When the term e-learning was coined years ago, it was used to denote education delivered via electronic means. Mobile learning, or m-learning, a subcategory of e-learning, later arrived on the scene as mobile devices—such as smartphones and tablets—became more popular. To say that m-learning simply refers to e-learning delivered on a personal mobile device may ruffle the feathers of L&D literalists who argue that the differences are far greater.
According to the October 2020 SHIFT eLearning blog post "Understanding The Difference Between eLearning and mLearning," the only commonality between the two is that both methods involve digital communication. For L&D professionals, the purposes and uses are quite different. The post highlights keywords for each method to illuminate the differences. "Structured, formal and time-bound" define e-learning, and "on-demand, just-in-time, and context aware" best illustrate the uses of m-learning.
As SHIFT eLearning explains, "neither can wholly take over the functions of the other." And as a tip for instructional designers, m-learning and e-learning can complement each other well as part of a dynamic training program.