mLearing and ELT: Are We Mobile Ready?

Friday 20 May 2011

by Nik Peachey

As promised in my posting of April 8th 2011 I would like to share here some first insights into the results from my survey into Mobile Learning 2011 and what some of the statistical comparisons show when matched against results from the same survey last year.

Before I go into more detail I would like to point out that the results of this survey were gathered through self selecting responses and the survey being online and distributed through various internet channels including Twitter and various electronic newsletters and communities, would imply that the majority of respondents will all be to a degree among the more digitally literate and internet connected, so this can’t be taken as representative of the global community of EFL and ESL teachers, but does show changes and shifts within that demographic by comparison with the 2010 survey.

In terms of the people who answered the survey, there have been less responses this year, with a drop from around 500 last year to 300 this year. This survey has also seen an increase in the percentage of responses from less qualified teachers with a rise from 4.6% to 7% and a drop in the 10 years+ responses. Response to the questionnaire have also come from a very broad range of both developing and more developed countries and across all continents.

So here are some of the statistics collected in response to the questions.

1. Do you think mobile learning will play an important role in the future of English language learning?

  • Here there was a rise in the number of  Yes responses from 73.2% to 81.3% with only 4.2% saying No.

Q1: Results

Generally the positive comments centered around the importance it played in giving easy accessibility to materials and learning content outside of the classroom.

2. Which of these devices do you own?

  • Ownership of most mobile computing devices seems to have increased with the biggest increase being among iPad ownership which has tripled over the last year. It’s also clear from the statistics that a high percentage, possibly as many as half, of the teachers polled own more than one mobile device.

Q2: Results

3. Do you plan to buy any of these devices over the next year or two?

  • It also seems that teachers are increasingly keen to own mobile devices. last years survey showed that only 56% percent intended to purchase a mobile device within the next year. That number has increased to 73%, with more than 50% intending to buy a tablet or iPad type device.

Q3: Results

4. Do you ever use your mobile device as a teaching or learning tool?

  • There also seems to be a healthy a healthy increase in the number of teachers who are already using there mobile devices as teaching tools, with a rise from 34.5% last year to 54.2%.

Q4: Results

There also seemed to be quite a broadening of the ways teachers are using mobile devices with their students which range from getting students to use ELT specific apps, to using more generic communication tools like Skype and simply accessing a much wider range of content through the browser.

5. Could you use free mobile learning content with your students?

  • The number of teachers able to use mobile learning content with their students has stayed around the same with only a slight raise 70.9% to 71.6%.

Q5: Results

Comments here ranged from teachers telling about how they had entire classes of business students who all brought along mobile devices to every lesson, to teachers worrying about costs their students might incur from mobile access during class time and problems associated with content only being available to specific types of device.

6. Do you use your mobile device to develop your own teaching?

  • The number of teachers using mobile devices for their own development has increased quite significantly with a rise from 29.1% to 40.5%.

Q6: Results

Again the range of comments here was very broad with some teachers just accessing Twitter as a means of development on their mobile, to other who were video and audio recording sections of their lessons to help them reflect on and develop their teaching practice.

7. Would you use free mobile content for your own teacher development?

  • Although the number of teachers willing to use free content for their own development was quite significant last year at almost 80%, this has still continued to grow to 88%.

Q7: Results

Although the response to this question was overwhelmingly positive, the comments reflected many worries about cross platform compatibility and the difficulties of reading from smaller screens.

The final two questions dealt with teachers’ willingness to actually pay for content for themselves and their students and these signify a much stronger indicator of commitment to mobile learning.

8. Would you pay for good quality teaching / learning content?

  • The number of teachers willing to pay for teaching or learning content has only risen slightly from 66.2% to 68.6%, but this still represents quite a significant proportion of the overall number.

Q8: Results

Again, although the response was positive, the comments reflected worries about costs, how much and who would be expected to pay.

9. Would you pay for good quality mobile content to develop your teaching?

  • The number of teachers willing to pay for content to develop their own teaching has also increased from 66.2% to 74%.

Q9: Results

Again this shows quite strong confidence in the medium as a method of self development, but as with question 8, many teachers are worried about the cost.

