Mobility is powered by technology. While technology keeps changing, people don’t – or at least, not at the same pace. There are going to be very rare times that technology and people move neck and neck, in sync.
(If you get that, end of post – have a nice day!)
In the course of our daily lives, there are several people (probably glorious selves included) who simply have far more technology than we can be bothered to use. Our phones, computers and even microwaves bristle with features and settings, half of which we’ve no interest in learning to access. If we don’t factor in people, and therefore their context into training design, we’re bound to face design failure.
In the training industry, an almost-routine failure we’ve seen by now is the deployment of enterprise wikis. A miniscule percentage of companies actually use this platform after going to all the trouble, time and cost of setting it up. The same goes for Yammer, LinkedIn, SnapChat or any other social media platforms.
Ultimately, training is for people. However much technology you cram into an intelligent app or leverage through fancy hardware to nudge people at different times and places, none of it is a guarantee that the user is going to care, respond or engage.
So a pragmatic consideration for any technology-driven training solution, including mobility, is ‘does this fit my organisational culture and environment’?
That ‘fit’ can be broken down in some of these ways.
Definitely the more familiar a technology is, the less steep a learning curve and adoption curve that’s associated with it. Mind, the fact of the technology existing for a while is not enough to qualify for familiarity – familiarity of usage is what we’re talking about! By now, we’ve almost all used Bluetooth on our phones. How many of us have NFC and know its capability and how many have actually used it?
The opposite direction of this problem is boring the life out of learners by insisting on telling them what they already know and slowing them down – starting with navigation locks that won’t let you get past a screen or insisting on audio to tell a person to click next to continue.
We just recently finished developing a training kit for the world’s largest food manufacturer. At the request of the L&D department, we made all the materials in a digital format for a workshop. L&D wanted learners to stop looking at paper binders, to start working on electronic documents and start carrying laptops to trainings. When the workshop was launched, we came to know that learners print all the documents anyway; they carry their laptops to the sessions but many get distracted by Outlook and the office messenger. Two years in, there’s been no significant change in either behaviour.
Wishful thinking doesn’t change habits. There has to be some kind of value perception and buy-in for changing habits. If we don’t tackle it head on, a habit won’t conveniently happen to just change to the way we want.
A buggy training module with high-end techonlogy is worse than no training module. It puts people off all future modules instead of allowing the vague possibility that if there were training, it would be good. Avoiding or working around the training component because it’s undependable becomes a habit over time.
For example, consider if your offline tracking doesn’t work properly and the learner has painstakingly gone through a mandatory course. Any sensible person would next time take the precaution of just clicking through the whole module to register completion and only then invest in actually going through the material.
If we have mobility, but the organisational environment basically doesn’t consider it important enough to provide a proper support point or infrastructure, users are going to pick up on that inconsistency very fast and find ways of learning that the company actually does support.
If we say we want lively discussion threads, do we have enough moderators? Do we have any forum administrators? Do we have an efficient, clear plan of where human mediation will come in and for what?
Related to the previous point of organisational importance again, do we have clear supporting policies? This may be about IP, use of personal devices, ability to negotiate access to resources – any number of related matters.
If we say we want user-generated content and that all experts must share practical knowledge frequently, do we actually allot time for this effort? Do we recognize the effort in the appraisals or performance evaluations?
This is simply common sense, but by now we’ve had so many requirements for this kind of context: mobile training for sales people on the go, where the content is not a quick byte but rather a lengthy, heavy, in-depth module, tagged with mandatory completion and without dedicated training time. When will the salesperson use the module? “On the go”. Does that mean when commuting? So we actively plan for people to look at their phones when crossing roads and getting off buses or driving? When they’re holding up heavy parts as they assemble machinery?
If people find a job overwhelming because of organisational expectations and pressures – too little time, too much work, unclear focus, inadequate pay, long shifts – no amount of animation or responsive device support is going to fix that. No app, 3D or interactivity will render people more receptive to a training that has nothing to do with the problems they face with actual job performance. And that’s completely fair!
In wrapping up this series of posts on the best use of mobility, we offer these basic questions to consider in the design:
- Do you really need mobility? What problem do you want it to solve?
- Have you realistically estimated the resources needed?
- Have you considered the infrastructure and environment in which the solution is to be deployed Is it worth getting the solution validated once or exploring more options?
- Have you considered if another business problem could also be tackled with this one solution?
- Have you adequately considered the pros and cons of the particular solution?
- Even if the solution is perfect and elegant, would the people targeted be open to such a solution? Is it in keeping with the prevailing culture?
If you’d like to see how these considerations could play out in different training contexts, check out the 9 detailed case studies in our latest eBook – Mobile Learning: Let’s Not Phone It In!
Note:- This article was published in the eLearning Industry site.