Mobile Learning: Beyond the hype

November 23, 2015 Geoffroy De Lestrange


In the world of corporate learning, the latest trend or fashion is always just around the corner.  Some come and go, like those expensive learning ‘games’ that were are the all the rage a few years ago.  Others, such as eLearning, seem to disappear only to then rise from the ashes.  And a few seem destined to stay from the word go.  That’s the category in which I’d put mobile learning. Yet we need to analyse it with caution, because according to Gartner's ""hype cycle of human capital management software 2015"", Mobile Human Capital Management has almost reached the bottom of the "Trough of Disillusionment"!

Very often, the main advantage that experts quote when talking about mobile learning is the access to content from anywhere. This is indeed true, but it’s only one of the many positive aspects around mobile.

By far, the strongest impact of mobile learning is that, thanks to cheap hardware and accessible software, the cost per user has dropped. The consequence is that many employees who did not beneficiate from the learning strategy – or only had a limited access to its content, can now fully participate  in their employer’s talent development programme. I’m specifically thinking about people working in non-qualified positions.

Today, it is possible to share a tablet that can cost only 100 EUR among a group of employees in a shop, on the factory floor or in an office. Thanks to cloud technology, anyone can log in with one’s own username and password, access targeted content and participate to specific communities of experts and learners. 

The second, most strategic impact of mobile technology, which is also more important than the “access anywhere” advantage, is the fact that mobile hardware can be used to create one’s own content, which is posted into the Learning Management platform, and shared in targeted communities. I recently heard an expert saying that outsourcing the production of an eLearning module could cost up to four figures per minute of content. If you intend to create a video series, imagine how much you would save if you simply used a tablet or  smartphone to film your own internal experts performing a task, and then publish the video as a learning object! But saving money isn’t the only advantage, nor the most important one.

Using modern technology to create your own content with your internal experts has a huge impact on your employees because:

  • You acknowledge that some members of your staff are experts on specific topics, which is a great way to identify top and motivated performers
  • They get a huge recognition from their colleagues, and become the go-to person when anyone has any questions around their ‘specialist subject’
  • They become much more engaged, which also means they’re less likely to leave the organisation
  • You increase social collaboration amongst people working in the same field and inspire active discussions around rich content

Finally, and most obviously, mobile learning does enable access to content from anywhere. As mentioned, this is the element that is most quoted, and it is certainly an advantage, but for me it is only one element among all of those I've listed above. It is also the one that creates the biggest challenge in terms of content creation. Indeed, even if some formats might be accessible via mobile, it is highly important to think about the context in which content is accessed. Learning on a train or on a couch at home is certainly not the same as learning in the office. There are some key factors that need to be taken into account when planning the content:

  • Modules must be short
  • If there is audio content, it might be good to include subtitles or a written summary for when the environment is noisy or doesn't permit sound
  • The content shouldn't be isolated but part of a learning community, with commenting features to increase engagement
  • The content offering should mix a freely accessible training catalogue with targeted suggestions based on each delegate’s profile 

Last but not least, mobile learning should also include mobile evaluation, or “observation checklist”. This consists in observing on site, if the employee is really using the newly acquired skills in real life. This requires the definition of  Key Performance Indicators to verify consistent, competent job performance. It is also a very efficient tool to ensure compliance and respect of procedure, and enables an easier delivery of regulatory reporting as all data is stored on the learning platform, and can be tracked and analysed. 

Any other tips for success you want to share around mobile learning?

About the Author

Geoffroy De Lestrange

Product Marketing & Communication Director EMEA at Cornerstone OnDemand

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