Thursday, 7 March 2013

Rise in mobile learning: Apple’s 2013 report makes it difficult to ignore

Last month, Apple and Cisco gave the clearest indication yet that mobile learning is gaining traction at a pace faster than analysts had previously expected.

In this article we’ll look at the two recently published reports: firstly, Apple's annual report that concentrates on the direct impact of mobile learning within education, and secondly on Cisco’s more generalised, yet equally surprising annual forecast report.

1 billion downloads and more than 8 million iPads sold into education


Last week Apple announced in their annual press report (released 28 February) that it had now sold more than eight million iPads in the education sector and had reached a milestone of one billion downloads of its iTunes U app, the brand’s flagship education product.

The rapid pace of mobile adoption has been encouraged by the rise in MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses). Coursera and Udacity, two of the USA’s largest providers of open online courses have recorded student figures to be a quarter of a million, with many learners choosing to study through Apple-enabled applications.

In the USA, universities and colleges are adding to this upward trend with more than 2,500 courses now being delivered through mobile applications.

The drive in iPad sales in education offers one indication but whether you’re an Apple enthusiast or not, it’s difficult to ignore the correlation between the increase in e-learning over the past three years and the release of Apple’s mobile application for iTunes U.

Apple's iTunes U app reaches 1 billion downloads
The iTunes U application was first set up to allow institutions around the world to manage, distribute and control access to education-specific audio and video content. Launched in 2007 for desktop, the free application provided an online catalogue of courses. Since its launch and up until 2010, the last date at which Apple released its download figures of the iTunes U app, Apple had recorded initial downloads of 300 million. However, in the past three years this figure has tripled. Why? Well, 2010 was the year the tech giant released the mobile application for iPad, iPhone and iPod.

TechCrunch, one of the world’s leading sources of technology news and consumer product reviews was quick to report on the education device sales posted by Apple. Pointing to the fact that while 4.5 million of the total sales (8 million) are attributed to US sales alone, these figures are rising worldwide. The indication is that teaching professionals are becoming more aware of the significant advantages mobile devices offer, both within the classroom and also as a complementary resource for independent revision and advanced learning.

It’s important to appreciate that, while Apple has enjoyed sales higher than projected, they are not the only player in the education market and so, with Android tablet devices offering a competitive alternative, the figure is likely to be much higher.

More than 50% of mobile traffic is video streaming

While Apple’s sales report provides a direct analysis of the use of their mobile devices in education, the American multinational, Cisco, has also shared some telling figures of its own. Published earlier in the same month (6 February), the report; The Cisco Visual Networking Index: Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast Update (2012-2017), provides further insight into the latest mobile device trends.

In the extensive report, Cisco announced that more than 50 per cent of the world’s internet traffic comes from video streaming. And with the slow but progressive rise in 4G connectivity this is likely to rise to 60 per cent by 2017.

LearnersCloud tutor-led videos & apps
Cisco’s report, as mentioned, reflects the general usage patterns of consumers and while we cannot ascertain the kind of video content being viewed, these results demonstrate consumer’s preference towards video, and more specifically video content delivered via mobile devices. So, while iTunes U, The Khan Academy, and TED-Ed are offering free, generalised learning platforms, there is also a surge in the demand for qualification-specific, tutor-led video content, which is likely to propel mobile devices beyond their complementary usage to a more centred role within the personalised learning agenda.

If you’re a teaching professional and want to share your views on the use of mobile learning in the classroom, post a comment below or tweet @LearnersCloud − we’d love to hear from you.