Co-Founder Pacific Blue Solutions
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Who’s doing what with mobile learning right now?

19th Sep 2011
Co-Founder Pacific Blue Solutions
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Have you already joined the mobile learning party or are you still considering it? Andrew Jackson kicks off a four-part series on mobile and looks at how how organisations are currently using mobile learning.
 

Picture the scene. The dance floor is largely empty. A handful of people are dancing around in the middle, clearly having a great time. The rest of the party crowd are standing around the edges, interested and curious but unsure whether to step forward and join the fun.

Not an uncommon scene before a party really gets going. Not a bad metaphor for where we are currently with mobile learning.

"Another widely held belief is that mobile learning is only suitable for smart phones. This is absolutely not the case."

A few pioneers have started the mobile learning party. They are mostly glad they turned up early. The majority, however, are still standing on the sidelines, waiting for others to make the first move. If you are a mobile learning party pooper, this series of articles has been written with you in mind.

Are you researching mobile learning, building a business case or getting ready to run a pilot project? Then these articles will help you:

  • Understand what mobile learning really is.
  • How it is being used across a range of organisations.
  • The ways in which it has been used most successfully.

Finally, by the end of this four-part series, we hope you’ll see that mobile learning is not that scary and difficult to implement. Also, we hope you’ll have a clear picture of what some of the pioneer organisations are doing with mobile learning and you’ll have a good understanding of the benefits they are reaping. 

Myths and misconceptions

Lots of people in L&D have experience of e-learning, so when they start thinking about mobile learning, it’s that previous experience which tends to influence their view of what mobile learning ought to be.

Understandably, many perceive mobile learning to be little more than "e-learning-light". A scaled down version of a familiar concept. Working from this mindset, they (wrongly) assume mobile learning will be expensive and complicated to create.

This narrow, e-learning-centric view of mobile learning is one of many myths and misconceptions currently holding a lot of organisations back.

Another widely held belief is that mobile learning is only suitable for smart phones. This is absolutely not the case. Smart phones have the advantage of larger screens and more functionality, but almost any phone made within the last decade is suitable for some kind of mobile learning.

As well as thinking beyond smart phones, we also need to think beyond just phones, because the term mobile can now be applied to a variety of devices including (but not limited to) tablets, mp3 players, games consoles and PDAs.

There are many more myths and misconceptions we could mention, but one final big one is the concern about mobile learning always needing to be interactive. Again, this is just not necessary.

Of course, interactivity can be good; but sometimes reading, viewing or listening to a small piece of content is all that’s needed to make a big difference. The difference, for example, between solving a customer problem immediately or having to wait until later.

What mobile learning is really about

So, it’s not e-learning-light. It’s not limited to only phones or smart phones and it doesn’t have to be interactive all of the time. In that case, what is mobile learning really about?

The simple answer? Providing learners with concise, relevant bursts of content accessible through their mobile device. The content could be something quite simple like text and images. It could be more complex, such as audio, video, quizzes, questions or surveys. Crucially, it is not about duplicating content.

It is about finding meaningful ways to enhance or extend what’s already been learnt. It is about prompting learners with content critical to their job performance, as and when required. It is about communicating with learners when mobile is the best channel to deliver content or messages quickly and efficiently.

How it is being used successfully?

With this in mind, organisations who are seeing real benefits from mobile learning are typically applying it in these three key areas: reinforcement of learning, performance support and corporate communications. Let’s briefly look at each.

Reinforcement of learning

The traditional approach to training has been to organise a single-hit event. Yet extensive research has shown that better outcomes are achieved when training takes place over an extended period, with spaced practice activities included as part of the mix.

Organisations are discovering they can use mobile learning to reinforce and extend training beyond the classroom and the e-learning package to achieve the improved learning and performance outcomes seen in research studies.

Performance support

Improving performance by having employees carry out  their work more effectively is a key issue for any L&D department. This is often about providing people with critical information at the moment of need.

This could be support for routine work. It could be support while changes to existing processes or procedures are coming on stream. It could be about supporting people through one-off situations that require less predictable responses.

Whatever the situation, mobile provides an effective alternative or augment to more traditional performance support solutions.

Corporate communications

With more employees spending less time each week in a fixed location, getting critical or time-sensitive content out to people is becoming more challenging.

There is no guarantee everyone out of the office will have a laptop or access to the internet. But almost all will carry a mobile device, making this the ideal way to communicate company-wide in a variety of situations; for example, during a change programme or a re-branding exercise.

In summary, many people engaged in developing mobile learning right now are genuinely improving performance and results through applying simple, versatile and cost-effective solutions.

What’s next?

In the next article we focus on using mobile to extend learning. In the third article of the series we examine mobile learning as part of a performance support solution. In the final article, we look at mobile learning for corporate communications.

Each time, we will identify the reasons you might use a mobile solution, consider issues you might face, provide specific real-world examples and summarise potential benefits to your organisation.

 

Andrew Jackson is co-founder of Pacific Blue, specialists in developing innovative learning solutions for clients. To find out more about how to get started with mobile learning in your organisation visit: http://www.pacificblue.co.uk/get-going-with-mobile-learning-toolkit.

 

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