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Carolyn Lewis

eLearning Marketplace Ltd

Head of Business Development

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Use of Mobile Devices at Work and in Education: Safeguard your Business, Employees and Learners


It is well documented through the results of surveys that the use of technology for the delivery of learning, and making efficiencies in business, is increasing year on year, both in the UK and around the world. In the 2012 US report “Organisations Continue to Invest in Workplace Learning” by ASTD, the delivery of learning through technology had more than doubled since 2000 from 18% to 37%. The 2012-2013 Towards Maturity report highlighted an increase in the number of companies using rapid application development tools, enterprise wide information services, user generated content, mobile devices and virtual meetings. I ‘m sure that this trend is likely to increase in the next few years as we lift ourselves out of recession and more organisations feel comfortable investing in new and updated technology. 

What I find really interesting is the change that is going on in the workplace with employer approaches to the use of employees using their own mobile devices in work. The latest Towards Maturity report showed that 30% of organisations are encouraging individuals to use their own devices to access learning opportunities and 31% are providing learners with mobile devices. Since this report there has been a lot more published about the growing trend in BYOD, bring your own device, in the fields of education and in the workplace. However, I can’t help feeling that although anything that provides improved opportunities and accessibility to learning must be applauded, and of course mobile devices bring so many advantages, that the full implications of BYOD, particularly in the workplace, have not been fully considered and policies are not always in place to protect the organisation and individuals.

Offices are being set up in all sorts of places due to the availability of an internet connection, whether it is in the car, a coffee shop or service station. In a recent Axispoint survey of 1,000 US consumers 90% of workers said they use their own smart phones for work. Just 46% say that their companies are adequately prepared for security problems that can arise from BYOD. At the very least an employer and training organisation making use of employees and learners own devices should be giving advice on mobile device security. It becomes even more important with the increase in the use of cloud storage and applications, making access to information quick and easy anywhere and at any time, particularly when individuals are accessing and downloading confidential information using mobile devices.

As educators we are fully aware of the challenges around the use of technology in the classroom, whether using the organisations or the individuals’ devices, but how many teachers and managers have the knowledge to fully inform and safeguard their employees and learners as well as the organisations information. For many years I have been advocating the teaching of online safety, rather than locking down systems so that there’s no risk to the organisation or individuals. My argument is when a child wants to cross the road we don’t say it’s too dangerous so don’t cross the road, we educate them of the dangers and the safe way to cross. When these individuals leave the organisation’s building they will of course do the things they're prohibited to do on site, but they could be doing it without a good understanding of the risk they pose to themselves and their employer or training organisation.

Author:  Carolyn Lewis, Managing Director of and Vocational Innovation Ltd

2 Responses

  1. Work-life Balance issues?

    Hi Carolyn,

    I read you post with great interest, and think you are right – the BYOD trend is really taking off, but I've not seen much evidence of organisations or individuals really giving consideration to all of the implications.

    Security of data and information is one aspect and as mentioned in the recent findings in Fairstar Heavy Transport v Adkins, contracts should contained expressed terms to deal with information/data stored off-site. In this case, the issue arose from emails being stored on a personal PC, but it is common sense for the same principles to apply to any of their own devices an employee is using for work.

    One of the other areas where I believe employers need to be careful regarding BYOD is that of work-life balance.  In recent work I've undertaken within the public sector, there seemed to be a shift towards individuals undertaken structured learning in their own time using their mobile device.  Discussions with individuals indicated that some of this was through choice (they felt it was a good way of maximising their time) but for others it was necessity (they didn't have time to complete the learning in work hours, and as it was available on their mobile device, they ended up doing it in their own time).  I think this raises issues around what employers are expecting from employees and in the long-term may lead to issues with engagement, absence, performance and workplace stress.

    For us learning professionals if a company has a BYOD policy (or practice without the policy!), this presents some additional challenges.  I know in the past I've found it time consuming enough to find/develop learning materials which work on one device/platform/operating system – if learners can use their own devices, this will mean that whatever we develop/implement will have to be fit for purpose across all devices/platforms/operating systems.  Not to mention the IT issues surrounding accessibility, firewalls etc etc…

    It will be an interesting to see how the trend develops and how organisations adapt to accommodate BYOD and I think they will, after all there are big benefits too!



  2. Hi Fiona

    Hi Fiona

    You make an interesting point about work-life balance and I completely agree. It isn't uncommon to see people even in social environments checking and responding to work email. It is a trend that I think employers should take strides to stop, otherwise as you say the well-being of the workforce will be severely affected.

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Carolyn Lewis

Head of Business Development

Read more from Carolyn Lewis

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