Education is a dynamic process, and this has become even more expansive with the development of e-learning applications. While in the past, education was more of a top- down distribution of information, education is now accessible in a variety of formats. With access to a device and an internet connection, a person can access countless educational platforms – often for free.
In South Africa, access to certain online resources is sometimes restricted with limited broadband infrastructure. However, the growth of mobile applications and what is referred to as “m-learning”, shows a promising shift in the way in which people in Africa, and all over the world, interact with and take advantage of educational resources.
Why is mobile application development important when it comes to education?
Today we have more computer power on our smartphones than the entire NASA Apollo space programme had in the 1960s, giving us the ability to process volumes of data from something that fits into the palm of our hand.
With this kind of processing potential, which is increasing everyday, we’re driving everything from clean energy to more efficient logistics, which in turn allows us to create more and more educational opportunities, which don’t rely on having to be at a certain time or a certain place, and having a certain person tell you what to do.
What are the benefits of using mobile applications for educational purposes?
According to the recently released Digital in 2018 report from We are Social and Hootsuite, there are 5.1 billion unique mobile phone users globally. In South Africa, 83% of mobile connections are linked to broadband, and there is a 20% year on year increase in social media users, which is a promising foundation for accessible m-learning.
When it comes to developing skills, there is a lot of discussion about what the best combination of learning approaches are, but either way, there is no doubt that access to the internet and mobile-optimised applications enhance the learning experience, for a number of reasons.
- Students can complete work from any location if they have access to a phone and data.
- Learning programmes are more easily personalised with mobile applications.
- Mobile applications can be easily updated and improved in real time (as opposed to a textbook).
- Teachers can more effectively gauge their students engagement and progress with access to usage analytics.
To find out more about how mobile applications enhance the learning experience in real life, here is a brief breakdown of some of the most popular local and international educational platforms that are changing the way people learn:
As one of the world’s most in-demand skills, learning how to code has become easier than ever, with a variety of platforms such as Code Academy and Treehouse offering mobile optimised courses, both subscription-based and for free. Learning how to build a mobile application in itself is especially relevant here, as creating an effective mobile application, especially when it comes to learning, requires a level of expertise that is attuned to a particular kind of user experience.
In a globalised world, learning a foreign language is now more accessible than ever with access to a number of different m-learning platforms. One of the most popular ones is DuoLingo, which focuses on learning basic vocabulary for free, and building on this every day. Duolingo is also a great example of gamification, which uses the principles of completing levels and receiving rewards to encourage course completion and improved performance.
As mentioned above, it’s one thing to build mobile applications to facilitate learning, but how do you then manage the learning process itself?
Here are some of the more well known learning management platforms, many of which have been specifically adapted to mobile to serve a broader audience, which is especially relevant in an African context:
- Rethink Education: A mobile application specifically adapted to the South African market, Rethink provides a low-data usage platform for teachers to share learning material with students, in a variety of settings.
- Rekindle e-Learning: Rekindle’s KnowledgeFox focused on adaptive learning, which means that the mobile application focuses on how the student engages with the content, and designs the learning experience to ensure maximum retention.
- Blackboard and Google Classroom: Both of these large scale platforms provide very similar functionality, in that teachers are able to provide access to courses online and manage submissions from a central location. The benefit of the G-suite application is that it integrates directly with a user’s Google accounts.
- Khan Academy: One of the most well known educational platforms, Khan Academy offers free online courses for school-level students, or those looking to pick up skills in a format aimed at that level.
What is the future of mobile applications and education?
Mobile applications have created a revolutionary way of accessing educational content, but a lot of this content is still fairly two-dimensional on a broader scale, which speaks to the limitations of access to broadband, as discussed above. However, as technology improves and broadband cost decreases, mobile applications look set to become predominantly visual experiences, which include holograms and learning through Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR). Although many of these applications are already in use, it might still be a little while before everyone in the world can take advantage of this kind of learning experience.
SovTech is a business that takes social impact seriously, which is why we’ve been involved in many different kinds of educational and entrepreneurial development projects, such as the Awethu Project. Get in touch with us to find out more about the work we have done in the educational and development sector.