How much mobile learning have you done today?
Think hard before you answer; you may not have used a formal learning app
or your company’s learning management system. Chances are you used a mobile
device to listen to an informative podcast, read an article or look up
information related to your field.
When it comes to personal technology, the use
of mobile devices is one of the fastest-growing segments. Yet according to the Brandon Hall Group 2014
Learning and Development Benchmarking Study, only 10 percent of
companies are harnessing our growing use of mobile devices for formal mobile
Chad Udell, managing director of Float Learning, a mobile
learning solutions company, believes the reported number is low because so much
mobile learning happens under the radar.
“A lot of organizations are probably already
doing mobile learning, but they don’t even know it yet,” says Udell. A learning
organization may not have put training programs online, but if a company is
using a program like Yammer, Sharepoint or Dropbox to allow employees to access
“just-in-time” information, Udell says, it’s still mobile learning.
The potential for mobile learning is enormous,
and savvy Learning and Development organizations are catching on quickly. It’s
estimated that the worldwide market for mobile learning products and services will reach $8.7 billion
by 2015, and grow to $12.2 billion by 2017.
Why Mobile Learning?
The structure of many companies is changing the
way their employees learn. With teams made up of remote employees, flexible
schedules, and travel commitments, it’s not practical to expect all training to
take place at in-person workshops. “We have to acknowledge that learning takes
place outside of the classroom all the time,” says Udell.
Udell believes that this shift is driving the
way learning programs are evolving. “Because the user is always on the go,
mobile is a much more personal experience,” he says. “It’s no longer sufficient
to expect your worker to come into a workshop on Tuesday at 9 a.m. to take a
training. The learning and the content has to be adapted to different
situations so that it can be used in context.”
Organizations have found value in mobile
learning aren’t tied to a specific industry or field – rather, it’s primarily
organizations who have mobile workers, whether that’s an outside sales force,
on-call repair team or a software company with a flexible team structure.
“The interesting thing is mobile learning isn’t
really unique to any one vertical market,” says Udell. “Float does work with
leaders in financial services, within pharmaceuticals, within manufacturing,
within software and technology companies, as well as major retail brands, and
almost any of those organizations, because they have employees who are out of
the office and on the go, they’re seeing significant wins and advantages to
embracing mobile learning.”
Mobile isn’t just a new way of delivering old
learning – it needs to be thought of as a completely different, and
complementary, learning experience.
A mobile device is more than just an electronic
sheet of paper. Equipped with cameras, GPS, clocks, messaging, and more, they
provide a unique opportunity for course designers to create rich, engaging
content to support the learner.
“Simply viewing these devices as just another
screen to push content to is a rather short-sighted way to view how they change
your workers’ day-to-day,” says Udell. “Never before have we had the
capabilities to have a uniquely addressable, always-on, ubiquitous way to reach
our learners. If we simply look at this as just another way to intrude upon
their day and force training content on them, we are operating a very myopic
kind of view that learning only happens when we tell them that learning
One of the most important ways mobile learning
is being used is for performance support. Roles that require vast amounts of
information aren’t easily learned. The number of workers who need quick and
reliable access to this “just-in-time” company information will grow as the
complexity of jobs does. “As workers, we’re not expected to know less about our
day-to-day and the organization,” says Udell. “It’s continuing to increase.”
Since much of this content is created
organically from multiple departments, many organizations no longer have one
authoritative source of data. “Learning organizations may say that all their
content is in one location on the LMS,” says Udell, “but then when you probe,
they say oh, yeah, there’s that Sharepoint server, and that workgroup over
there, they’re using Dropbox.”
But an employee’s smartphone can be the central
hub to access learning content, no matter where it may be.
How Can Organizations
Harness Existing Mobile Learning?
Mobile learning, both in its informal
incarnations and as part of formal training applications, exist seamlessly with
an organization’s existing learning initiatives. “You don’t have to disrupt
what you’re already doing,” says Udell. “This can be viewed as an
He suggests that Learning and Development
departments embrace the informal learning that’s already happening, rather than
trying to corral it all into a formal program. “The more structure and
reporting and analytics that you do, the more types of rules and rigidity that
you put on it, the less usage you’ll end up getting,” he says.
Rather, organizations need to ensure their
existing content is mobile compatible, so tech-savvy employees are able to
review and brush up on content while they’re away from their desks.
“Mobile learning isn’t just a shiny penny
that’s burning a hole in your pocket,” says Udell. “But understanding your
business, and whether there’s a performance gap that’s occurring when someone’s
not able to access content at their computer, then you have a strong business
case for mobile.”