The Rapid Elearning Blog

Every few years it seems that there’s some hot new trend in the world of training.  Right now it appears that mobile learning is all the rage.  The world of mobile gadgets is converging with an always available wifi network.  This gives us instant access to all sorts of information which fits in well with on-demand training.

Since this part of the industry is so new to many of you, I thought it might be best to hook up with an expert in the industry to learn more.  So I called one of my mentors and a real pioneer in the elearning industry, Dr. Werner Oppelbaumer, to pick his brain.  I asked for his thoughts on mobile learning and where he thinks we should be focusing our attention.

It seems that every year or two the training industry hypes some sort of technology or trend.  Currently, it appears that mobile learning (or m-learning) is the hot thing.  However, we tend to over-promise and under-deliver.  Is this just a fad or is there more to it than that?

M-learning is not a fad.  We have been doing some very detailed studies and have discovered that many people are mobile.  In fact, every three seconds there is someone on this planet that is moving from one place to the next.

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - Startling statistic from the United Nations

We’re not quite sure how long this trend will last, but it definitely presents some opportunities and challenges for the industry.  At the same time, there is always an element of hype that surrounds these newly discovered trends.

So, considering that mobile learning is not a fad, how do we separate the hype from what’s of real value?

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - Dr. Werner Oppelbaumer answers a question

Good question.  We find that most people are distracted by the sexy technology and lose sight of how ineffective it actually is.  Take something like the iPhone for example.  Considering that the world’s population is approaching 7 billion people, only selling 17 million units can hardly be called a success.

In fact, their sales dropped 24% in the last quarter.  The way I see it, the iPhone is just a fad.  My guess is that this time next year we’ll be talking about some other gadget and the iPhone will probably go the way of the CB radio.

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - Is the iPhone the next CB radio?

We feel the key is to get the most out of all of these technologies without focusing on any one specific one.  For example, all of the mobile devices have things in common, one of which is a small screen.  This presents a problem when trying to push out effective m-learning.

With the small screens you are limited to just a few bullet points.  To remedy this, we’ve developed the m-Goggle which will allow you to magnify the screen’s resolution.  It’s something we’ve been working on since the 1920’s.  We’ve had the solution for years, but had to be patient and let the rest of the industry catch up to us.

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - mGoggles prototype

These goggles give you the best of both worlds.  You can leverage the mobile devices that everyone has and still have room for the bullet points that are so critical for effective elearning.  Our studies have also indicated an additional side benefit.  We found that when men wear these goggles while traveling it is much easier for them to communicate to woman that they are single.

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - example of mGoggles in action

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - Tom Kuhlmann asks a question 

What advice would you give someone interested in learning more about this industry and m-learning?

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - Dr. Werner Oppelbaumer answers a question

I always advocate caution.  Don’t get caught up in the fads.  Instead focus on what’s important.  The best way to sort the important stuff from that which is trivial is to look for a letter before the word “learning.”

My motto is, “With a letter, learning’s better!”

For example, “e-learning” means it is important.  The same with “m-learning.”  Remember, if it has no letter, then it’s most likely a waste of time and not worth your energy.

If you can’t find a letter, then the next step is to look for a number.  Something like m-learning 2.0 is really important.  It has a letter and a number.  Be cautious of trends without numbers.  That means they’re not evolving.

As far as the future of mobile learning, I put together a simple presentation of some of our forward thinking mobile learning technologies.  You are free to share them with the blog readers.  I am excited about where the industry is going and the opportunities it will present to all of us.

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - Dr. Werner Oppelbaumer explains the future of mobile learning

Click here to view Dr. Werner’s Presentation

I want to thank Dr. Oppelbaumer for his insight and sharing his time.  He agreed to monitor this blog post and answer any questions.  Feel free to share comments and questions for Dr. Oppelbaumer in the comments section.  Have a wonderful day!


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80 responses to “Here's What You Need to Know About Mobile Learning”

April 1st, 2009

Hi Tom, one of the reasons that mobile learning is likely to be big is that mobile phones represent the key information and communication technology platform instead of the PC, particularly in developing countries.

