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Report: PreK-12 Mobile Learning Hindered but Growing

Overall growth in handheld learning technologies is forecast at 18.3 percent annually through 2014.

Mobile learning in preK-12 is growing at a double-digit rate, but according to new data released by market research firm Ambient Insight, several factors are hindering it from even more rapid adoption, including "saturation" of older forms of technology in American schools.

Excluding mobile computers (laptops, netbooks, tablets), the market for mobile learning technologies in the United States was $632.2 in 2009 across all sectors. That gave the United States the lead in mobile educational technology adoption for the first time, surpassing Japan, South Korea, and the UK, according to the new report, "The US Market for Mobile Learning Products and Services: 2009-2014 Forecast and Analysis." And that figure will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 18.3 percent until it reaches $1.46 billion in 2014.

In overall mobile learning market size, academic institutions are lagging behind healthcare and behind private consumers, who are the most rapid adopters, particularly during economic downturns.

"The current US Mobile Learning market is being driven by consumers and healthcare buyers, who increased spending on mobile learning even at the height of the recession," the report indicated. "Consumers always gravitate to education and training during recessions. There is currently a boom in demand for secondary, career, and vocational education in the US. It is not surprising that a great deal of the Mobile Learning content across the app stores pertains to topics taught in secondary institutions."

By 2014, preK-12 institutions will account for slightly more than 10.2 percent of the overall market for mobile learning in this country--again, excluding laptops and netbooks. Expenditures are projected to grow at a five-year CAGR of 15.1 percent from its 2009 level of about $70.9 million, reaching $143.3 million in 2014.

That means that while significant growth is happening in elementary and secondary institutions, it's happening at a slower rate than the overall mobile learning market.


According to Ambient Insight, although schools were early adopters of mobile technologies and continue to show interest in their potential for teaching and learning, there are at least three significant factors slowing things down.

The first, which Ambient Insight described as a short-term issue, is the "growing practice of banning mobile phones and personal media devices in classrooms," the report said. "Essentially, schools still prefer to provide the Mobile Learning devices to students. The backlash against self-owned connected devices has created a demand for bundled products and device-embedded Learning."

Further, schools are also fixated on purchasing from a somewhat closed circle of vendors. "[PreK-12] prefers products designed by educational specialists for academic institutions. Even Nintendo and Sony have had difficulty breaking into this market," the report said.

But the most significant factor cited by Ambient Insight is the saturation level of non-handheld devices. Every single school in the United States has at least one computer with Internet access, and there's an average of one Internet-connected computer for every three students. This technology saturation "makes it difficult to justify buying mobile devices," Ambient Insight said. The report cited data from the United States Department of Education that indicated "only 15% of public schools were providing smartphones to teachers and only 4% provided them to students with one device per 21 students."

One factor that could cause some disruption, however, is Apple with its iOS devices.

Sam S. Adkins, Ambient Insight's chief research officer, told us that while it's too soon to say what kind of impact the devices will have, "iOS is a major factor in Mobile Learning in general. Of course, iOS devices are the iPod touch, iPhone, and iPad and do not include the lower-end iPods. There are a still a vast amount of lower-end iPods in the schools, and short of PDFs and podcasts, don't come near the capabilities of the iOS devices."

According to the report, at present, "Even though 13% of all schools distribute [personal media players] and iPods, the ratio of devices per student is 1 to 69." And consumers are the major purchasers driving preK-12 content adoption for these devices, not academic institutions.

Ambient Insight's "The US Market for Mobile Learning Products and Services: 2009-2014 Forecast and Analysis" is available now. Further information, including an executive summary, can be found here.

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