Mobile Learning: Good, Bad & Ugly

This is my third blog from my experience at the Elliott Masie’s Learning 2014 conference in Orlando this year (the previous blogs were  Rebranding Learning and Rethinking and Redesigning Onboarding). For this blog, I am going to talk about the Mobile Learning: The Good, The Bad and of course, The Ugly. First of all, here is the synopsis:

We’ve been discussing the potential of mobile learning for a long time, but few of us are actually moving forward with mobile learning implementations. Ironically, practically everyone uses mobile devices, which are pervasive, intuitive and contextual in ways that few learning modalities can match. So, what’s the best way to maximize their impact for learning? Let’s explore a variety of mobile learning approaches and lessons learned, as well as how you can get started!

Before I begin, I want to add an image here…which I will speak to later.  But, for all of you old people (you know who you are), you might remember this little “desktop computer”:


OK, now back to the session.  The structure of this session was called a 360 degree Panel; where you could learn about a range of approaches to a single learning challenge.  It was an interesting setup as there were 5 learning/mobile experts in the front who were speaking about their experiences and answering questions.  The hosts were from MASIE Center Learning, PwC, Goodwill Industries International and Accenture.  A great session with interesting ideas which I will share below.  But before I do, let me caution you about mobile learning:

No-one has it quite figured out yet.

Which I suppose was comforting and frustrating at the same time.  Anyway, here are some notes:

What kinds of “learning” are best suited for mobile devices?

While there is no clean and simple equation of mobile learning, they spoke about some examples that I will share.  A really good example of was what Planned Parenthood created.  Historically, for young pregnant teens, they had a workshop (over several days) that taught them everything to do during their pregnancy.  But, they were finding the engagement and success (more on that later) was low.  So, what they started doing was sending text messages of the content broken up into little pieces and at the appropriate time.  Of course this is just in time training, but it was also the same training that they were rolling out before in the workshops in the first trimester.  With sending it mobile, it allowed them to “chunk” up the information in digestible pieces and deliver it to the end user when it was valuable/practical.  And how they measure the success was mortality rate of newborns.  And they found with a decrease of 20%.  Quite an impressive number.  And the training content was the same…just the delivery changed.

Corporate Learners?

So, who in the corporate world would be the best targeted audience for mobile learning?  The first thing many people jumped to would be millennials.  Although they would be a good audience a number of experts on the panel actually put forth this group – executives.  Their reasoning was that many executives don’t necessarily lug their laptops around all day from meeting to meeting.  And they hate having to sit in front of it to complete an online learning course.  They tended to like the convenience of having the learning on mobile since they are always with their smartphones and could complete the training when they have gaps in their day
Working examples that drive performance

This discussion around driving performance centred mostly around mobile location awareness training.  For example, every smartphone has GPS to track location.  An example of leveraging this would be for field staff who are out of a service call.  Let’s say they are fixing a photocopier.  Wouldn’t it be nice if, once they got close to it, training/help modules automatically were pushed to their mobile device to help them learn what to do.  Or how about in a power station, an employee would need to complete a quick module before they were able to push a button to ensure they know what they are doing.  Interesting examples indeed.  Unfortunately at this point it delved into marketing and how malls are experimenting with this push location tool to engage shoppers.  For example, when you walk into a mall, you can get a message from ‘the Gap” to say that you can get 20% off all of your purchases if you get to the store in the next 60 seconds.
When is it right to say “no” to mobile?

For those of you “old” learning experts (yeah, I’m talking to you), you will remember years ago the “fad” of moving everything, and I mean everything to elearning.  Although it sounded good, we have come to realize that all training should not be elearning.  And mobile is not different.  So, legacy training and large content modules should not be “picked up and put in mobile”.  Audience, content and value of mobile (vs desktop/classroom) to the user should be take into consideration.  But there is no golden matrix or calculation of when to use mobile or not.  I suppose it really goes back to the needs analysis and really determining what type of training does your audience need to achieve the desired results.