On Slide 10 of this Articulate presentation ( I did here in Montenegro yesterday you can see that mobile users have grown at a much faster rate than Internet users. With new converged devices like spartphones and the iPhone, we are likely to see mobile learning to become more and more important. Also needed is that mobile broadband prices come down considerably!

Dr. Werner’s presentation is awesome! Especially, when you press the F13 key 😉

Thank you for sharing Dr Werner, now I know that I need to focus on what is important. Should I rush out now and get the m-goggle prototype or wait for the m-goggle 2.0?

Happy April 1st everyone 🙂

I was so pleased to have a special Wednesday edition of your blog. I couldn’t wait to see what interesting bit of elearning wisdom or PowerPoint gem you were going to impart. Would it be how to make tabs in pptx? More insight into some new feature of Articulate ’09? No, you give ys something even more enlightening and timely–the m-goggle prototype! Tom, you continue to exceed all expectations =)

April 1st, 2009

Tom, I saw the M-Goggle at ASTD last year and bought a pair. I was a little bummed that they aren’t effective if you’ve had any kind of Lasik surgery… my 3-year old loves them for his mobile pre-school though…

Tom, Herr Doktor,
It’s fantastic that the wise and all-seeing Dr. Werner is back; it seems like it’s been a year since he’s been here. I wonder, does the good doctor have any advice for learners in Ireland where the government are about a put a “failure fee” tax levy on students who fail to correctly answer questions in Web-based training courses?

I’d love some advice to pass on to my students, especially today:

Best regards,

April 1st, 2009

If only GM or Chrysler had integrated M-M Learning into all of their 2009 models, they would not be on the brink of bankruptcy. Dr. Werner, with the move to greener modes of transport such as bicycles and motorcycles, how would you see M-M Learning work in windshield free environments? You inspire me.

April 1st, 2009

Nice April’s fool joke 😉

Happy April Fool’s Day, Tom!

I was looking forward to today’s post, knowing, ehem, what you did last year.

Glad you brought back Dr. Werner for another year! :_


Brilliant! Tom, you have surpassed yourself–something that’s extremely difficult to do. Kudos to you and Dr. Oppelbaumer!

I am putting on my m-goggles now and writing up a case for b-learning at my organization.

Tom, please thank Dr. Werner for the fantastic presentation!


I love it! You are such a nut! My laughter disturbed others. Now, I am going to pass this around to my group and listen for their laughs!

How many people just Googled “M-Google”? Come on, admit it! Happy April Fool’s Day! 🙂

LOL, men definitely look better in goggles, that’s why they find it easier to pick up women that way. Thanks Tom, that was really very wonderful! hahahhaha.

April 1st, 2009

Awesome! Thanks!

Can’t wait to see you selling the m-goggles on TV, Tom. Thanks, this was a classic!

It was a pleasure to see how my British colleague Dr Stephen Heppell’s ideas have been adapted for use across the pond. With US President Obama now in our country, it seems like a great trade.

Thanks, Tom!

I really needed to read that today. Now, back to a fun afternoon of documentation on Cisco Setup and Installation! (not an April Fools Joke).


Obviously the iPhone is just a passing fad, a visionary statement on a par with Decca Records’ 1962 prediction that “guitar groups are on the way out.”

Thanks, Tom (and Dr. Werner) for a hilarious and insightful discussion of mLearning! Like most learning delivery methods, I think mLearning has its place. I thought you might enjoy seeing a website / presentation on mLearning generated by myself and several classmates a year or so ago in a learning technologies masters program (see link below). The mAvalanche program described on the Impact tab is a particularly creative use of the concept. I don’t read German well, but based on their website ( it appears that they are on version 3.0 and going strong!

Thanks again!

I’m finding that I use my m-goggles for more than just m-learning these days. I can’t read a menu in a restaurant with out my m-goggles.

April 1st, 2009

Thank you Dr. Oppelbaumer for reaffirming that we’re on headed in the right direction! The M-M-Learning invention ranks right up there with the ‘Opti-Grab’ (handle and a nose brake for eye glasses – the Jerk, 1979).

