Mobile learning (a.k.a. mLearning) is a topic that continues growing and evolving at astonishing rates. In our newest eBook, Mobile Learning Perspectives, I begin by acknowledging that in today’s world, mobile is more than pervasive; it is ubiquitous, universal, even omnipresent. In fact, Larry Page, former Google CEO, may have said it best: “We are no longer living in a mobile-first world; we are in a mobile-only world.”
Wide Variance in mLearning Practices
Author and educator Cecelia Munzenmaier, my co-contributing editor, begins with the observation that a recent Towards Maturity benchmarking survey found wide variances in the way mLearning is being implemented (see References). In top-performing organizations, 83 percent of respondents reported they were using mobile devices for learning. These companies typically describe mLearning as being “embedded” in their culture. However, among respondents as a whole, about 25 percent rate themselves as still “experimenting” with mLearning. These results show broad agreement that organizations need to use mLearning, but there are wide variations in practice, and not everyone has a strong record of success.
It doesn’t matter where you are now, or your past record of implementation success. We focus these mobile learning resources on three fundamental capabilities that are essential to everyone’s success:
- Assessing how mLearning can specifically benefit your organization
- Planning an effective mLearning strategy that works for the needs of your organization
- Implementing best practices in developing mobile content that help you avoid common mistakes and obstacles
The authors featured in this eBook are managers and practitioners with strong, hands-on experience in mobile learning development. They present their best thinking on five fundamental questions about how to realize the potential benefits of mLearning.
1. What can mLearning do that other types of eLearning can’t?
The answer, for Paul Clothier, starts with the users. In “Right Time and Place: mLearning Use Cases,” Paul discusses examples of effective mobile solutions and then suggests questions you can use to develop your own use case scenarios. At the time he wrote the article, Paul was a chief learning guru at TapLearn, a consultancy specializing in mobile learning content solutions. He is currently a director of training and mobile learning specialist at Apple.
In “Challenging the Infinite Monkey Theorem: Mobile Performance Support,” Steven Loomis argues that the greatest advantage of mobile learning is that it allows you to embed learning content in the environment. He also details the advantages that mobile options have over traditional hard-copy materials and paper-based references (Table 1).
Materials/tools we give students
Advantages of a mobile option
These materials contain the content covered in your class or course. They may also provide extra scaffolding or supplementary information that wasn’t part of the class or course.
Mobile devices connect to the Internet and can have dynamic content. Use of movies, audio, and interactive elements can add extra support and expand on your classroom content.
Phone lists and contact information
These materials contain factual content related to contact information.
Built-in mobile features can trigger phone calls, SMS, and email. This information could be dynamic so that it adjusts to changes within the organization. Skype and FaceTime options are available now to enable video conferencing. Other options include GPS and location information that could map directions.
Other reference materials
These materials contain blocks of data organized to support searching and scanning activities. Here, users need to access specific information quickly and easily.
GPS, scanning, and recognition features within these devices can push or pull information to your students based on their immediate environment. Networks, databases, and mobile computing power can greatly amplify your students’ search capabilities.
Procedural or process guides
These job aids provide step-by-step directions on how to perform a procedure or task.
Video, AR, and interactive content could be included with your procedural guides to provide greater detail and guidance on these procedures.
These job aids support the need to document a list of items or tasks that users must complete for a complex process. These checklists ensure the accuracy and completeness of a given task.
When checklists are completed, mobile devices could trigger emails, alerts, or other notifications.
These job aids allow you to input data and perform calculations.
You could automate calculations and cluster analysis. This could allow you to create custom material handouts or send data to other sources.
Decision tables and flowcharts
These job aids walk you through several conditions or decision points. Your inputs here will guide you to a set of recommendations.
Completing these job aids will generate automatic recommendations. This activity may trigger prepopulated process flows or initiate other actions based on your inputs.
Steven then goes on to recommend three strategies for making the transition to mobile performance support. Steven, who began his career in the QA department of an educational video game company, has developed performance support tools and training solutions for the legal, banking, and health care sectors.
2. How can we think strategically about mLearning?
Beyond making sure your authoring tool supports HTML5, and making sure you have either a BYOD (bring your own device) policy or a mobile-usage policy in place, what else do you need to be ready to deploy mobile learning? In “Five Tips: Are You Ready to Deploy Mobile Learning?,” Stephanie Ivec identifies five things to think about as you plan and implement a mobile learning strategy. She writes for the Lectora eLearning blog (www.trivantis.com/blog), eLearningIndustry.com, and HR.com.
