The future of mobile learning is not apps

Posted by Robin Petterd on 31 January 2017

future of mobile learning

About half the traffic on the web is now through mobile phones. In the past there has been a rush to develop mobile apps but in a recent report by Nomura research, U.S. app downloads are down by 20%, year on year. This is not because there is a decrease in mobile usage, but because people are getting app fatigue. We are no longer downloading apps nor exploring the app stores for novelty. Mobile users are instead focusing on apps that are essential and have a core function.

Responsive web design and learning

Glasshouse quiz

Instead of thinking about mobile apps for learning, a better solution would be making sure your LMS is mobile optimised and that your content is built with responsive design techniques. The next generation of content authoring systems such as Rise, Glasshouse and Adapt are all based around scrolling pages and built around responsive approaches that work well on mobiles.

Mobile learning used to be seen as a more sophisticated approach. At Sprout Labs we now see that clients are expecting all resources to be optimised for mobiles.     

Progressive Web Apps and learning

In the past, one of the reasons to build an app was because of the lack of functionality in web browsers. For instance, you couldn't use push notifications and have offline access to web apps.  This is changing, with a web development method called Progressive Web Apps (PWA). PWAs are web pages that act like apps on mobile devices. They can be used offline, push notifications, and can be added to your home pages. Check out some examples at https://pwa.rocks

PWA’s standards are common on Android, and as I’m writing this, in early 2017, many PWA techniques are also supported in Apple's iOS. Learning resources built with PWA approaches will work on iOS, although all the extra features of PWAs might not be supported.

There are some advantages to PWAs:

  • They are faster to update and maintain.

  • They are faster, easier and cheaper to build.

  • They don't need to go through the app store process.


One of the positives of apps is that you can sell them. If you’re a training provider and you want to develop an app that is a combination of selling your expertise and providing a learning experience, then building an app makes sense.  

If you’d like to learn more about how Sprout Labs can help you with mobile learning and Progressive Web Apps, please get in touch!


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