Other Trends in Development

Bring Your Pet to Class Experiment
: Maximizing learner attention is often difficult in long duration classes. Two global companies are experimenting with a provocative model of allowing learners to bring their pets to class. Cats, dogs under 60 pounds (assuming full toilet control) and fish in portable tanks. Early research indicates that learners stay focused and the pets provide on-going metaphors for instructors to use in their lectures. “I was originally totally against it, but after teaching two pet-friendly classes, I find learners much more attentive, they stroke their pets and get into a high attention zone and I have been using “alpha dog” models to teach delegation skills. The only challenge I faced was when a learner in a seminar brought in a pet skunk and everyone else canceled.” There seems to be a link between the presence of small animals in a room and the release of the enzyme Lefactin, which increases human’s curiosity and openness to new information.

Management by Twitter: Another experiment that we are tracking is the use of Twitter to manage next generation employees. Several of our Learning CONSORTIUM members have reported that managers are starting to use Twitter as their primary (or often only) way of communicating with some of their staff. The most extreme use reported is by a manager who provides Performance Review via Twitter. They send the employees a series of short 140 character messages about their performance, “Deadlines often barely met – Customer contact excellent – However, job retention at risk” They are finding that some employees seem to like and respond to the compressed form of communication. One manager has even written an Auto Management Script, linking Twitter to their Learning Management System, where it sends appropriate messages every day to each of their 40 reports. Removing the face to face aspect of management may open up an opportunity to outsource the manager function to “cyber-farms” but that is at least 12 to 18 months away.

Randomizing Learning Modules: One final innovation that we have been tracking is the use of a Randomizer, as a learning design tool. Instructional designers often agonize over the best sequence for teaching a new skill or task in an e-Learning formal. For example, do we show the illustration first, followed by the concept and then the procedure – ending with the practice and testing. The Randomizer, a new open source design tool, takes the agony out of the design process. It just provides a random sequence for each student. In a 12 module course, each student will get a totally different sequence. While some learners find it tough to get the summary before the introduction, this quickly fades as learners get used to random quality of the instruction. One option is to add the sound of a slot machine to the Randomizer, so that as learners finish a topic, they pull a virtual lever and get the sound and visual of wheels turning. The Randomizer will be in global release later this Spring.

Once a year, we celebrate April Fools Day here in the United States with a few jokes. May your April 1st be a bit lighter. If you want to add your own item to this list, send me an email to

April 1st, 2009

Thanks Tom, it was indeed hilarious but was very interesting. Looking forward to more blogs on mlearning 🙂 I will twit your blog now.

This could have great applications for musicians as well. I’m often befuddled by trying to learn new choral pieces in the car while not able to actually view the music. M-M-M learning (Mobile-Mobile-Music)could be just the thing!

Thanks so much Tom for brightening our day!

Dr. Oppelbaumer,
Thank you for presenting this most timely information. I’d like to ask you for a favor since you are a doctor. Could you please prescribe some m-goggles for me and let me know where to purchase them? (Does the Costco optometry department carry them?) I was considering getting some new spectacles before my insurance runs out (My instructional designer position at the community college is being eliminated.), but I’m sure I would find the m-goggles much more useful. Just the other day I was helping a 98-year-old neighbor program his new iPhone. I could have loaned them to him and he would have been fine! Besides, they’re much more fashoinable than those designer frames I’ve been looking at!

April 1st, 2009

My husband got me good this morning with a plastic spider under my shampoo bottle…made me jump across the shower. You – well, you made me jump across the room!!! Good one!!!

Dr. Oppelbaumer (and Tom) you are so inspiring! M-M Learning will open the doors of learning opportunities for commuters everywhere!

Thanks for the humor!

What? My beloved i-phone is a fad? But it must be important…it has a letter! And I’m i-dicted, so I must be important as well!

Seriously, Tom, brilliant!

April 1st, 2009

The Iphone fad made me say HMMM? but after watching the video, i was laughing out LOUD in my office as passers by wondered if I had finally lost my mind! THANKS…

April 1st, 2009

Awesome! I can see the b-learning concept really taking off. Just think of all the applications it can be used for. I can definitely provide a list of names of folks who should be nominated to participate in some of your tests.

