Mobile Learning: Key to a Prepared 21st Century Global Workforce

The increasing complexity of global business is requiring new skill sets to build a more competitive workforce. Many schools are adapting their curriculums to meet these demands, but how are they changing the ways students and teachers engage and interact with new information?

According to T-Mobile, a majority of students will be using mobile learning by the year 2016.  As a result, school districts are increasingly taking advantage of mobile technologies to engage students, make learning more interactive, and help them develop important 21st century skills such as creativity and collaboration.

But creating a mobile-friendly environment doesn't happen overnight.

For mobile learning to work, schools need a strategy for issuing, managing, securing and teaching with school-owned or personal mobile devices — or both. IT departments must invest in network and wireless infrastructure to ensure that teachers and students have all the bandwidth and online resources they need to do their jobs and schoolwork.

As we enter 2015, we will start to see a shift in focus to how students and mobile technologies can best combine to positively impact the learner's experience.  Learning environments will be tailored to students' individual needs, skill levels and interests so that students have multiple pathways to learn - no matter what their ability or location.  Increasing big data and analytics use will help provide insights about student behavior and learning highlight study areas that need extra work and suggest appropriate resources.

In addition, school districts must provide professional development so teachers can integrate mobile devices into their daily lesson plans -- and make it easier for teachers to meet and consult with each other to increase collaboration among staffers and sharing of ideas. It will be critical to arm education leaders with the skills they need to design new learning models that take advantage of mobile -- so that educators can experience what they're like from a learner's perspective.

Students have access to more digital learning options than ever before, but their education options are still determined largely by where they live. Too many middle and high schools lack the advanced courses that students need to be accepted into colleges, so online classes help level the playing field.  Instead of putting the decision for where to take a class in the school district's hands, states will help guide families and students to make those decisions.

The combination of globalization and the rise of mobile technologies are creating a sense of urgency. More pressure is on education institutions from pressures from a variety of stakeholders, in the public and private sectors, to offer more accessible and shorter education pathways to accommodate an expanding non-traditional student population who seek open, flexible learning options; address skills gaps identified by employers; and alleviate the high costs associated with higher education.

Ultimately, mobile technologies hold the key to deliver equitable and quality education for all and have the power to lay the foundation for the future workforce.

Michael King is Vice President, Global Education Industry, IBM