The What, Why and How of Mobile Learning
Mobile Learning or mLearning is no longer a novel phenomenon. A few years ago, it took the learning industry by storm; presenting an opportunity to training companies and L&D departments to leverage the on-the-go time of their learners. In India specifically, the mobile phones bypassed the ‘personal computing’ revolution and jumped straight into a ‘mobile communication and computing’ revolution by supplanting landline phones and desktop computers as primary communication tools. Today, however, mLearning is a must-have in all domains! And fuelling its immense popularity is its easy availability and affordability.
But what is Mobile Learning anyway?
mLearning or Mobile Learning mainly involves learning across multiple contexts, through social and content interactions, using personal electronic devices. The proliferation of mobile devices is changing many aspects of our lives ranging from how we work to the way we communicate to the way we learn.
Some predictions say that the US market for Mobile Learning will grow from $7.98 billion in 2015 to $37.6 billion by 2020. This number is set to rise quickly because Mobile Learning is extremely effective and organizations the world over are finally warming up to the idea of m-Enabling their training/learning. The best part is that it offers tremendous potential and is changing the way learning is delivered as well as consumed in the corporate world.
However, there is more to mLearning than meets the eye. Designing a mobile-optimized course requires a different strategy than a traditional eLearning one. It does not help to simply dump existing eLearning courses into the mobile format because that may not yield impressive results. The best way is to pick and choose the key elements and pieces of content that properly serve the learning goals and objectives. After all, the whole idea of mLearning is to enhance the learning experience - 'optimized for mobile devices' being the keyword.
According to some latest studies, US users are spending more and more time on their mobiles. A new data released by analytics firm Flurry says that they spend up to 5 hours per day on their mobile devices. So, naturally, the key to success in the design of content for mobile lies in a user and context-centered approach that can fully address the target audience’s needs. mLearning should consider the learner’s lifestyle, culture, behavior patterns, age, learning style, and motivation. All these factors heavily influence the activities and goals that learners seek to accomplish through mobile devices.
mLearning is Here to Stay!
When we think about how people are never very far away from one of the mobile devices, we realize that they have become part of the basic survival kit of our society. At one point, Instructor-Led Training used to be the norm, today Mobile Learning has become an increasingly popular method of skill-set and knowledge development. Here’s why:
- We Live in an Increasingly Mobile World
A study towards the end of last year by Google called, How People Use Their Devices suggested that more than 1 in 4 users only use a smartphone in an average day – almost twice as many as those who only use a computer. With 2.3 billion people across the globe using social media and over half of web traffic now coming from mobile devices, it’s no surprise that mLearning is scoring high on the popularity meters. Mobile Learning allows learning to happen anywhere, or more specifically, it allows learning to be consumed at the point of need. Again, this new capability can greatly support knowledge first introduced in a formal setting.
- The New Workforce is Largely Mobile
The global workforce is becoming increasingly mobile. By 2022, 1.87 billion people will be mobile employees, comprising 42.5% of the total global workforce. So, it is just natural that now, more than ever, the use of mobile devices is playing an important role in the workplace. With faster internet speeds and affordable smartphones, Mobile Learning is becoming an unstoppable trend that requires learning and development professionals to consider when designing training content.
According to the Ambient Insight 2012-2017 Worldwide Mobile Learning Market, Longitudinal Trends, 74 percent of people use mobile devices for e-learning. The convenience and accessibility of mLearning allow learners to engage in all kinds of information anywhere, anytime.
- There are Several Paybacks
mLearning encourages both active as well as voluntary learning. It creates an environment where people can constantly access all kinds of training or learning material as and when needed. Mobile Learning supports the idea of integrating learning – clubbing together personal communication and digital interaction. Of course, mLearning is not a new concept anymore. However, with changing times and with the corporate world becoming more and more competitive, there is always renewed interest in it. When designing learning programs, the norm has already shifted from today’s “good-to-have” status to a mobile-first approach. As per Towards Maturity's InFocus Report: "Mobile Learning at Work", 47% of organizations currently use mobile devices in their training programs with 67% of organizations now offering Mobile Learning in some form.
Some Must-haves for mLearning
- Mobile-first Mindset
The increasingly mobile workforce has meant that most members of today’s global workforce prefer to work from their own homes, from coffee shops, or any other locations that spell convenience. mLearning permits these employees to access important learning material without having to stay put in one place. It allows people to effectively manage the time from their busy schedules for continuous learning. Using their mobile devices, workers on-the-go can squeeze in learning while commuting or waiting in line at the grocery store. But this is where Mobile LMS UI/ UX designers and Instructional Designers have to be careful. They need to keep people's mobile accessing habits in mind just as the different types of mobile devices available in the market. When creating learning content in specific, it is recommended to keep the capabilities and limitations of the different mobile delivery systems in mind. For instance, a video that streams perfectly on a desktop computer may not translate to a smartwatch, due to the small screen size or memory bandwidth. Content creators have to be wary of this.
- Support for Offline Learning
Mobile workforce or even the workforce that operates from an office are a busy lot. They often find it difficult to complete training in one sitting. This is where the idea of Offline Learning fits in. While a Learning Management System(LMS) goes a long way in providing learning/ training, it may completely fail if there is no or poor Internet connectivity. An important feature of Offline Learning is that once the courses are downloaded onto the mobile devices (these are generally available as Operating System-specific mobile apps), they can be accessed with or without the Internet connection.
- Ability to Sync, Track, and Report
A Mobile Learning Management System that enables anytime - with or without Internet -learning/ training access won't mean much if it cannot be tracked. It's critical that the LMS that forms the backend of the Mobile LMS/ Offline Mobile App syncs with the app, when connected to the Internet, to enable complete tracking of the learner's offline activity. This data can then be drawn from the LMS in the form of reports for action-oriented decision-making.
Mobile Learning presents a huge opportunity for transformation, and companies simply need to realize that. Although it is a seemingly complex learning technology, escaping it is not a choice anymore; especially for organizations that wish to boost their employees’ performance. With ample prospects for learning and the constant evolution in the genre, it is important that organizations initiate mLearning. As a platform, mLearning has been tremendously successful for corporate learning. It is only going to evolve with newer devices, heightened device capabilities and modern learning development tools. So, companies better keep pace and get started ASAP!