At work, at home, on-the-go, learners have newer options…
Learners are using mobile devices to access information and knowledge when and where they need it or want it. What started with eLearning on the desktop, then laptop, has evolved into an on-the-go learning model delivered via tablets and smart phones.
The brand new $1.5 billion acquisition of online learning company Lynda.com by LinkedIn, the leading professional social network, illustrates the growing interest in having the power to control when and how you access your own learning. Since members visit LinkedIn most often to update their résumés when looking for a new job, the company believes it will lure its nearly 350 million users back to the site on a weekly or even daily basis by offering career-related tutorials and videos that members can view at their convenience on any mobile device. Lynda.com offers thousands of video tutorials taught by industry experts.
As this self-serve approach to learning gains in popularity, L&D professionals are recognizing the potential mobile learning has to deliver skills, training and knowledge for their own organizations.
Getting started on building your mLearning strategy
Successfully adding mLearning to your overall L&D strategy is not about making current eLearning available on smartphones and tablets. Navigating through a 30-minute module on a small screen would challenge at best and likely discourage learners from using their mobile devices for additional courses. You’ll need to think differently about how to present content when building your mLearning strategy. The right place to start is breaking it down into three parts: Learners, Content, Delivery. Some thoughts to begin the process…
Learners – What will access to learning via a mobile device mean for learners in your organization? Do they already using mobile devices as a tool? Do all your potential users have the same learning needs?
Onboarding and company-wide information are likely delivered to all learners. But, a field technician, a sales associate and an executive will have different needs. By identifying different types of users based on role objectives and work environments, you will be able to target learning materials to suit each job type. Determine how mobile learning could help them achieve objectives and work more efficiently, what technological issues they may encounter when using mobile devices, and how they are currently relying on mobile devices to accomplish their work.
A sales associate, for example, uses her smartphone constantly to contact clients and arrange sales calls. When traveling, calls are sometimes lost when cell coverage is weak. In addition to a smartphone, she carries a tablet to demo products for clients. Either device could be used during flights and airport layovers to access sales courses and refreshers, as well as product updates. This insight into when, where and how a sales associate could benefit from mobile learning helps define the type of learner in your organization who travels frequently and relies on mobile devices to accomplish tasks. You’ll be able to identify opportunities for offering skill set content and information they need to access quickly and conveniently.
That said, despite your efforts to adapt content to make on-the-go learning available, not all learners will embrace it right away. If they are already comfortable using mobile devices they’ll be more willing to adopt their use. If they are hesitant and prefer sticking with traditional eLearning, you can let them ease into mLearning by having them complete supplemental course material on a smartphone or tablet. This will give them a chance to try it out and experience the benefits of approaching learning in this new way.
Content – In addition to targeting skill sets and information, you will need to consider how to present the content in a format best suited to each type of learner you have identified.
Options may include re-purposing existing eLearning content into bite-sized mobile friendly courses, providing on-the-job support for dealing with situations in the field, some form of gamification, text-based tutorials, and short video tutorials.
Regardless of format, keep in mind that learners who participate in mobile learning are pressed for time. Content needs to be packaged in short, digestible modules so they can be completed on the go with elements that are easy to use on a mobile device. For instance, requiring the learner to speak rather than type will make it easier to advance through the material.
Delivery – Once you’ve identified the learners and content, the remaining piece of the strategy is how to make mobile learning available to learners. There are two components to this process.
First, what operating system will you use: iOS, Android or Windows? A single system or all systems? You should also consider the screen sizes of mobile devices. Most apps can automatically resize to fit a variety of devices but if your mobile training courses are designed with an iPad screen in mind, for example, then it’s important to verify that a learner using an iPhone will be able to read text or view smaller graphics.
Second is app type. The main ones which can be used for delivering learning are web-based and native.
- Web-based: An HTML5-enabled website that can be accessed by most mobile devices and that can dynamically optimize content to fit the screen size of any smartphone or tablet. It requires Internet access to run.
- Native app: An app has been downloaded from an app store onto a user’s device. This type of app doesn’t require Internet access to run but it will typically only run on one platform. This means that all learners in your organization will need to commit to a single mobile ecosystem like Apple or Android exclusively or the app will need to be developed for all the systems.
To help guide these decisions, you will need input from your IT department. They will tell you what operating systems are supported, if a ‘Bring Your Own Device’ strategy is an option for your organization, and how connectivity and security issues will be handled. It may also be able to help with preparing for future changes in mobile technology which can happen quickly and could compromise your efforts in a matter of months if you are unprepared.
One final thought about delivery. Before finalizing delivery methods, consider whether all learners will have access to mobile devices. You may want to make assets used for mobile learning available through current delivery systems as an alternative if needed.
A good mLearning strategy can enhance the reach and effectiveness of your overall L&D strategy by making courses available when and where the learner wants. It requires adapting content to meet the on-the-go learning needs of the user – readily accessible, easy to use, and presented in short, digestible modules. Test thoroughly before rolling out to learners to ensure that courses and materials can be accessed as expected and that they function correctly and look as intended on all devices. And as with any L&D initiative, seek feedback from users on how they value the learning experience so that you can continue to improve and fine-tune your mobile learning strategy.