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Tim Buff


Chief Learning Strategist

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Spotting mobile learning opportunities


The mobile learning explosion has tempted many organisations into simply making anything and everything available for mobile, whether it’s suitable or not.

This may be due to pressure from management and their desire to get everything on to mobile ‘now’. eLearning courses built using flexible development tools are easy to transport across platforms. But making all your eLearning and other learning materials available on mobile devices is not always going to produce a desirable learning experience.

To help you understand how to produce the best mobile learning experience for mobile devices, I’ve devised four categories.

1. Audience

What do mobile device users want and need? This sounds obvious but is often missed and training pushed rather than requested. Make sure you know:

  • How do your consumers work with mobile devices? Are they ready to buy into mobile learning, is it the right time? Does your target market use mostly smartphones or tablets? This will affect your creative strategy. Do your groundwork and start with a tightly targeted pilot.
  • How do your consumers want to consume? Is your target market open to mobile learning? Find out by asking them if, how and when they use their devices. Use this information to develop a concept and put it out for feedback.
  • Your consumers’ attitude to training. Is it positive or negative and do they understand the value of life-long learning? Would they regard mobile learning, often done away from work, as an imposition? If your consumers’ attitude to learning is negative, you will have to address this before moving forward with a mobile learning strategy.
  • What your consumers want to consume. There’s no point simply dumping content on users. Any mobile learning roll-out will be more likely to be a success if you research what kind of content your users find interesting and useful and what they would see as training or performance support content.
  • Your consumers age range. As discussed by Marc Prensky in Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants (2001), not all of us were born in the 1980’s and not all of us are steeped in digital culture. Put simply, an older user base will need more hand-holding and more encouragement to deal with mobile learning, something which may be entirely new to them.

2. The Business

Having established what your consumers need you then need to see what the business they work in wants, needs and is doing already.

  • Business goals. What is the business hoping to achieve with mobile learning, how to best get buy-in from your sponsor community? Establish the desired learning outcomes of the business. To get full buy in, maybe start with an ‘easy win’, rolling out a mobile learning program, for example, to the sales department where users would already be used to working independently and remotely with mobile devices.
  • Keep in budget. Don’t go mad with your budget, use it wisely and create an intriguing, attractive and successful pilot to breed more budget.
  • Criteria for success. Define a tight list of points by which the success of a project will be judged, make them achievable and realistic and simple to understand. Make sure all involved in the project know how they can contribute to achieving these criteria.
  • Scope of mobile learning. What is the scope of your new mobile learning project going to be? Don’t promise to move everything mobile, it won’t work. Instead identify the most useful and mobile-adaptable elements; make the scope of your project ambitious but achievable.

3. Current training

Examine current training programs to establish how mobile learning will fit in. It should add to and enhance the current program rather than duplicating it or replacing it.

  • Moving current training to mobile learning. Review your training curricula. What parts of it would be suited to moving to mobile learning, are aimed at an audience that may be better served by mobile learning, or would benefit from mobile device performance support?
  • What do consumers think? Review any user comments you may have regarding mobile learning, it may be that only you and the board are sold on the idea, in which case you may need to sell the idea to users.
  • What to move to mobile learning. Tying together the above two points, one of the factors in deciding what training is suitable to migrate to mobile learning should be what your consumers think should be available in that format. Discuss and consult.

4. Technology

Avoid basic traps here. Don’t come up with iOS solutions for an audience of Android users because that’s what the CEO wanted.

Make sure you know:

  • The devices your audience has and how it likes to use them. This is an important point to understand as it will affect your design choices. For example you may wish to use HTML5 content, but this is not going to work if you’re audience needs to access content offline, in which case you’ll need to look at App-based solutions.
  • What devices and browsers are supported by your IT department? In the absence of an organisation-wide Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) standard, it’s important to liaise with your IT department to find out which devices they’re ready to support. If you don’t do this then, even using standard options like HTML5 you’ll end up being bogged down by a host of compatibility issues. Get your IT people on board, ask their advice and never assume compatibility: always test training content before rolling out.
  • The potential for integration. This often requires a technical solution. If your Learning Management System (LMS) tracks user training to create management information reports, ensure that your mobile learning can update the LMS tracking system. Problems can arise here with offline training as the LMS can’t track the progress of people who are signed on. Even with a SCORM-compliant LMS, you may need to look at solutions conforming to the Experience API standard that can update a learning record store (LRS).

Author Profile Picture
Tim Buff

Chief Learning Strategist

Read more from Tim Buff

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