Now, back to that adding machine image I added up top (and to all you young whippersnappers, that is what we called that machine in the picture above).  One of the speakers gave a great analogy on mobile using the adding machine.  They said, take the spool of paper off and pull it out between your hands.  Just imagine publishing a book using this paper.  Your spool of paper would be very, very, very long.  But the spool of paper is about as wide as a phone screen.  So think how much of that spool of paper you could read before getting fed up or your eyes burning.  It is the same thing for your mobile phone.  ** I suppose that is why people post links to article on twitter/facebook rather than links to books.  😉

What’s your take on mobile learning?


Rethinking and Redesigning Onboarding

This is my second blog from my experience at the Elliott Masie’s Learning 2014 conference in Orlando this year (you can see my previous blog Rebranding Learning here).  For this blog, I am going to talk about the Rethinking and Redesigning Onboarding session I attended. First of all, here is the synopsis:

Although organizations are busy investigating new learning technologies and methodologies, the world of onboarding interventions hasn’t changed much. Now, many companies are seeking new ways to structure new hire experiences and help current employees transition to new roles. This group of diverse learning professionals will share their organizations’ latest onboarding innovations. We’ll explore how they leverage a variety of technologies and holistic approaches to improve and scale the onboarding experience.

Although there were a number of speakers at this session, the representative from Accenture had the program that was the most mature and what I would like to talk about in this blog (they also recently won a 2014 Brandon Hall Gold Award for Best Onboarding Program).  At Accenture, they break the onboarding experience into 3 phases:

  1. Pre-Joiner (before you start)
  2. New Joiner (your first 12 months)
  3. Year one
  4. Pre-Joiner

Once you have signed your offer sheet, you still have a gap of leaving your previous job before you start at Accenture.  To help you start getting up to speed, Accenture has created a site called Countdown to Accenture where you can start learning more about Accenture before you begin.  Not only does it have information about the company history, it also starte the onboardning experience by listing information for new hires such as “getting Ready for Day One” and “Your First Weeks and Months”  Here is a screen shot:


Feel free to take a look at the site above as it is open to the public.

And for those of you who are mobile, well, they have their own mobile app called Accenture Sky Journey where you can learn more about what Accenture does:


They feel very strongly about having new employees coming into the organization with an awareness and comfort of the new employer.

  1. New Joiner

Your first 12 months are what they call 52 weeks of training; though actual in the classroom training is only 1-2 days total.  But, when new employees start, they are immediately assigned a buddy (the buddy can be on your team or someone who has volunteered to the buddy volunteer program – at the local office level).  All of the speakers spoke about the buddy program and the importance of having engagement from leadership.  In this situation, you have employees (buddies) who are dedicating their time that; although taking away from their day to day work, it really helps in securing more talent long term.

They also have a portal for new hire to track their progress and which houses information that they need (such as “who to contact”, “secutiry”, “IT”) so the information they need to navigate in the company is available to them.  It is also a place that both the hiring manager and employee can view together so if the new hire needs to take online courses or attend sessions, they can both track the progress.  This also allows the new hire to see their tasks for their first twelve months in a sefl-study mode.

  1. Year One

After an employee has finished year one, they are encourage to share their stories about their experiences.  A few different methods they use are:

  • Blogs – encourage employees to write a blog or post a guest blog on the onboarding blog page
  • Blog Interviews – for those who might not be comfortable blogging, they can be interviewed by a blogger
  • Interactive conversations – these are videotaped conversations with year one employees that discuss their experiences/stories


To ensure the program is effective and giving value to the organization, the onboarind program is measured.  There are a few ways they measure the program success:

  1. Retention rates – based on employees who go through the program vs those who did not in the past or currently (this is measure at the office, country and organization level)
  2. Engagement survey – Global survey pulls our data for new hires that have been with the organization 1 month, 3 months, 6, months, etc
  3. Site tracking – usage of their internal portal and pre-joiner sites/apps (how many hits, time on site, etc)

So, my last takeaway from the session was that, although it all sounds great, there is a large amount of work that is done to start and maintain a robust onboarding program.  Leadership engagement is extremely important as is buy-in from all levels in the organization (those who are are maintaining content, updating systems, allocating resources such as buddies and even managers allowing new employees to spend time in the program).  But, for those who have been measuring, they are seeing an increase in time employees are staying with the organization and feel that their onboarding programs are playing a part in this result.