Moving with the times through mobile learning

People learn continually throughout their lives. People also learn regardless of where they are. More and more people are realising that learning is no longer confined to a “classroom”. They are now provided with adaptable learning experiences that cater to their preferences and that can be accessed when it suits them. All this has been made possible through the use of mobile learning. Here, Judith Christian-Carter, looks at this embodiment of flexible, future-forward learning, ie mobile learning.

People today want easy access to learning and are quite happy to do so via their personal mobile devices. Some recent research discovered that 64% of learners found accessing learning content from a mobile device to be an essential aspect of workplace learning. It has also been calculated that by 2025 the mobile learning market is expected to reach £66.9 billion.

It is obvious then that for the good of learners everywhere, learning and development (L&D) professionals should ensure that they cater for their learners’ needs and follow the mobile learning trend. L&D professionals can do this by making learning available in the flow of work and, then, take it beyond the workplace via mobile learning. With learning content accessible via their mobile devices, both online and offline, people are then empowered to take their learning into their own hands, as well as reinforcing the prevailing learning culture into their working routines.

Boosting productivity

There is evidence that shows mobile learning improves people’s efficiency. A recent study looking at mobile learning in the workplace, found a 43% increase in productivity from employees in organisations that enabled learning on mobile devices. Such a finding is not really surprising, given the three main benefits of mobile learning:

  1. People can learn from anywhere. With hybrid working (remote and in the workplace) becoming a familiar experience for many people, adaptable learning experiences now play a crucial role in L&D’s provision. It is because mobile learning offers the greatest amount of flexibility to people, as it makes it easy for them to learn at their own pace whether they are at home or elsewhere, that it has seen such an increase in its use. Mobile learning also allows people without a computer to access what they need and when they need it.

  2. Greater opportunities for micro-learning. People no longer have the time to sit for long periods of time reading pages of learning content, especially during a busy working week. Even more importantly, very few people achieve optimum learning via long-form classroom-based sessions. As people’s learning paths are extremely diverse, it is essential to provide learning content in different and flexible-to-use formats. In this way learning productivity will be boosted along with the retention of that content when in the workplace. Micro-learning provides small, digestible pieces of learning and helps people to grasp content quickly in order so that they can continue working. The use of mobile devices provides a perfect format for various types of mobile learning, such as brief videos, interactive social learning, short blogs and infographics.

  3. People’s preferences are accommodated. When it comes to learning, people’s preferences also vary enormously. While some people prefer to sit at a desk for a substantial period of time to learn, others find doing so to be extremely unappealing. Therefore, for the latter, providing a mobile learning experience will not only increase their engagement but also will see an increase in completion rates. Proof of this exists in the restaurant industry, where hours of learning at a computer have been replaced by mobile learning and watching step-by-step videos on a tablet. Not only have employees become far more engaged with their learning, the completion rates have also increased vastly.

Mobile learning is appealing

Many people working today have either lived through the rapid rise of modern technology or have never known a time without mobile phones, tablets, laptops and the internet. By 2025, 75% of the global workface will consist of people born between 1981 and 1996, a period that saw the introduction of the technology that so many take for granted today.

Employees today use their mobile phones on a regular basis, not only to communicate but also to buy goods, do their banking and to use social media, to name but a few. Therefore, offering these people the option to learn on their phones as well is likely to be readily grasped, especially as it is a natural extension of “Googling” something or watching instructional YouTube videos.

L&D’s approach to learning needs to take the “tech-savviness” of employees into consideration. L&D teams need to create adaptable learning experiences for everyone in their organisation and mobile learning is one of the most successful ways in which to drive both engagement and retention. Ignoring where the vast majority of employees are with mobile devices today would be a missed opportunity for all L&D professionals.

Expansion and enhancement

In order to expand existing online learning to that of mobile learning and to enhance the digital experience for employees, the L&D function needs to ensure that it deploys its mobile learning strategy in such a way so as to achieve both these goals. This is where it is vital that the organisation has the right learning management system (LMS).

The LMS needs to be capable of the following:

  • responding quickly and effectively to mobile devices

  • providing a mobile version (app) that people can access via both Android and iOS devices. This should also include on–off sync capabilities, thereby allowing learners to access content when they are not connected to the internet

  • offering intuitive mobile learning, ie learning content that has been designed to run on both tablets and phones, and is not constrained to desk-top devices only

  • using interactive features that can be accessed via both mobile and desk-top devices, such as badges and leaderboards

  • containing both machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) features that can automatically recommend relevant learning content based on what people have completed already, or what has proved to be popular with other learners.

Ask and never assume

Providing mobile learning content requires the involvement of those who will be accessing it. By asking learners some key questions, L&D professionals can understand much better the areas of opportunity that they have identified already. These could be knowledge gaps, specific skills, the use of different learning approaches such as micro-learning, gamification, social learning, video and so on.

There are several ways of obtaining this type of feedback, such as via email or in face-to-face sessions. However, probably the best and easiest way is to use the survey function that most LMS have. In this way all the responses are located in one place, together with all the other learning data.

Moving with the times

As the landscape for organisations continues to change and the pace of that change increases rapidly, L&D professionals need to be prepared for whatever comes next. In this regard, mobile learning is an essential part of an adaptable learning strategy and the very essence of a modern learning culture.

Judith Christian-Carter B.Ed (Hons), M.Phil, FLPI, Chartered FCIPD, is an independent learning consultant. She can be contacted on 07850 182722 or via e-mail: judithchristiancarter@btinternet.com.