Monday, November 15, 2010

m-Learning: The Next Evolution in Enterprise Training

"As the bell rings, the teacher reminds students that Podcasts of the lecture are available for download, and queries that come up during study review can be messaged to her number. "

Sound familiar? If you have school age children - K through college - you are probably getting well acquainted with the new way of learning. Teaching is no longer tied to the walls of the classroom or what's on the blackboard. This is more than just e-Learning. While the concept of e-Learning was a technological advance in the way teaching is done, it is still about being tethered to a computer. m-Learning is about on-demand content delivery anywhere.

Wikipedia defines m-learning as - Any sort of learning that happens when the learner is not at a fixed, predetermined location, or learning that happens when the learner takes advantage of the learning opportunities offered by mobile technologies. In other words, mobile learning decreases limitation of learning location with the mobility of general portable devices.

This is not just a concept relevant for the classroom. The enterprise should recognize m-learning as a powerful add-on tool to their learning strategy. With corporate culture moving more to toward the concept of the "deskless worker" and smartphones moving up the ranks from the "third screen" to the "primary screen" for end-users, the enterprise should re-think and refresh it's strategy for delivering training material. Here are some considerations and business drivers for taking your enterprise learning strategy mobile:

From Push to Pull Learning

m-Learning affords the benefit of contextual learning. The opportunity to get the learner in the environment they need that content. Making content available in a format and context that is most meaningful to the learner aids in absorbing and reinforcing the material.

Start with Sales Force

Looking for a pilot group to tactically test your m-learning strategy? Start with your sales force. The folks in the sales organization tend to be early technology adopters. These are the people that live outside the office, often on the road, and can be the most disconnected from what's happening inside the walls of the enterprise. They want relevant information when they need it and are sensitive to time. Time they spend training is time they aren't selling. Since individual compensation rides heavily on sales, finding time to train can be a low priority. Mobile affords your sales force with just in time training. And it shifts the perception of training from a "forced necessity" to "valuable information when I need it".

Make Mobile Part of a Blended Learning Approach

Mobile learning makes the most sense when it's part of a larger program. It supports and re-enforces the learning process and offers the learners not only the opportunity to learn both together and apart but also to learn in their optimal environment.

Build Your Business Case: Stats to Consider

Don't just take it from me that mobile is going to be the platform of choice. Industry trends are pointing in that direction already.

Mobile subscriptions are on track to hit 5 Billion worldwide this year. That means more people will have access to data through their mobile device than through TV and PCs combined.

Avoiding the Pitfalls

Deploying an m-learning strategy is as much about the people and technology as it is about the content. This feeds directly into the decisions the enterprise must make around supported mobile devices (smartphones, tablets) and the people required to maintain and build-out capabilities. Technology can be a huge competitive advantage but think before you build. Here are some challenges to address before you deploy:

  • Connectivity, battery life, and bandwidth restrictions - know how your end-users will be connecting and device limitations before you build.
  • Device requirements/restrictions - Screen size, key size, Multiple standards, multiple screen sizes, multiple operating systems. Mobile platform standardization is a precursor to deploying m-learning within the an enterprise.
  • Number of file/assets' formats supported by a specific device - make sure your m-learning development team is aware of the technology requirements and limitations.
  • Content security - don't forget about encryption for any content that will reside on a mobile device. An enterprise mobile policy should address content security requirements/standards.
  • Reworking existing e-Learning materials for mobile platforms can be labor intensive - it's not a copy and paste exercise so plan for it upfront.

Is your company deploying training to mobile devices? Post comments and share your stories.