The way to execute a mobile learning strategy at scale is to take advantage of micro-moments, explains David James in “The Role of Mobile in Learning.” People will want to access learning at so many times and in so many places that L&D will need to use three ways to develop content, he says: create, collaborate, and curate. Formerly a director of talent, learning, and OD for Disney, David is currently a learning strategist with Looop.co.
“Your learners are already mobile learners,” according to Jennifer Neibert. In “Mobile Learning for Talent Development: Critical Questions for Learning Leaders,” she offers questions to help organizations think strategically about how to integrate mobile learning into their culture. Jennifer is a news writer with Learning Solutions Magazine and principal of Brushfire Learning, which creates custom solutions to engage learners and promote long-term performance sustainability.
3. How can we best develop mLearning?
J.P. Medved presents a template for managing all five phases of an mLearning project in “Mobile eLearning Design: How to Survive Your First mLearning Project.” J.P. is a content editor at Capterra, a privately held technology and online media company focused on bringing together buyers and sellers of business software.
Tempting as it can be to simply move existing content to a mobile platform, it’s best to “think of ways you can supplement the eLearning you have rather than trying to duplicate it on a small screen,” says Paul Clothier. In “Adapting eLearning for Mobile: Learning from Wonderful Mistakes,” he models best practices for transitioning to mLearning, as well as a positive attitude.
Paul divides “mobile” into two categories, “phone mobile” and “tablet mobile.” When writing about mobile devices, he is “primarily talking about smartphones, not tablets,” he says. His perspective is that designing learning content for a tablet has more in common with designing for laptop or desktop eLearning than for smartphones (Figure 1). As a result, Paul’s guidelines are for “phone mobile” devices—“those with a small screen that you typically carry with you everywhere.”
Figure 1: Content similarities between devices
4. What new insights are emerging about mLearning?
Rick Wilson and Gary Woodill’s article “Engineering Intelligent Content for Mobile Learning” originally appeared in Learning Solutions Magazine on March 24, 2011. In its final section, the authors discussed the “emerging vision” of mLearning. We’ve incorporated the authors’ updated thoughts on the potential of intelligent mobile content.
5. How do we know we’re doing mLearning right?
Another area in which new insights and best practices are emerging is quality control. We invited our authors to reflect on how you can monitor whether you’re doing mLearning right. Their responses give you their latest thinking on the potential of mLearning and provide benchmarks you can use to assess the quality of your mobile initiatives.
Where do we go from here?
Our purpose in creating this eBook was to reach out to L&D professionals who see the pervasive workplace influence of mobile and its exponential impact on almost all aspects of learning and development. More importantly, we also wanted to provide guidance and resources—and a solid starting point—toward gaining an in-depth understanding of current mLearning strategies, development approaches, and best-practice insights. Among these are additional Guild resources, detailed references for further reading, and a glossary of terms for those new to mobile learning strategy, design, and deployment.
In terms of “where we go from here,” let me leave you with two data points that we discuss in the eBook:
- We have already moved from “mobile” to “mobility.” According to Giselle Abramovich (see References), “90 percent of the population has a connected device within arm’s length at all times.” Mobile is no longer just a tactic for marketers—or for learning professionals; it is a “core critical strategy,” as Steven Cook writes at CMO.com (see References).
- “Mobile” is becoming “digital.”We will begin to see the distinction between “mobile” and “digital” disappear. Terms such as “mobile teams,” “mobile strategy,” and “mobile marketing” “will start to diminish in 2016,” Giselle Abramovich writes, as we recognize that mobile cannot be confined to its own conceptual or technology “silo.” It remains to be seen whether mobile learning will also disappear as a distinct type of learning.
You can’t afford to miss the insights and resources in Mobile Learning Perspectives. Visit our website and download your own copy now. If you are not a member of The eLearning Guild, please visit our membership page and consider joining our community. We appreciate your interest and look forward to your comments and suggestions about this eBook. Please send your feedback to email@example.com.
Join us in Austin, Texas, June 8 – 10 for FocusOn Mobile! Sessions by experts will help you understand how to use mobile technology for eLearning. Other sessions provide FocusOn Video and FocusOn Performance support. One registration gets you all three. Hurry! Early registration discount ends this Friday, April 22—save $100!
Abramovich, Giselle. “Five Mobile Trends To Catch Up With In 2016.” CMO.com. 28 January 2016.
Cook, Steven. “CMO’s Notebook: Mobile Not A Marketing Segment, Says mCordis’ Becker.” CMO.com.
4 January 2016.
Towards Maturity. Mobile learning in the workplace: Practical perspectives on implementing mobile learning. June 2014. (Requires registration.)http://www.towardsmaturity.org/article/2014/06/16/towards-maturity-mobile-learning-work-2014/