It’s Not eLearning On A Phone

The only way we can understand something new is to create an analogy from something we know. So it makes sense that most of us think of mobile learning as eLearning on a portable device. That description, however, barely scratches the surface.

Mobile is a strategy more than a technology. And its potential use is far greater than what mobile learning can offer.

If you’re finding performance gaps, process inefficiencies, ineffective systems, poor productivity and all the other things that make you want to tear your hair out, perhaps you should introduce a mobile strategy to your organization.

Here are some mobile strategies to consider.

LEARNING IN SMALL BITS:
The closest thing to eLearning on a mobile device is micro-learning. Because people use their mobile devices—particularly phones—in short bursts of activity, lessons and exercises need to be quick. It helps to think in terms of mini lessons, short videos and brief activities that can be accomplished in a distracting environment.

Audio-only podcasts are different. Because they can be listened to during extended activities (driving, exercising), they can be longer.

SUPPORTING PERFORMANCE:
In my opinion, one of the best strategies for mobile is to help people perform work tasks. Performance support becomes part of the workflow, providing key information at the moment of need.

In the age of information overload, performance support is important because it relieves some of the load on working memory. Think in terms of digital job aids, reference apps and asking for help through social media channels. (See Instructional Design Guru for an example of a reference app.)

GETTING INPUT:
Mobile devices are effective for getting all types of input from the field. You can use digital polls, surveys and questionnaires to get opinions, feedback and evaluations. And that’s not all. People are using mobile apps to input data for everything from safety inspections to medical examinations in under served regions. In the case of inspections, users can then send in a report or a work order from the field. For medical exams, users can send notes to a physician and ask for a consult, if needed.

ASSESSING A WORKFORCE:
You can use mobile devices to assess the mastery level of your workforce while they are in the field, traveling or geographically dispersed in any way. The Oustart/Kenexa site has a story about a global insurance company whose employees are in the field in the aftermath of catastrophes. They used mobile assessments as a way to determine whether their employees mastered the skills and knowledge to deal with the crisis situation before sending them in.

KEEPING UP-TO-DATE:
In many fields, it’s nearly impossible to stay current with new ideas, trends, opinions and research. One of the most effective strategies is to create a personal learning environment that includes several social media channels, such as Twitter, Google+, Facebook Pages, LinkedIn Groups, etc. These platforms have mobile apps so you and your workforce can continue to learn.

MEETING AND COLLABORATING:
When it makes sense to gather a few people together, synchronous mobile tools might be what you need. In addition to conference calls, video chat technology continues to improve. When people in the field have a problem they can’t solve, they can collaborate with experts. Teams can solve problems and generate new ideas through virtual collaboration.

GENERATING CONTENT:
You can use the multimedia recording and playback capabilities of mobile devices to generate content from which others can learn. This is an untapped resource with great potential.

For example, a safety expert can video record hazards in the field and send out these assets with key points to novices. A conference participant can photograph speakers and blog the key points remotely so the people back home can virtually attend. Employees traveling to a foreign culture can take relevant photos that others can review to help them understand the culture of their clients.

INCREASING MOTIVATION/HAVING FUN:
Some people are highly motivated by games, challenges and competition. Consider using mobile for an approach to the gamification of your workplace. Even though many strategies are built for consumers, they can easily be flipped for internal games. See How Competition is Reinventing Business, Marketing and Everyday Life for ideas that can be modified for your organization. Points … badges … levels … leaderboards … challenges … oh my.

ANNOTATING THE PHYSICAL WORLD:
Does your workforce need information associated with objects in their world? Could you use operating instructions on machinery, inventory numbers in a warehouse or additional resources on a library shelf? All of these can be accommodated with QR codes or RFID tags.

In the case of QR codes, users take a picture of a code and use a QR app to get the information. RFID tags are small microchips holding information that can be placed on objects. RFID takes advantage of a technology known as near field communications for which only certain phones are currently equipped. Consider this for a future strategy.

Can you add some strategies to this list? How are you using mobile? Comment below.


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Comments

  1. Nick M says

    I think e-learning can and eventually will take place on a phone. Maybe not all the time, but I think it will be used for learners to finish up their learning modules on the go through the use of smartphone and tablets. I think it is also important to understand that Gen-Y is entering into the workforce and this generation has grown up with smartphones, tablets, and learning all in the palm of their hands. Here’s a cool article on Gen-Y and e-learning and how it could effect the future of e-learning. http://bit.ly/10yXBcu

  2. Connie Malamed says

    Hi Nick,
    Yes, I can see that. Finishing something up on a phone or going between mobile and laptop. But the point of the title is that I think it needs to redesigned (instructionally and visually) for mobile use. That we can’t just shrink down a massive eLearning course and call it mobile. Thanks for adding your opinion.
    Connie

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  2. [...] In the age of information overload, performance support is important because it relieves some of the load on working memory . Think in terms of digital job aids, reference apps and asking for help through social media channels. (See my Instructional Design Guru for an example of a reference app.) It’s Not eLearning On A Phone: The eLearning Coach [...]

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