5 key considerations in using mobile for learning

By Steve George October 23, 2015

Business woman checking mobile in airport loungeMobile is proving to be more and more significant as a platform for learning. Here are five key key issues you need to consider in making it work for your learners.

1. Competition

With the average mobile user now having more than 36 apps on their device (according to Google), anything delivered by mobile is fighting for attention alongside a multitude of other distractions. Facebook, Twitter, email, Candy Crush, Clash of Clans – they are all pushing out constant notifications. Competition for user attention is fierce and mobile learning needs to stand in line with the rest.

That said, in lots of ways the very multi-tasking nature of a mobile is a positive thing for learning. To drive adoption of learning you have to drive engagement. With such reliance on our mobile devices these days the average user is probably more engaged with their mobile than with any other piece of tech they use. You are effectively trying to engage someone with a medium that both supports and promotes multi-tasking, so you’re probably on to a winner.

2. Audience

Delivering to mobile you have a unique opportunity to reach audiences that traditional learning can’t. Time-poor executives who see more of airport lounges than any room in their own houses; reps who spend time in car parks prepping for their next meeting; engineers at clients sites; railway workers; airport staff; healthcare workers; retail staff; nurses – the list of those who have limited access to classroom or traditional e-learning is endless.

With more organisations embracing a ‘bring your own device’ (BYOD) policy, access to learning for these people can be achieved more easily. However, they may represent a captive audience for mobile learning but our first point about competition still has to be borne in mind: the battle for attention is an important one to win.

3. Advantages of mobile

Two of the major growth areas in online learning are compliance training (that which delivers a mandatory training requirement) and leadership training. Delivery of leadership learning content to mobile devices has a distinct advantage over other methods of delivery. Current and future leaders within an organisation tend to be time-poor, travel frequently and generally have limited opportunity to take part in training. Being able to access training material while on the road, or during their own time, using a ubiquitous, always-on device, makes content much more accessible.

Mobile also has the ability to fill dead time while travelling, in between shifts or when waiting for meetings, etc. The content is easily accessible from the users own device and, if provided in short nuggets, can be very specific and tailored to the individual. It’s the real, ‘just-in-time’, ‘just-for-me’, delivery tool.

Where mobile delivery really comes into its own though is for performance support. There are always some areas of learning delivery that are either hard to retain or are constantly changing. For instance, an engineer who needs to fix boilers, photocopiers or railway signals, for instance, can easily access appliance diagrams, manuals, quick fix guides etc right there on the job. Any updates can be easily pushed out to the users in seconds via an app.

4. Millennials

The importance of mobile delivery is particularly apparent when we consider the Millennial generation, which we discuss in our latest paper, Leadership, Learning and the Connected Generation. This connected, ‘always on’ generation are used to accessing everything from their mobile devices; they can multi-task and they’re accustomed to doing things on the go.

As the Millennials enter the workplace, being offered training in this way is normal for their connected, collaborative ways of working. They don’t see technology as a purely solo activity. They are used to using it socially and collaboratively and leveraging that within learning will be an expectation. They watch TV, and then comment on Twitter, presenters then read out their comments; it’s all seamlessly integrated. Webinars and learning can be the same. Collaborative message boards and chat rooms can be created and shared in a learning setting. This is what we should be doing for this generation.

5. M-Learning – or just learning?

The more we work with mobile learning the more we realise that the delivery mechanism isn’t necessarily the consideration any more. All content should be delivered for consumption with an implicit understanding it just works across all devices; PC, tablet and mobile. If you design your learning with mobile in mind then it will render well across all devices in a responsive way. This is what users expect nowadays. The learner experience doesn’t need to be compromised. i.e. You do not have to remove content to fit a smaller screen. If designed correctly from the outset it will responsively adjust to the screen and can be interacted with in the usual way.

Also, learning doesn’t have to be something that you have to schedule in to do anymore, it’s a more seamless, integrated part of all your other technology usage. Following a step-by-step process can teach you how to do something ‘on the job’ without it having to be delivered via a formal training programme. Alternatively that just-in-time approach can be used as a back up to a formal learning programme. At Lumesse, we have regularly delivered learning pieces that are a mix of traditional e-learning, supporting documentation and mobile friendly snippets for quick reference.

If we continue to make hard and fast distinctions between mobile and other delivery methods the L&D community will be behind the curve. We need to get ahead of that curve! Navel gazing about delivery mechanisms is a retrograde step.

If you’d like to talk to us about your content requirement in mobile learning then please get in touch.

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