This article was originally published in e.learning age. The number of mobile subscribers worldwide will reach 7.0 billion by the end of 2013, 7.5 billion by the end of 2014 and 8.5 billion by the end of 2016. This rapid growth and its increasing penetration have strengthened the use of mobile phones as learning tools.
Mobile Learning, is not a new concept in L&D but its successful implementation still is. One of the major reasons for the low uptake of m-Learning at workplaces is a lack of understanding and the strategy formulation. The rapid pace at which the mobile domain is evolving makes it even more challenging for organisations to create a comprehensive long-term m-Learning strategy.
The current state of m-learning
For today's organisations, whose quest for demonstrable competitive advantage is unending and seen as the key to success, the opportunity to extend reach and provide performance support to its employees at the crucial point of need in itself offers the prospect of a competitive edge. It's a task easily done by mobile devices. The ready availability of tablets and smartphones allows organisations to make materials, information and learning available instantly. This enables employees to make more informed decisions, retain and improve their knowledge and skills, and practically apply knowledge, processes, policies and company-specific information for the benefit of the organisation and the individual.
In recent times, many companies have adopted m-Learning as a part of their organisational L&D activities. This has been driven by the changing workforce which includes an influx of millennials (Forbes' – Three Reasons You Need To Adopt A Millennial Mindset Regardless Of Your Age) who will account for 75% of the world's mobile workforce and the growing number of mobile workers (IDC's Worldwide Mobile Worker Population 2011-2015 forecast), that is set to grow from 1 billion in 2010 to 1.3 billion in 2015! Further, with enterprises supporting BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), individuals bringing their own smartphones to work will account for 62% of smartphones in enterprises by 2014 (IBM Global Technology Services thought leadership whitepaper: The New Workplace- Are You Ready?) making mobile learning almost imperative.
Mobile therefore presents a transformation opportunity for workplace learning. Of the five moments of learning needs listed by Gottfredson, the latter three – when trying to remember, when things change, and when something goes wrong – are most pertinent to the workplace. It is these moments that the employee seeks to apply the knowledge and skills s/he need to do the job. Any learning support that is instantly available and can help is immediately and hugely effective. Cue 'mobile device' – it's available, connected and easily used; ergo – Performance support!
A leading pharmaceutical company wanted to move its classroom training online and at the same time equip its filed based sales team with a performance support tool that would help them understand the subject of 'migraines' and how its product could be used in the treatment of it. The solution had to be available to the sales team when they were in the field and instantly accessible. The team already had iPads but had never used them for learning or support before, but it was the logical choice! And by making it multi-device compatible, the solution was equally available to its office-based employees.
Speed and timely delivery were key to the project and Upside Learning developed the solution using Captivate 6, based on the tool's ease and speed in designing, developing and editing. This also ensured timelines and budgets were met and the product future-proofed for easy localisation into other languages through Captivate's XML export/import capability. The course was published as an HTML5 output and was AICC compliant.
The 10in screen size allowed the design to be equally effective across devices, and the visuals, animations, graphics and tables used in the courses made the learning more engaging for the learners while achieving the objective of providing performance support at that crucial point of need
It's important to 'make a beginning' with mobile learning. Waiting for things to settle down or merely formulating a long-term strategy won’t help. The strategy can simultaneously fall in place as organisations gain some insights into how it works in their enterprise. Here are some simple options to get started:
M-enablement of existing e-learning
Visually, the display areas of tablets are similar to desktop PCs and therefore, from a design perspective, content repurposing is often quite simple. However, the software is another story. Because certain tablets (like iPads) don't support Flash and a lot of the existing e-learning is Flash-based, it's essential to convert it to an iPad friendly medium – HTML – to make it tablet compatible.
Flash CS6 Toolkit for CreateJS, Captivate Version 6, Articulate Storyline and Adobe Edge are some of the tools that promise 'quick fix' solutions for converting the existing eLearning courseware for tablets. A number of rapid authoring tools, like Adobe Captivate 5.5 with HTML5 Converter and Lectora Inspire can also help in quickly converting the existing e-learning to HTML5 for mobile delivery, as well as create dynamic video and Flash content. But, is just conversion the answer? And will it be as seamless and simple as everyone says it will be? Well the short answer is "not quite!". It isn't as simple and certainly not without its own challenges. There might be a need to eliminate some interactivities, stop playing some video or audio files, and possibly make a lot of smaller compromises just because they are not supported by iOS.
Getting senior management to complete compliance courses in work ethics was a major challenge for a global FMCG company. Senior management is always at a premium and with a punishing schedule of travel and meetings, training invariably gets postponed – often indefinitely! Plus the fact that the training was on the LMS, which meant logging on to take a course etc. were just more reasons to not do it! Not however, realising they were "non-compliant". So the company decided to take the training to them – on tablets, mobiles, laptops and desktops – wherever they were and whenever they could look at it – airports, planes, trains – it needed to be available!
The company's existing e-Learning course was built in Flash and was to be m-enabled for delivery to iPads and mobile devices. Upside Learning used its SCORM1.2 compliant, HTML responsive framework to m-enable the content and delivered it using its mobile platform, Upside2Go, unified with its LMS.
The course was to provide a learning experience that was easy to read, navigate and use. Upside Learning used RWD (Responsive Web Design) to design the course minimising the resizing, panning, and scrolling of screens and graphics – across the range of devices it would be accessed on. RWD uses CSS3, Media queries, an extension of the @media rule to adapt the layout to the viewing environment.
The company now had a course that everyone could access, wherever and whenever, that meant increased reach, both in terms of mobile delivery but also through the increased ability for employees to access their learning. It is the pioneer course for a longer term mobile strategy and usage for learning in the organisation and a successful use of an increasingly powerful medium of delivery.
Support portal for sales (on-the-go workforce)
Field based staff are the most mobile and need to be kept updated with, for example, the latest information, new developments, changes to operating processes and policies, and any other materials, resources and communication that could help and support them in their day-to-day work. It's no surprise then that the sales efficiency is a skill that needs particular attention since extending uniform training to a demographically dispersed sales force within the constraints of time and budget remains a challenge. As mentioned earlier, mobile devices being always on and always carried are the answers to these challenges.
A mobile optimised website designed exclusively to cater to the needs of the sales workforce could be a great first project – and it is not restricted to learning alone.
Custom app for a specific task
Surveying the operations teams to identify any support opportunity that can be provided using mobile devices could be a starting point too. It could be creating checklists to increase safety compliance or a custom calculator to help process certain tasks faster.
Mobile learning is a powerful and exciting medium that lends itself to so many different uses and scenarios that can be used for a variety of solutions. Getting started is key – a simple, easy to use mobile learning project will help get your hands dirty and give you some valuable experience of how and where to use it, ideas on who in your organisation would really benefit from it, and to build your strategic road map for the future.
Implementing Tablets for Learning | 19th December, 10.00 AM GMT.
Learning Technologies 2014 | Jan 29-30 | Olympia 2, London | Stand 112 LEARNTEC 2014 | Feb 4-6 | Karlsruhe, Germany | Stand No. B-12