Digital transformation touches everything these days, and learning is no different. We recently sat down with Pulkit Arora, Senior Associate Director, Product at Simplilearn, to discuss how mobility is affecting the ways in which we learn. A fearless futurist, digital product leader, seasoned storyteller, and serial entrepreneur, Pulkit shared some valuable insight into the future of mobile learning in an interview.

Q: What is it about mobile that makes it so great for learning?

A: It has been proven that these days with all of the available apps, mobile has basically become an extension of our thought process. For instance, we don’t calculate things in our mind anymore, and we simply use the calculators on our phones.

We’re able to access just about any information we need to find with the internet, and being able to do this on a mobile device is especially beneficial. If we don’t understand a specific word or phrase that we overheard, for instance, we can quickly look it up on our phones. Whether it’s blog posts, articles, or videos, we can get the answers we need while we’re on the go, and this all contributes to learning.

Q: Would you say that because mobile is already so accessible and people are using it just to look up little things (such as definitions), that it can be expanded to microlearning, solving problems, and even longer education?

A: Microlearning is just one way of looking at learning, but personalizing that learning is another major advantage because as individuals, we have very different levels of skills. The levels of curiosity that mobile brings us and the technology today brings us the personalization we’re looking for. For example, Google may give you 100,000 search results, but the most relevant ones are the top five. Similarly, we can learn about whatever we want and wherever we want, but at the end of the day, it’s about learning what’s relevant to us. These usage patterns that indicate what we want is what helps companies personalize their content for us and allows us to receive the best results possible. 

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Q: What makes it better to go with a learning institution, like Simplilearn, for your mobile learning versus just using Google?

A: The biggest advantage that Simplilearn brings would be blended learning. Google is more of a mediator; you search for something and it just throws 100,000 results at you. 

Simplilearn’s guided learning helps students follow a learning path, and this way, they don’t have to worry about what learning materials are relevant. This starts all the way from the basic fundamentals to the expert level. The user is in control of what he or she wants to learn, and it goes up to their level of learning, all while using the assessments that we have. The best part is you get access to live classes, and this is where you can interact with experts and the instructors that teach the courses. In the end, you get a certificate, which is a great way to boost your credentials.

Q: Instead of just claiming you know something or learned something, by earning one of these certificates, would you say it shows you’ve done your research and taken the extra steps?

A: That’s an important distinction between using just typical online search engines to learn on your own. It’s almost like having access to a big library and saying, “okay, go learn.” Where do you even begin when you don’t have a structured learning path? With Simplilearn, you're not only accessing curated content that you know is going to be useful, but it's actually a course that's designed to work in the fastest and most efficient way possible.

Q: What about other things that help the learning process, like testing and quizzing? You previously mentioned the benefit of mentorship from a live virtual instructor. What are some of the other advantages of similar programs?

A: If you look at the traditional way of learning, it means traditional classroom settings in schools and universities, for the most part. There is one teacher who instructs a room full of students, focusing on a specific subject. With new ways of learning and online instruction, you watch videos and listen to audio, but there is no back and forth communication with an instructor, like what used to happen with live virtual classes.

We want to bring in that traditional interaction between the teacher and the student, but without getting rid of the convenience of mobility, which allows students to learn anywhere they have a solid network connection.

Blended learning tends to take the best of both worlds: Students can take several classes, which may include video lectures and other methods of instruction, just about anywhere. However, they are on designated time slots, with the option to switch between those times. This gives students the opportunity for live interactions with the instructors, who can answer any questions they have. It also gives them the chance to listen to questions from other students, which can help significantly in the overall learning experience. 

Q: What is the current state of mobile learning in the industry today? 

A: There are several players in the market who are evangelizing mobile-based learning. Key players include Coursera, Udemy, and edX, which are tied with universities. However, these courses are recorded and not live. Then there is Simplilearn, and we have seen a significant rise in mobile users visiting our platform and using the mobile platform more than the desktop version.2

There is a tremendous amount of value in mobility, as mentioned previously, but the key thing here is that we want to be recognized as a brand that offers convenient learning options for students. This means holding on to some of the crucial components of traditional learning, but while having a mobile system in place as well.

