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?


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