eLearning vs. mLearning: What’s the Difference?

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Do you find yourself wondering what the actual differences are between eLearning vs. mLearning?


So are a lot of people.

By definition, eLearning is “electronic” and mLearning is “mobile.” In that sense, the differences may seem obvious — eLearning is done online, and mLearning is done on-the-go.

But even with that understanding, there are still some major differences in the two education systems that isolate them from one another. Beyond where students are sitting while studying, here are the differences you need to know between electronic and mobile education.

The Devices Used Vary Between Electronic and Mobile Learning

If students are sitting at their desks while taking a course, they’re participating in eLearning. If they’re viewing from their phones, it’s mLearning. With electronic education, PCs and laptops are used. And with mobile learning, students take advantage of tablets, iPads, and smartphones; it’s technically defined as learning that takes place regardless of the time and location of the student. What this means is you need to troubleshoot your projects for the operating systems that correspond to the correct learning platform for your courses.

Operating Systems for eLearning Compatibility

  • Windows
  • Mac
  • Linux

Operating Systems for mLearning Compatibility

  • Android
  • iOS
  • Windows

Design for eLearning and mLearning Courses Needs to be Sized Differently

When designing an eLearning course, the designer has more room to work with, and can use up more space for a larger picture. mLearning requires the designer to keep the reader’s eyes in mind. When students participate in a mobile experience, they will be squinting at images and text that are too small. Responsive website themes and software provide an automatic solution for any courses that fall into both the electronic and mobile categories simultaneously.

Mobile and Electronic Courses Have Concrete Time Distinctions

When it comes to how long a user spends on each module within a course, both e and mLearning have their own set ranges. eLearning classes should be between 20-30 minutes. Mobile courses are much shorter — 3-10 minutes maximum. Make sure that the software you run your course with is optimized for the amount of time you need.

These Systems Have Contrasting Purposes

While it might seem that these learning systems have the same purpose, it’s not really the case. eLearning is intended for acquiring specific skills and acquiring in-depth knowledge. The intention of mLearning is to gain access to information at the moment it’s needed or to support an ongoing learning process on-the-go. Keep this in mind when planning your mobile and electronic courses.

Although the systems are in contrast to one another, mLearning can definitely be used to enhance eLearning. Studies show, however, that certain factors can either inhibit or enhance a student’s likelihood to adopt mobile education technology. Attitude, subjective norm, and perceived behavioral control significantly influenced students’ capacity in this area. So, always consider your audience if you’re planning to integrate.

How to Integrate Mobile Technology Into an eLearning Course

If your role as an educator has landed you in a position where it’s time to start integrating mLearning into your online course material, there are only two ways to go about it:

  1. Find a mobile platform or an mLearning app to direct your students for this need.
  2. Transition to a platform that offers a combination of eLearning and mLearning

Choosing the second option is the easiest way to go about this. While moving all your material over to a new platform can seem time-consuming, if you think about the fact that you’re either going to wait around on your current system to upgrade — with the possibility that it could lag behind long term — or spend a few weeks making the transition to a system that is at the peak of technology – the decision becomes less painful.

And luckily there are a ton of LMSs that offer mobile learning functionality.


eLearning and mLearning vary by devices used, design size, time spent per module, and purpose. To get the most out of either, make sure you’re paying attention to the important differences, and if you decide to implement both, you’ll find they’re often complimentary.

What’s been your experience trying to add mLearning tools or classes to your existing eLearning program?  Share your roadblocks and lessons in the comments!

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About the Author


Marry McAleavey

Marry McAleavey is an elearning specialist and consultant at TheEssayService.org. She also provides online consultations on creating elearning courses.



As a voice talent, this was very helpful to simply distinguish the two different circumstances of elearning and mLearning as it would explain the direction and perhaps style of the script and interpretation.

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