Q: So it's not just a matter of reading a book or just looking at a website and trying to learn on your own, correct? You have that interaction, that to and fro.

A: Correct. We have the benefit of instructors who aren’t just simply showing videos, but instructors that can answer your queries and clarify anything, and then even quiz students at that moment just to ensure that they’re engaged.

We also foresee a future in which AI will automatically adjust the content that is shown to you so that it's most relevant to wherever you are in your career and what you want to learn. 

Augmented reality will also likely play a huge role in terms of the lab content that we have and a collaborative virtual classroom will happen through mobile as well. We’re seeing it now in a lot of platforms; it’s mostly used in games currently, but for learning, it could be the best way that augmented reality is used.

Q: Do you have an example of what augmented reality would look like on a mobile device?

A: Imagine you're sitting in your room, but on your screen, imagine that you can actually see a 3D model of a virtual class in which there are twenty students sitting there with their virtual avatars. There's a virtual expert who is on the whiteboard in front of everyone and wherever we move our phone, we can see what is being written on the whiteboard. We can talk to each other, just like we used to do in a traditional classroom setting, and we’ll be able to see in the mobile device itself.  

It’s also much more than just a neat, fun user interface; there are certain things that students learn best in the third dimension, where they have the freedom to look at it from different directions.

Augmented reality is perfect for that because it gives users the advantage that Simplilearn and other mobile learning provides, which is the flexibility and the freedom to look at something from a different perspective in another dimension, beyond just selecting a time slot that’s most convenient. 

Our mind controls our body’s reactions in many ways: For example, if you’re afraid or nervous, your hands may start sweating. Similarly, that’s how minds can work in augmented reality. If we feel we are in a social setup, we are much more inclined to learning, rather than just sitting frustrated in traffic or waiting for the bus. The immersive experience of movement, reality, and mobility would help students in several ways.

Q: How can mobile help improve social interaction, which is also a significant part of learning?

A: Think of video chats and how they compare to typical phone calls. It puts a face to the name, which increases the relatability with the person. It can be done on your laptop as well, but there isn’t always an opportunity to connect to the internet using your laptop. The power of the internet tends to come through more on mobile and will be even more powerful with 5G being part of the internet. This will be widely available, and with better connectivity and bigger screens, mobile will be used even more than it is today. And mobile device goes beyond smartphones: This also includes tablets, such as iPads. 

Q: What are the best types of courses right now that you think to adapt themselves well to mobile learning?

A: We are not quite there yet with mobile learning because a lot of coding is required and the platforms are not suited well, but a lot of marketing, data science in AI, and theoretical concepts can be learned much faster.

One thing that we are working on internally at Simplilearn is integrating the labs that involve a lot of programming and live coding exercises on mobile. We don’t see a huge challenge in two or three years down the line when we have more virtualization in the cloud, and then we can start coding. The biggest challenge in labs right now is not the processing power, but the way information is inputted, because the code is challenging to use on a mobile device. 

Marketing is a good area in which we see a lot of advancements, and video making and digital marketing are also very good avenues to search upon in Simplilearn. Several statistics and mathematics-related courses, in addition to graphic design and UX design courses, also work well on mobile platforms because they are more visual and more bite-sized than just more than being an interactive or input-driven course.

Q: Looking a little bit further into the future of mobile learning, what do you think beyond mobile is going to be the next big thing that we should already be getting ready for?

A: Augmented reality is definitely one of the ways in which we should be leveraging mobile. The collaborative nature of what mobile devices and smaller interfaces will bring and the enablement of 5G would lead to a lot more collaboration in many ways. Like, can you see that there 20 other data science engineers around you that you can collaborate with?  I think more collaborative education than authority-driven education is the future that I see. Authorities here are schools and universities, but if you go to any instructor — or, manager if you are working — you can learn from your managers as well. There are more and more ways in which you can learn, you can learn from anywhere.

Humans are very social and collaborative, and technology is enabling us to be more collaborative at a much larger scale. The internet and mobile devices are just enabling us to do that much faster.

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