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Gerry Griffin

Skill-Pill M-Learning

Company Director

Read more from Gerry Griffin

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Summer News

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 It's been a busy few months for Skill Pill and events like HRD, ASTD in Denver and Training Zone Live have given us the opportunity to get out of the Skill Pill office and do what we like to do best - engage with the wider L&D community.

It's been enlightening, fascinating and rewarding to attend expos, give talks and run workshop sessions with learning professionals from a huge variety of companies and industries from all over the world.

No matter where people are at with mobile, from early adopters to those taking their first tentative steps, everyone has different ideas, goals, opinions and experiences. So in this blog we'd like to summarise and share the hot topics of debate in the mobile sphere with everyone we didn't get to meet in person.

What constitutes a mobile device?

The iPad vs. iPhone debate rumbles on. The issue of tablets to sales teams is prompting L&D to give due thought and consideration to converting training materials into a more mobile friendly format. People are passionate about their tablets and consider them superior to smartphones because of screen size and a more immersive browsing experience. It was interesting to meet people who carry an iPad, phone and even a Kindle around with them. Some very heavy handbags and man bags out there!

But is the iPad even a mobile device? Is it with the user at all times? Would they go back for it if they forgot it in the morning like they would for keys, wallet or phone? At the heart of mobile learning are the issues of need, situation and location. And they can only be met by a device that the user is emotionally attached to and has with them no matter where they are – the mobile phone.

Shifting away from the e-learning mindset

It's interesting how people initially approach m-learning with an e-learning mindset. The two are kind of like evolutionary cousins and it's often the e-learning manager who has been tasked to look at mobile, so naturally questions come up about tracking and reporting. E-learning conditions us to think about take up rates, test scores and compliance. We can measure what is going on and draw solace and comfort from tick boxes and pass rates. Users have done what's been asked of them. Job done

However, this way of thinking misses the point. Learning is becoming more informal and increasingly learners want access to content that solves a problem in the here and now. It's much more about pull than push. Users can self-diagnose a problem and plug the skills gap themselves. No external help or intervention required. And while e-learning has become very much a compliance tool - course, test, tick in the box, mobile is much broader and works very differently. It covers more topics for starters, including subjects where tracking could even be a hindrance and user anonymity a plus – stress management and building confidence for example. It's certainly possible to track, but the need for the user data just isn't the same. It's all about stripping away inefficiencies in L&D and giving learners the facility to access the information they need when they need it. Not monitoring and reporting on what they do.

How do you engage with Gen Y?

Generation Y (those born after 1980) are starting to make their mark in the workplace as they enter the ranks of junior management and this presents a raft of new L&D challenges. They just aren't programmed to sit passively and absorb information in the classroom. They like to work collaboratively and have grown up with technology. Mobile offers a new way to engage them and equip them with the new skills they need as they work their way up to more senior positions.

Tips for designing effective m-learning

It was great to talk to so many people who are already considering how best to support learning programmes with mobile content. Some were even gearing up to try converting key messages and learning points into this format. Naturally much of the debate centred around design.

Mobile isn't just reheated content dropped onto a phone. It needs to be fit for purpose and designed to add value – be that improved retention, increased sales or better compliance for example.

Good m-learning design follows a few golden rules:

  • Keep it short – around 2 minutes is perfect for a “lean forward” interactive experience.
  • Animation works – a playful, relaxed style suits the format
  • Conversational style – the phone is a “personal space”. Don't invade it with hectoring and nannying messages
  • Deliver some smarts – good content encourages “do differents”
  • Target remedial behaviours – focus on areas that aren't done right for productivity benefits and cost efficiencies
  • Participate – co-opt users to design content
  • Characterise content by upcoming events
  • Resist the temptation to put it all into push mode
  • Encourage users to self-diagnose
  • Make the experience elegant and emotional

Formal vs. informal learning

Here’s an interesting analogy with the music industry. Faced with a technological shift the record companies and labels have had to re-think their approach to move with the digital space. The modern music enthusiast no longer treks down to the local record store; instead they now download and stream the specific album or songs they want to listen to – cutting out inefficiencies and even the need to own the tracks. Listeners simply access or draw down music when they need it.

The same is happening to learning. Staff encounter challenges and access information, “how to” videos and mobile content to help them work around their problem. They don't need to wait for L&D to send them on a course. L&D are no longer custodians of training, but facilitators, enabling staff to access content when they need it. It's an inevitable sea change we can embrace, or resist and get left behind.

Early adopters – wins and challenges

Hearing from the early adopters gave everyone a fascinating insight into the challenges, but also the rewards and pay off from investing in the format. Simply making materials available and inviting learners to “graze” is ineffective. Due thought and consideration needs to go into organising content so learners can get to what they need in the most efficient way possible.

It was interesting to hear about issues of keeping pace with user demand for content. The solution? Supplement libraries with suggestions for new courses and encourage users to design their own learning. Over time this store of materials becomes a YouTube style portal where material on any subject is no more than a couple of clicks away.

Author Profile Picture
Gerry Griffin

Company Director

Read more from Gerry Griffin
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