The 6 hottest learning trends for 2018 – Part 3: App-based learning

A few weeks ago we highlighted an interesting article on the 6 hottest learning trends for 2018. In our blog post of April 11 we introduced augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR); and followed that up with a more in-depth look at artificial intelligence (AI) on April 17. Today we explore another of the six trends: app-based learning. If you’ve enjoyed reading about these trends or want to share how you’re integrating them into your training, be sure to post a comment, and stay tuned as we continue this series.

What is app-based learning?


From the moment you wake up, you’re in a world of apps. Even if it wasn’t your mobile phone—or smartwatch—that beeped at you to drag yourself out of bed, chances are your phone inserted itself into your life before breakfast, whether through a fitness tracker, podcast app, news reader, stock market alert or banking app. Your phone can almost make you a breakfast smoothie—at the very least, it can teach you how.

Mobile apps are so abundant that it’s only natural for learners to gravitate to them for training. This delivery method provides the flexibility to learn anyplace, anytime, in short bursts or longer intervals, online or offline. Learning can be accessed “just in time”—when and where it’s immediately relevant, even on the job.

So how do apps fit into learning?


Apps are ideal for pushing content on the go, so learners can grab it and use it while they’re on the job. This enhances retention because the learning is reinforced by being directly applied to a task. The ability to chunk learning into bite-sized pieces makes it seem more manageable and less overwhelming —consisting of friendly how-to’s that arrive just when the learner needs them.

But app-based learning can also be more formal. Despite the reputation millennials have for being easily distracted, they’ve demonstrated a high comfort level with absorbing content via tablets and smartphones. Sure, baby boomers and Gen X may associate the idea of lessons or tests with overhead projectors and reams of paper, but millennials and Gen Z are far more receptive to tackling full courses on that small, glowing screen that’s never far away. As long as a course is designed with a simple, clean layout, intuitive functionality and broken into digestible pieces, learners are ready and willing to engage in it.

Not only can mobile learning form the backbone of a training program; it’s also great for supplemental learning. Job aids, infographics, short videos, games and quizzes can all be pushed to learners.

What are some benefits of app-based learning?


Flexibility. Learners can access content from multiple devices, wherever they are and at any time. Given that people learn at different paces, this is a great way of ensuring no one gets left behind.

Better participation. With many companies adopting BYOD (bring your own device) policies, today’s learners expect to use their own smartphones and tablets to access training. Studies show that making training available on employees’ devices increases buy-in; 49% of employees say they are more productive on their devices.

Responsive design. Increasingly instructional designers are thinking mobile when they create a course. They no longer think of apps as an afterthought or add-on to desktop learning. This means app-based learning is quicker, more visually appealing and responsive than it’s ever been.


Collaboration. Before mobile phones were thought of as mini-computers full of apps; they were communication devices. And they still are—they can be important tools for engaging in online learning communities.

Integration with reminders, calendars and organizers. Well-designed mobile learning apps integrate with users’ organizational apps to push reminders and course updates, as well as help them chart their progress.

Competitive advantage. Modern companies understand the importance of developing their employees. Harnessing learners’ mobile devices helps them make that happen organically, which leads to better productivity and employee retention.

What kinds of tools are companies using?

eLearning mobile apps include:

  • Udemy can be accessed through both iPhone and Android smartphones and can be used to incorporate MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) into your training.

  • DesignJot can help both novice and experienced instructional designers build app-based training courses, accessible through iPhones and iPads (exportable to Mac or PC).

  • BoostHQ is a free content-sharing app that enables you to push content to learners. It comes with analytics/feedback so you know what’s working and what isn’t, and it works with web, iOS and Android.

  • Lectora 17 and Articulate 360 Rise are designed to create mobile learning apps, with a focus on microlearning.

Is app-based learning here to stay?


As of March 2017 the Google Play Store had 2.8 million apps available, and Apple’s App Store had 2.2 million. North American adults spend almost 18 hours a week on their smartphones. It’s only natural that learning be geared toward the device in everyone’s hand. And while app-based learning is still only a decade old, experts predict it will become much more effective and gain more traction with L&D professionals and users.

Do you use app-based learning? If so, what are your thoughts about its effectiveness and ease of use? Do you expect to increase your focus on mobile platforms? Send us a comment and tell us what you’re doing!

Click here for Part 4 in our blog post series on the 6 hottest learning trends for 2018.