What do dietitians think about mobile learning?

Mobile-phone-100pxHow could mobile learning benefit you?

Do you find it difficult to make time for e-learning at work and/or to keep up to date with developments in your area of clinical expertise?  

Access to computers can be difficult at work and home and life is generally busy so finding time to do your e-learning is often hard.  If this sounds familiar then accessing your e-learning via an app on your smart phone (iPhone or HTC etc.) or tablet computer (e.g. iPad) may be a solution worth trying.  Bite sized chunks of evidence based clinical updates and mini e-learning sessions specially made for accessing via ‘mobile learning apps’ on mobile devices could make keeping up to date much easier.

In May this year (in a small scale research project) we asked a sample of 551 dietitians to complete a short questionnaire asking them whether they would consider using mobile learning apps, whether they thought the apps would be easy to use and if they would be useful to them in their work. 

The results were striking. Although only 22% of dietitians currently used mobile apps for learning the vast majority (i.e. 80%) declared that they would be happy to use apps to access their learning should they become available. The dietitians perceived mobile learning to be useful and access to it would enable them to keep up to date and practise evidence-based dietietics. They also perceived mobile learning as an easy thing to do and thought that it would fit nicely into their work pattern.

Another benefit of mobile learning is that it can be used at anytime.  The group felt that they would predominantly use it at home but when at work it could be accessed between patients, during coffee breaks, before seeing patients and even on public transport on the way to meetings.  The convenience of mobile learning was definitely seen as a bonus, closely followed by the fact that it saves travel time and costs when compared to face to face training. In a money strapped NHS these two facts should serve to encourage the uptake of mobile learning amongst all healthcare professionals.

However mobile learning is not without a few issues. When asked what they disliked about mobile learning the most common factor was about the small screen size, followed by unreliable internet connections and that work colleagues may get the wrong impression about what they were doing when using their mobile phone for e-learning at work.

These are very real concerns which can be overcome. Mobile learning can be designed to make the best use of the small screens; apps can be downloaded onto phones to avoid the unreliable internet reception problem and training in the use of mobile learning will help change the opinions of work colleagues.

It seems likely that the benefits of mobile learning would be the same for most groups of healthcare professionals. Would you find it useful? Would you like an app for clinical genetics or could you suggest another area?  If you would like to be involved in recommending some ideas please contact Joanna Instone at Joanna.instone@geneticseducation.nhs.uk