determining factor. Standalone programs would have to be all-encompassing, while those that are part of a larger blended solution can address independent topics and be done with it.

6. What features should (can) be leveraged?

Is the content location-sensitive? If yes, then use geolocation to pinpoint where the learners are and push relevant content to them.

Are you trying to teach some motor skills? Then use gyroscope sensors.

Want users to upload pictures and videos of their work? Use the built-in camera.

Is the content related to directions? Use the compass in the mobile device.

Pinch-and-zoom, scroll, and pan, are all interactions unique to mobile devices which can be leveraged appropriately in a course.


What do you think? Have I missed anything? Please share your thoughts in the Comments section below.

Looking to implement mobile learning in your organization? Please get in touch with us at


Written by Srividya Kumar

(Co-Founder at Learnnovators)


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