Some Conclusions

  • Generally, I feel that this survey shows increased confidence in mobile devices as tools to deliver learning and teacher development content, though clearly teachers still see some issues connected with delivering learner content within the classroom context.
  • From a quick look around at some of the ELT publisher websites, it seems clear that many are attempting to supply this customer demand for learning apps for mobile devices for students. What seemed much harder to find was examples of attempts to deliver teacher development content to mobile devices. This seems particularly surprising as the statistics here indicate that there is a strong market for these kinds of products. It seems more so when you consider that the market for teacher development paper based books is considered to be quite small as it is generally reckoned that only one or two copies will be purchased per school staff room.
  • Delivering teacher development content at a reasonable price via mobile devices would seem to be a great way to provide teachers with much better development references and resources that they could easily access at all times and drastically increase the potential market and number of copies of these types resources sold. What’s more opening the market to mobile content through teacher development resources first, will put teacher in a much better and more confident position to be able to deal with learner content such as digital course books and other digital learning materials when they do inevitably start to arrive.

So how about it?

Who will be the first ELT publisher to start delivering good quality teacher development resources to mobile devices that really exloit the potential of the platform to deliver multimedia interactive content?


I’d like to thank Delta Publishing for letting me use this platform to launch the survey, the British Council for circulating it through their ELTECS and Teaching English Newsletter and for all the numerous people who sent the link out through Twitter, and of course, most importantly, all the people who submitted their answers and comments.

12 responses to mLearing and ELT: Are We Mobile Ready?

  1. Frank Stonehouse says:

    Thanks for highlighting these emerging trends and needs Nik. I’d be happy to just see ELL methodology and theory books made available in ebook formats for iPads, Kindle, etc. That is low hanging fruit that publishers could handle easily and immediately with a few contract/licensing admendments. But alas, fiction and other non-fiction categories are ahead on this game. Reports already indicate that electronic books have now outsold print books.

    I can understand that materials writers and instructional design folk need some time to update their content for a digitally interactive world, but the existing teacher resources could be made available now! I’ve been bellyaching this point for more than a year now. So, I up your challenge to publishers. Thanks — Frank

    • Nik Peachey says:

      Hi Frank

      You are absolutely right. It would be a very low cost low risk option for publishers to start delivering their back catalogue in a mobile friendly format. Though I think as consumers we should hold out on buying these if they don’t bring the price down considerably from that of the paper based copy. They could save a fortune on printing and ditribution costs by selling online and I think that saving should be passed on to the consumer.

      Yes, and as for instructional design and interaction it does open up some exciting opportunities for future ebook publications.

      Let’s hope they soon get wise.



  2. Dilip Barad says:

    Thanks for sharing.
    The outcome is quite as expected.
    You have observed it quite rightly that there is good potential in the mobile apps dealing with teacher development.

  3. David Winet says:

    Thanks Nik for this excellent survey. Obviously computing in general is going mobile, thanks to lightweight tablet computers mostly. Why not? Big screen, easy to carry… it’s a no-brainer.

    The mobile aspect is an extension of the internet *outside the home/office/smart classroom*, not outside the classroom specifically. People were already accessing ESL materials on their computers in enclosed spaces (aka ‘buildings’).

    The interesting (for me) aspect of moblie ed isn’t the ability to go online from anywhere per se, but rather *how* that changes the game, how being out and about rather than at home or in the office or classroom at computing time might make new and interesting ways of learning possible. For example, students could do live or recorded interactions with English speakers, they could take the class on guided tours (with video of course) of their city, etc. etc.

    Thanks again for keeping this on the front burner.


    • Nik Peachey says:

      Hi David

      Thanks for your comment. I agree that we need to start exploring the potential of location based learning a lot more and the potential of augmented reality type apps that overlay the internet on our physical suroundings. I think the future of mobile is potentially really exciting.



  4. Ayesha says:

    Thanks a lot Nik for publishing the survey results online. It helped me in my research too.

  5. Unaeza Alvi says:

    The results are expected but not very encouraging. Why is it that we are not still ready to apply and exploit the potential of m-learning risk.? What % of this data is from the region of Asia?

    I would like to implement this tool in Pakistan and the Asian region. What is the possibility of you sharing the tool. My Regards Unaeza Alvi

  6. Hi Nick! Thanks a lot for providing us with such important data. I reckon one of the key points in m-learning is the development of apps that allow content to be edit by teachers so as to meet their students’ as well as their courses’ needs. I strongly believe that with our creativity and expertise everyone would make better use of their mobile devices for both professional development and teaching a foreign language.

  7. […] I followed this research up in 2011 using the same survey questions in an attempt to see how things had advanced with the intervening period and the results from that survey were  published in May 2011 on the DELTA Publishing blog under the title ‘mLearing and ELT: Are We Mobile Ready?’ […]

  8. […] May 2011 on the DELTA Publishing blog under the title �mLearing and ELT: Are We Mobile Ready?� One of the main observations from this survey was that many teachers were in fact ready and […]

  9. Ton Koenraad says:

    Hi Nik,
    Have the results of the 2013 survey been published?
    Thanks, Ton

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