Last reviewed 1 May 2018

In today’s fast-paced world, learning on the go, any time, anywhere, has a lot going for it. Mobile learning is definitely a hot topic for 2018 for good reasons, especially as it helps to meet various learning needs. However, to get the most out of mobile learning, it’s not just a matter of handing out some mobile devices and expecting people to use them, as Judith Christian-Carter discusses here.

“To date, our mobile devices are the most advanced mechanisms for learning experience and real-time collective content. They have revolutionised almost every aspect of the business. Mobile learning provides support for these and other key business drivers:

  • quick access to critical information

  • less time spent on formal training

  • reinforced training through performance support.

To connect, engage, and integrate with learners, organisations need to fully embrace mobile technology. Begin with a small pilot, track metrics, and then expand based on results. For most organisations, it would be short-sighted not to integrate mobile as a key component of learning and training strategy.” Brandon Carson, Home Depot, 2017.

Home Depot is an American home improvement supplies retailing company that sells tools, construction products, and services. The company has piloted and is now using mobile devices across the organisation, with the goal of moving formal training from the classroom to the sales floor, as well as providing informal learning to all its 350,000 sales associates. The pilot alone realised an increase of $800,000 in sales.

Reasons for going mobile

There are several good reasons why organisations should consider the use of mobile learning:

  • the technology is there and people are becoming far more comfortable with it, which means they are much more likely to engage in their own learning when they can access it via a mobile device

  • the uses to which mobile learning can be put are numerous, including both formal and informal learning

  • mobile learning is very flexible, which allows it to be available at any time and any place — micro-learning and performance support are good examples of this flexibility

  • because mobile learning is “just in time”, it leads to increased productivity as information can be obtained right when it’s needed

  • mobile learning also encourages collaborative learning and co-operation, allowing people to communicate and share information via their mobile devices, and, thereby, to create online communities

  • mobile learning can (or should be) fun, which is why increasingly game-based elements are being incorporated to engage the learner and to hold their attention

  • mobile learning is “green” in that it greatly reduces the use of paper and because people do not have to travel to attend training sessions.

Mobile learning strategies

Having a mobile learning strategy is a basic necessity if the introduction of mobile learning and its continued use are to be successful. As far as formal training is concerned, there are five important steps to take in order to ensure an organisation has a sound mobile learning strategy.

  1. Identify and analyse the target audience. Are people hard-pressed for time and do they need to multi-task? Will mobile learning save them time and effort, and offer information conveniently and quickly? If it will then they will probably choose to use it.

  2. Decide how to distribute the training content. Is the content going to be available on iOS and/or Android? Will graphics be included? If yes to all these questions, then all devices need to be considered, together with the screen sizes of mobile devices people will use. How is the content to be delivered — via the web or via apps? The final decision will depend on the content and the target audience.

  3. Ensure that users are ready for mobile learning. Using a mobile device for learning is a separate skill to just using the device and this applies to both facilitators and learners alike. As with the introduction of any new equipment at corporate level, people will need to acquire the skills and knowledge to use mobile devices effectively. Is the target audience ready to embrace new technology and is the required infrastructure in place? If people are not ready to adopt mobile learning then its introduction should not be rushed.

  4. Communicate the change to the target audience. Transparent communication is essential if mobile learning is going to get the necessary approval. People need to be clear about what they can expect if they are going to trust the introduction of mobile learning.

  5. Consider how to receive and measure feedback. It is vital that decisions are made with regard to how the effectiveness of a given mobile learning solution will be measured. How will success be determined? What data should be collected from learners and how? How are the data collected going to be used to improve the mobile learning solution? How is the learning to be assessed to determine if it is meeting the desired outcomes, as well as determining any changes in provision that need to be made if all the outcomes have not be realised?

L&D’s use of mobile learning

As the culture of learning and that of learning and development (L&D) changes in organisations, it no longer becomes solely about delivering the right information at the point of need, although this still remains important. Instead, it is also about supporting learners in different ways, especially in the areas of social and collaborative learning.

Mobile devices, when used for work-based learning, allow people to take responsibility for their learning and to manage it as it suits them. As a result, they can learn at their own pace and pull the information they need when they need it. Learning becomes an integral part of work, not something seen to be separate and as a one-off event. It also becomes an ongoing process and because learning is related directly to work, with people putting new skills and thinking into practice, that learning becomes embedded. When mobile learning is used in this way, it becomes a culture changer.

Keeping mobile learning hot

When considering what today’s mobile devices can do, especially when supported with the appropriate technological infrastructure, such as cloud-based storage and management systems, it is easy to see why the use of mobile learning has become so popular.

Mobile learning is certain to grow in importance as the learning culture in organisations develops into something which is appropriate for the 21st century. However, without a comprehensive mobile learning strategy which is aligned with the overall organisation’s and L&D’s objectives and goals, it will not be a successful initiative.

Moreover, it is vital to ensure that there is someone who owns and drives the mobile learning strategy. This could be a senior member of staff, or the L&D leader and their team. Either way, there needs to be someone or some team who will ensure that the mobile strategy is kept alive, its performance is monitored and its continual improvement is realised.