Ever since the advent of the Internet and the proliferation of mobile devices like smartphones and tablets, the way we access and acquire new information and knowledge has changed dramatically. This is especially true for millenials (otherwise known as Generation Y), who are taking advantage of technology to increase their business acumen through e-learning.
The marriage of technology and learning doesn’t look like it will disappear anytime soon either. In five years time, the digital natives that grew up with devices like the iPhone will come of age and enter the world of work. Therefore, it is fair to say that digital and mobile technologies are the future of workplace training.
As a result, workforces in years to come won’t feel like referencing a textbook or passively sitting in a classroom to boost their skillset. They could probably access much of this learning online anyway, so will want training to feel familiar and be enjoyable.
For these reasons, businesses must realise that traditional training methods won’t be effective for much longer. But how can you shift your organisation’s approach towards mobile learning (m-learning) if obstacles concerning implementation stand in the way?
According to the report Mobile Learning at Work by Towards Maturity, tomorrow’s generation of mobile-orientated workers will demand learning tools that they can relate to. While just 25 per cent of top learning companies are currently using mobile devices as a means to deliver learning and development content, many organisations are planning to follow suit in the near future.
What’s more, 47 per cent of managers report additional business benefits to mobile learning, which include improvements in organisational productivity and an increase in organisational revenue.
However, doubts still remain. Amit Garg, Director of Custom Learning Solutions at Upside Learning says “even though some large organisations have started using mobile technology to empower their workforce, for most others the question still remains – how do we actually use it in the workplace?”
For both formal and informal learning programmes, m-learning can provide access to content, encourage communication and collaboration, act as an alternative mode of delivery to personal computers, help with the application of new skills in the workplace, and deliver support when it is required.
Even so, L&D teams face a number of challenges in terms of introducing a new approach to learning. Obstacles include but are not limited to organisational culture and policy, getting buy-in from management at all levels, IT infrastructure and security issues, as well as a lack of skills and knowledge by the L&D team on how to introduce m-learning.
However, Towards Maturity states: “The barriers to success need not be insurmountable and it is certainly worth persevering with finding the right mobile solution. When these issues are successfully addressed the benefits both in terms of business results and in staff satisfaction and engagement are clear.”
Instead of a drastic changeover of teaching methods and training techniques, most organisations will make the move to m-learning gradually at no fixed point in time. This is because the entire organisation will need to prepare for a self-directed learning approach, especially in cultures where formal face-to-face training is the norm.
Blended solutions are the key here, as engaging and interesting content can encourage thought as well as action. In turn, a cultural shift should eventually start to happen as the benefits of m-learning become clear.
However, it is important to keep moving forward with m-learning, due to the rapid rate in which technology changes. After all “mobile users are three times more likely to use cloud-based content than non-mobile users and using web 2.0 widgets to personalise learning environments,” according to Towards Maturity.
Content delivery – The easiest and most straightforward way to implement m-learning is to make content available on smartphone screens. However, it might be more beneficial to favour tablets instead, as this can reduce the need to redesign courses specifically for smartphones, while content will be much easier to view and interact with. Mobile devices can also double up as content browsers or media players for the purposes of providing company information such as price lists, product manuals or job aids. While these resources aren’t unique to mobile, the speed of delivery alongside the ability to provide learning at the point of need is what makes smartphones and tablets so invaluable.
Informal learning – With the correct planning and careful design, there is no reason why the extensive capabilities and functionality of smartphones cannot be an intrinsic part of mobile learning apps, which increase learning interest, boost retention rates, and provide performance support for practical tasks. To give an example, accelerometers and motion sensors can be used to create immersive simulations or gamified scenarios. Then there is the option of incorporation social networking too, as mobile users are 50 per cent more likely to use learning communities such as action learning sets.
Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) – Towards Maturity reveals “1 in 2 organisations cite the wide variation in learners own personal technologies as a real barrier to implementation.” For this reason, 31 per cent are now providing learners with mobile devices that are compatible with the company’s IT architecture. But in the future, the increasing use of HTML5 will allow access to the same learning content from any device, regardless of its operating system or screen dimensions. However, due to security issues with BYOD, there needs to be a clear framework and policy that encompasses privacy concerns, terms of usage and access rights.
M-learning is something that organisations cannot ignore or expect to go away like other previous training fads. It might seem like several obstacles stand in the way of implementation, but these can be overcome gradually rather than all at once.
What’s more, by striking the right balance between content delivery, informal learning and BYOD, your employees will feel a lot more positive about training and achieve better learning outcomes too.