April 1st, 2009


Great! If I was your employer, I would be nervous that you might bail and go write for Conan O’Brien.

April 1st, 2009

This was very entertaining. I am positive I disturbed all those around me during my fit of laughter but there was no stopping it. Once the Doctor had the scary monster jump up in the screen I couldn’t stop laughing. Fantastic prank! I look forward to m-google 2.0!

That is absolutely fantastic! I am so glad your employer allows you to make the world a little better with humor like that. It starts slow and gets funnier and funnier!

Okay – I need to confess that last year I thought the Dr. was a real person rather than your alter ego. You have a great sense of humor. I’d like to hear from the Dr. more than once a year.

I really enjoyed this article. A good laugh for today. Thanks!

April 1st, 2009

I disagree with some of his comments.

To say the iPhone is unsuccessful because only 17 million were sold in a quarter is misleading. Would he say that if the U.S. government fed 17 million people starving people in one quarter that previously had no food?

And to suggest that we should look for “letters” before the word “learning” is dumbing it down. Please. We can all identify fads a mile away and don’t need a dumbed down trick to identify a fad. We’re smarter than that! 🙂

April 1st, 2009

I viewed the presentation and I was very much disappointed. It was not a serious presentation and I felt like I wasted my time. I am an eLearning specialist and I found it took away any credibility that the Rapid eLearning blog has been trying to create (which in my opinion is already on shaky ground).

April 1st, 2009

Please work on your content so that it may invite others to think more pedagogically.

April 1st, 2009

Herr Doctor, your slideshow was hilarious, but your Q&A answers have two flawed assumptions:

1. People can’t read on the screen (maybe true for far-sighted people and those with bi-focal. Try holding it closer, hello! the screen gets bigger.
2. You must be driving – april fools day assumption, was a good laugh though. Who ever said you have to be on the go to use a mobile device? What about us couch potato slackers – aka generation remote control?

iPhone doesn’t sell because it comes with a uber-$$ subscription, duhh. Until cellular data becomes cheap, it will be faddy. The iTouch, on the other hand, is the poor man’s cousin to the iPhone. The last thing a busy knowledge worker wants to do when they head home is sit down at a PC for 2-3 more hours. This is where the iTouch becomes handy. It’s a delight to just slouch down on my couch at home, read the NYTimes, read my e-mail, open attachments, watch a video or two, go to Facebook. How can that not be ripe for M-Learning – you’re on a couch or in your recliner with no weighty laptop around to heat up your thighs. That’s “convenience”, not a fad.

April 1st, 2009

I woke up this morning wondering if Dr. W would return today! So glad he did, hysterical! Or would that be h-learning??

April 1st, 2009

Ok… I haven’t laughed like that in a while… great stuff!

Love the advice and am immediately updating the name I use for my education platform to include “M” and “2.0”. Thanks for a good laugh.

… and a happy 1st April to you all. Nice one guys.

Not a more appropriate post today other then Dr. Werner Oppelbaumer’s important research! I just KNEW they were working on the m-goggle…I was amazed that it has been in development since circa. 1921.

I learned two very important lessons today about the word “learning.” – 1) Without a letter it’s a fad. 2) Without numbers it’s not evolving.


To get a presentation just right one has to consider ALL aspects of delivery. I do appreciate the detail and years of development that must have gone onto perfecting the accent.
If you continue outputting work of such high caliber Tom, you will scare off people who thought they might apply for the position to work with you!
They just won’t be up to the challenge.
Was a nice start to the my working day, have a nice one, Edi

Excellent work as always, Dr. Oppelbaumer.

I can’t confirm this, but I believe Dr. Oppelbaumer advises some of the overpriced vendor eLearning consultancies we’ve used in the past. And thankfully so – common sense tends to disrupt our forward-thinking synergies and shifts our paradigms in unwelcome directions.

And that’s not good…

Very funing

Thank you for the April Fool’s Day break in my day.

April 1st, 2009

Laughed myself silly.

Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha

Great stuff.

Yeah… since it is the first time i have seen a post with the Doctor, at first i thought it was for real. Then, when things starting to look too dumb… i realized the real intention of this blog.
Happy 1st April!
Good job on that!

Thanks for the laugh, but that video of the car driving through the lush green tree landscape nearly gave me a heart attack! AHHHH!

Tom, when is the great Doctor going on a world tour?

Alas, it’s tragic that, given that you can’t view flash on an IPhone, I can only ever watch him Articulate his views on my laptop.


I shared this good laugh with my professor who is fighting the flood waters in Grand Forks, ND. I was thinking on doing my paper on M-Learning, looks like I have lots of good info from the good doctor.

Hilarious presentation by Dr. Werner…. already looking forward to next April 1!


Thanks for the free training! This cracked me up. Very funny.

Well done Tom! (All the way from Australia!)

I have to admit that I read the first couple of lines and all I could think of was “I need to google this and get more info, but first I have to finish reading”. Then I got to the part about the iPhone and the CB and thought that I had heard critics about the phone, but I actually use it for various purposes. Then the wonderful goggles…

Thanks for the good laugh!!!!

April 1st, 2009

Good thing I checked the date first (we’re always a day ahead of the US).

The video made me jump in my chair. I don’t think it will ever be the same again.

Happy April Fools! 😀

April 1st, 2009

You got me! Nearing bedtime, little chuckles through half-opened eyes, when all of a sudden the mad man screams in my face! Needless to say I laughed till I cried. What a hoot! Thanks for the humor!

Good thought and great implementation.

Classic. Nothing more to say:)

You crazy nut! Really went off the deep end on this one, Tom…

The scream was the kicker! I jumped about 20 feet off my chair…

Thanks for a great post.

April 2nd, 2009

You are right, the letter before Learning or Training makes all the difference!

Brilliant and very funny!

I was a little concerned in the photo of the traffic jam. The spiffy annotation arrow indicating a mobile learner was pointing at the trunk of a car.

For the record, I am a beech tree.

April 2nd, 2009

You had me up to “Every three seconds someone in the world is moving from place to another”.

Well done, very entertaining! I look forward to more of the same. Hope you had a great April Fool’s Day.

I was waiting on pins and needles to hear what had now surpassed the iPhone…thanks for the mini-vacation from the ordinary!

I am sitting here at the Lead3 conference and shared your Mobile Learning information with many. It is nice to hear the laughs as each person “got” the information from Dr. Oppelbaumer. Thanks again, as always for your insight and for your view of our crazy tech world.

April 3rd, 2009

Great preso! Are you dissin’ NPR?

April 3rd, 2009

Great April Fool’s Day fun! I know you’re dissin’ NPR, man.
Love the new persona 🙂


You are absolutely wicked! Loved it, esp the tip on using a letter AND a number to ensure we convey to our audiences how au courant we are.

Sorry I missed opening it on April 1 though.

HI: Thanks for sharing. Where do you get your clip art, and your video from? Is it open-source, free? Tell me more about graphics and implementing those in your E-learning.

May 22nd, 2009

Our e-learning workshop group was discussing your blog yesterady and what good ideas you have. Two of my co-workers said I just had to watch the Mobile Learning piece. So I watched it. And now I’m sending you a bill for $14.75 from my cleaners because of the mess I made in my pants when that “thing” jumped in front of the video screen. Have you ever thought of directing slasher films?

p.s. I wish our firm was more forward thinking than playing catch up when it comes to training methodology and media.

Her Dr. Oppelbaumer about the “Here’s What You Need to Know About Mobile Learning” presentation I believe… Nein!!! I’m sure that this proposal maybe is a very dangerous for people, then bite doch… don’t make the elearning a dangerous tool. Good drivers Just drive.

Do you have a mobile version of Dr Werner’s presentation that will run on my iPhone?

If so where is it?

If not when will Articulate enable me to offer an mobile version of our eLearning courses?

Many thanks,


[…] Here’s What You Need to Know About Mobile Learning […]

@John: here’s Werner’s presentation that will play on the iPhone