You don’t have to Teach on Mars to make use of mobile learning, says Adam Charlesworth.
Reading time: 5m 30s.
The emergence of mass-deployed and affordable information technology has radically changed the way modern learners prefer and expect to be educated. At the same time, it should be driving improvements in workplace productivity.
Yet on average around one day per working week is still wasted by employees searching for information to do their job effectively, despite 95% of organisations believe technology is key to improving productivity.
One of the main reasons for this is that our fundamental educational paradigms have remained unchanged for decades, and are in many ways preventing companies exploiting the full potential of the tools they now have at their disposal.
Organisational learning needs to reboot its thinking
With adults in the UK checking their smartphones on average once every 12 minutes, there is a clear opportunity for businesses to harness the explosion in mobile device usage to improve the impact and effectiveness of workplace learning and development exponentially.
M-learning can save organisations exponential amounts of time and money on training, in particular for applications such as product knowledge or compliance training
At the same time, ongoing developments in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and continued advances in areas like smart objects, the Internet of Things (IoT) and wearable tech mean that all our lives are going to continue becoming more mobile and more connected.
By ‘plugging into’ today’s mobile lifestyle and offering m-learning (mobile learning) content and capability that learners will recognise as being personalised and relevant for them, companies can help employees perform better and be more productive.
The more forward-looking organisations are also seeing this as a way to build engagement and enhance their employer brand by extending the mobile learning offer to embrace personal development experiences for their workforces.
Benefits of m-learning
By 2025, 75% of the global workforce will consist of Millennials and Generation Z. These digital natives have different expectations when it comes to the workplace and organisational learning and development.
Both generations have driven the emergence of what we know today as the gig economy, a phenomenon that has reshaped every aspect of the way we work and made traditional face-to-face training – and even the longer-established digital learning formats – more or less obsolete.
With many organisations now having to manage worldwide geographical footprints and ‘extended workforces’ (some of whose members may not even be employees in the formal sense) setting up even the simplest training events has become a huge logistical headache.
But that’s just scratching the surface of the issue. To truly engage with millennials and Gen Z in particular, companies need to offer a learning ecosystem that adapts to the modern learners’ connected, mobile day-to-day routines and enables them to learn on the go, when and where they want to and connect seamlessly to the communities and applications that they value.
M-learning can save organisations exponential amounts of time and money on training, in particular for applications such as product knowledge or compliance training where the behavioural component is less pronounced and interaction with a human trainer or coach is therefore less critical.
This benefits both home and office workers by empowering them to access training when it suits them, without any of the constraints associated with traditional digital learning (web-based access; stodgy, unappealing formats; repetitive learning design).
With ‘tap and learn’ access to learning opportunities at the touch of a button, employees can learn wherever and whenever they want to and on any device, whether that’s during their commute, over lunch, after work, working out, walking the dog or last thing at night.
M-learning content is also shorter and tends to utilise other digital assets such as video and graphics. These snackable learning resources make information easier to digest and promote learner engagement.
What’s more, the power and scalability of the mobile delivery channel exploiting an installed user base of literally billions of devices is of obvious value for those organisations who are looking to expand globally (which today is pretty much all organisations).
Having said all that, mobile learning isn’t as easy as its funky interfaces and cool user experiences might at first suggest. And it certainly isn’t just a simple question of taking traditional elearning and porting it to mobile devices.
Try that, and your learners will vote with their feet (or to be more precise, their thumbs) and open up one of the hundreds of other ultra-accessible, ultra-engaging apps that they all have on their smartphones or tablets.
Any company looking to venture out onto the ocean of next-generation learning and embark upon an m-learning journey for the first time would be well advised to bear the following non-negotiable rules in mind.
At the very least, the individual learner should be able to configure his or her learning experience, defining frequency, volume and type of learning activities. More ambitiously, it’s now possible to build powerful modern AI algorithms into m-learning solutions and produce a “smart learning” experience that adapts to the learner and his or her content and learning style preferences.
This increases engagement and also provide precious data on potential knowledge and performance gaps and insight into how to continuously improve the learning offer.
Microlearning is an effective tool for performance support at the point of need, making it possible to close knowledge and productivity gaps quickly and efficiently. Brevity and accessibility is the soul of microlearning, and this requires trainers and instructional designers to rethink – and in some cases completely rebuild – their methodologies when it comes to content selection and creation.
This is particularly true with younger digital native populations, who may have shorter attention spans and more of an attachment to a “play and learn” style digital experience.
We are in an era of information overload, with seemingly limitless quantities of online content vying for the time and attention of the mobile learner. Applying gaming design cues and concepts to mobile learning will create a more engaging and interactive experience for a company’s workforce.
Introducing competitive features such as leaderboards, challenges and badges or achievements can be highly motivating in a workplace learning context.
Businesses must offer employees a learning environment and tools that encourage them to share their knowledge and experience. The ability to interface with social media and other communication and productivity apps such as Slack and WhatsApp is becoming critically important.
Looking forward, capability for the quick and easy creation and sharing of user-generated content will also be key. Social learning is an efficient and cost-effective way to build competencies and improve performance. It also drives greater cohesion and employee engagement.
Adapting training methods to suit employees’ mobile lifestyles will help increase engagement, knowledge and productivity. It is vital that organisations understand and respond to the expectations and needs of their workforces so they can continually update their learning offering and stay relevant and credible in today’s ever-changing digital landscape.
About the author
Adam Charlesworth is international marketing director for Teach on Mars.