Contextualising m-learning in the training industry

Mobile learning
apomares/iStock
Louise Denny
Head of Programme Development
MTD Training Group
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Mobile learning, or m-Learning, has been incorporated into the training industry for quite some time.

Although face-to-face sessions are the traditional way of training, where trainers meet with their trainees in one location to host the meetings, m-learning has revolutionised the training industry, allowing individuals to learn on the go, accessing the content on their mobile devices.

In fact, according to the Ambient Insight Premium Report on the 2012-2017 Worldwide Mobile Learning Market, 74% of individuals access training using mobile devices.

The advent of technology has allowed managers and development professionals to train new candidates or existing staff members via devices, such as smartphones, tablets and laptops.

These devices offer many benefits to both trainers and trainees, but also have their drawbacks too.

What are the benefits of m-learning for the training industry?

Removes time/space constraints

M-learning has completely removed the physical barriers that used to constrict training sessions. No longer do people have to gather in one space, agreeing to a certain time, to receive training. This is especially important since more than half of UK businesses will employ remote and flexible employees this year, according to the estimates of Beta News.

When an organisation’s staff members work in different parts of the world, allowing them to complete training on a mobile device is vital to their success.

Allows learning ‘on-the- go’

Another key benefit of m-learning is that individuals can learn on the go.

Instead of dedicating an entire day to a traditional training session, the material can be accessed via a mobile device from home, during a commute on the train or from the office.

If a refresher is needed, or simply a way to look up a certain topic, this is the best way to find the required information quickly and efficiently.

Is cost-effective

Traditional training can be extremely expensive; organisations must continuously rely on managers or professional developers to train new staff in company policies and existing staff in new developments.

When managers are required to host the training sessions, they forego their daily responsibilities, which results in lost productivity for the company. Paying outside trainers can be even more cost prohibitive, as these experts can charge high hourly rates.

On the other hand, m-learning can provide a more affordable way to train employees without having to disrupt managers or utilise trainers every time a new member joins a team or a new system needs to be taught to the department.

Investing into an app or creating a website is often a one-time expense that can be utilised over and over again for years to come.

Challenges with m-learning in the training industry

Compatibility

One of the biggest challenges with switching from traditional, face-to-face training to m-learning is ensuring compatibility with all mobile devices.

When an organisation needs to train all of its staff members, an infrastructure must be put in place that makes the material available across all devices, whether they are iOS or Android.

Additionally, the content needs to be mobile-friendly, as most individuals will likely access it through smart phones, which have smaller screens than tablets and laptops.

As such, business owners and managers must collaborate with software developers to create mobile-friendly apps or websites that are compatible with all mobile devices, and have regular and mobile versions.

Updated content

Traditional training sessions are infamous for being overly long, tedious and frankly, boring. Trainers often have a lot of information to impart on the trainees, which they do in a linear format through lectures and handouts.

The problem with this type of learning is that it is not effective - individuals don’t feel engaged and fail to recall much of the information provided immediately after the training session.

Mobile users are quickly distracted; they are used to scrolling through news feeds and perusing easily digestible information, simply ignoring that which does not appeal to them. As such, it is vital that mobile trainings are designed with that in mind.

The material needs to be updated to be engaging and presented in small bits, making it easier for trainees to understand and remember.

Working with a professional training expert can be beneficial in deciding which content is most important to include, and how to make it interactive to hold the user’s attention.

Developing a mobile training strategy

After reading the pros and cons of m-learning, if you have decided to implement this strategy into your corporate infrastructure, utilise these steps to help you along the way.

Choose your target audience

The first step in designing training is figuring out who will benefit from them. Although you may be creating the material for your entire company, you will need to categorise the content by categories, separating it by departments, job titles, and other search fields. Otherwise, you will end up teaching accounting to your IT professionals!

Figuring out the learning objectives the trainees should meet, and dividing the content by categories and chapters for each section will help the learners on their way. It may also be advantageous to consider individual backgrounds and skills, and separate the material based on levels - beginner, intermediate or advanced - to design training for entry-level employees and managers.

Focus on emotional involvement

Instead of focusing on long pages filled with information, concentrate on getting the users emotionally attached to the material to urge them to keep reading.

That is best done with games that test the material just learned. By incorporating fun, yet educational games into the trainings, you can reward the trainees for correct answers, making them feel proud and happy.

In addition, try to connect with the users by telling them how the material they are learning will help them in everyday life. You can provide statistics that state that learning a certain skill has been shown to help employees land senior roles, or other skills that lead to higher average salaries.

Encourage the social aspect

In a traditional classroom, trainees are able to interact with their trainers and other students to ask questions, give feedback and discuss topics.

With mobile learning, the users learn the material alone, but do encounter situations where they would prefer to connect with others.

When creating an m-learning solution, focus on encouraging the social aspect by allowing the users to login with their social media accounts to share questions or post topics on platforms such as LinkedIn and Facebook.

Additionally, consider allowing the trainees to sync learning schedules to study together, as well as allowing collaboration tools such as virtual classrooms, where the users can share notes and work together simultaneously during a study session.

M-learning is a modern way to train that allows users to access material anywhere at any time. Although this type of training does pose certain challenges for organisations that implement it, overcoming them can prove to be advantageous.

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