Guest post by Tim Waldenback

E-learning has experienced tremendous growth over the past year as many schools across the country shifted to an approach that emphasized remote instruction. Students have gradually adjusted to attending school on their laptops when in-person lessons are not available.

While remote learning may not be ideal for all school subjects – and there are plenty of opinions about the need to provide a balance between remote and face-to-face platforms – it’s clear that learning away from the classroom can certainly supplement traditional in-person instruction and may even be more effective for retaining information.

As we become acclimated to a remote or distance-approach to learning, mobile app developers have taken advantage of this trend and offer apps that can enhance learning centered around secondary and postsecondary education, business training, exam prep, and even language instruction. Known as m-Learning (short for mobile learning), app developers have recognized the potential of using smartphones to assist and engage learning, given that more than 2.71 billion people around the world have access to them.

Our Zutobi DMV practice test app is an exam prep app that helps pre-teen and teen students study to pass their learner’s permit and driving tests. The app has seen incredible growth since its launch. Users have seen how this type of learning approach helps them to understand the concepts and retain information better than traditional driver’s education classroom instruction.

Benefits of m-Learning Apps

While people may be naturally skeptical about the efficacy of new approaches to learning, e-Learning has been around for several decades, and the industry has compiled data that describes the many ways in which m-learning can benefit students.

Instant Feedback and Detailed Statistics

Using a mobile app, the learner can get immediate feedback. Rather than wait for test results to come back, a student will know instantly if he or she made an error. Students will have an easier time making the correction – and understanding the reasoning behind it – if they’re still immersed in the lesson.  If the data shows they haven’t mastered a concept or lesson, they’ll know they need to revisit it until their score improves.

Of course, if you gave the correct answer, you’ll get confirmation right away that your comprehension of the topic is good, and you’ll feel confident moving forward in the lesson or module.

Can be Adapted or Personalized for Each User

As a student moves through the modules on the app, individual progress data is collected and used to customize content for future lessons. Not all students learn at the same pace, and if they’re offered a means to receive lessons in a way that’s better suited for them, they’ll have a better chance of absorbing the information and succeeding in the class.

Gamification Provides Motivation and Immerses Student “Players” in Real-World Situations

Reward systems are motivating for students of all ages, and the ability to earn points or accumulate achievements may make learners more attentive to their studies and more eager to progress through modules. A gamification approach can work to turn passive learners into active “players” that will more easily absorb and retain information. At Zutobi, we’ve developed engaging permit tests that let students earn points while learning about road rules, signs, and safe driving skills.

Gamified learning also provides an opportunity for students to apply what they’ve learned to a real-world setting. Students move to the next lesson only when they’ve mastered the previous one, and they can experience how their actions will impact those in their immediate environment. Gamification may help learners absorb lessons better than if they were to simply memorize facts and pass a written test.


Sometimes a healthy dose of competition lets students view learning in a different light. Whether or not the app is fully gamified, developers can include leaderboards to challenge students to rise to the top of the class. Learning is more fun when you’re rewarded with badges or prizes for completing tasks and earning the top spot compared to your classmates or friends. The expectation of rewards motivates students to study harder, and when they can see their progress reflected on the leaderboard, it can encourage them to continue to put more effort into their studies.

Bite-Sized Lessons Keep Users Engaged

We may have mobile phones to thank (or curse) for the decrease in students’ average attention spans, but luckily the lesson formats offered on mobile apps seem to be more effective for absorption and retention of learning materials.

In the 1950s, a Harvard psychology professor wrote that people can store only seven chunks of information in their short-term memories. We chunk information in ways that make sense to us, so it’s difficult to precisely define what constitutes a chunk. But the essence of the argument is that these chunks cannot be too large or we’ll be overwhelmed. Mobile apps can deliver the kind of bite-sized chunks that help students absorb information more easily.

Bite-sized learning also helps keep learners engaged since they’re better able to focus when lessons are completed in a shorter time frame. Some instruction specialists say that the neurons in your brain allow you to focus for no longer than 20 minutes, after which you’ll need a break.

App Images Help Memory Retention

E-Learning professionals have established that images help people retain information more easily than hearing a lecture or reading text. Here’s why:

  • Infographics that show how processes work rather than simply explain it in words can help students understand complicated or confusing data.
  • Your brain can access or capture information better when it’s presented as a visual, as compared to text.
  • The information is also better retained because visual content that links to emotions creates long-term memories and increases retention by 29-42%.


Why We May Now Encourage Students to Pick Up their Phones Rather than Putting Them Away

Some like to complain that people spend way too much time looking at their phones. But now that there’s evidence mobile apps can improve students’ ability to learn and retain information, they may have a more difficult time trying to make that argument. Mobile learning is gradually gaining acceptance in educational circles, and people will just have to get used to the idea that “fun and games” may be the best way for students to learn.

Tim Waldenback is the co-founder of Zutobi Drivers Ed, a gamified e-learning platform focused on online drivers education to help teens get their license. Tim founded Zutobi to make world-class driver’s education fun, affordable, and easily accessible for all.