What is Mobile Learning and Why Is It Important in Employee Training?
It’s not often you leave the house without your phone. Perhaps you can’t go on a long trip without your tablet. You work on your laptop on your commute to the office. If you use a mobile device for many other everyday occurrences, why not use it for learning, too?
Mobile learning is one of the best ways to engage employees near and far, because you’re meeting them where they’re already converging.
Still not sure why mobile learning is your key to engaging and empowering employees on their learning pathways? We’ll walk you through just how and why you need to nail the mobile learning environment.
What is mobile learning?
Mobile learning, or mLearning as it’s sometimes called, refers to a form of online learning that enables learners to access content via the internet or whatever device they have available. That includes mobile phones, tablets, laptops and desktops.
Employee training is then not reliant on physical location, and can be flexible around changing schedules or conflicting priorities.
Why should you care about mobile learning?
It’s not a new phenomena, but it is one to consider in the wake of a much more integration-focused eLearning market.
The learning management system used to be a decentralised element in employee training. That meant that L&D executives had to curate multiple vendor relationships to get the full depth of training materials, learning experiences and data analytics needed. Not exactly a time-effective process for CHROs, nor an easily justifiable one when it comes to cost.
On the other hand, employees are busy. Offsite training isn’t easy to adapt into busy schedules, nor is it also cost effective at large. LMSs tied to your network can limit access to timely learning interventions, meaning that productivity is lost while employees complete training at work. (Have managers factored that into KPIs and targets? Likely not.)
None of this bodes well for building organisational capability or developing a business case for eLearning technology. In an age where working from home is key to an EVP, mobile learning is crucial to ensuring employee engagement in L&D.
Mobile learning vs traditional learning
Learning in the moment of need with microlearning principles is the learning experience that matters today.
Being able to use any device to engage in education lends itself to instant knowledge sharing and feedback; the former is important for internal transparency and improving decision-making, and the latter for recognition and getting ahead of detrimental behaviours.
One could posit that mobile learning does what conventional learning cannot and capitalises on the pervasiveness of devices in everyday life. And learner preference swings that way, too.
- 71% of millennials say they engage more with mobile learning than L&D activities delivered via desktop computer or face-to-face methods.
- 64% of learners say accessing training from a mobile device is essential.
- Instructors appreciate the online storage of mobile learning content, especially since it can also improve content delivery.
The business benefits of mobile learning
Just why has mobile learning experienced a sharper rise in popularity than Come on Eileen by Dexys Midnight Runners did? It’s effective, convenient, useful, engaging and motivating, to say the least.
And unlike Dexys Midnight Runners, mobile learning has longevity because it allows employees to learn at their own pace, which gives them the time and access needed to grasp new information—but with the LMS functionality that allows you to guide ramp time.
But that’s just where the benefits start (and we haven’t even really got to the business benefits, either).
Anytime, anywhere, any device. It really is possible to have it all. Aside from sheer convenience, easy access also means no one is excluded from learning. Take remote workers, who may have patchy internet access or no way of travelling to your office, or those with disabilities who require certain mobile devices and system features to access the same materials as others.
What that means for ROI
Mobile learning puts control into learners’ hands, driving self-awareness and motivation and ultimately, better engagement. The higher the engagement, the greater the chance of learning transfer, and the easier it is to show impact of training.
Learning in the flow of work
To be enticing, content needs to be short, sharp, concise and available on-demand—demand meaning when pain points arise in the day-to-day. Trimming large amounts of information into digestible, bite-sized formats is just one way to drive productivity.
Think about it: Not only are you trying to avoid information overload or long, dry content that might push learners to check out, but you’re also looking to provide content relevant to your organisational capabilities.
Microlearning effectively saves you time and money; study may take place during the day, but as it’s in short chunks, it likely won’t hinder productivity and it’s nowhere near as time or cost intensive as traditional training.
What that means for ROI
Timely learning interventions are key if you want to show L&D’s strategic impact to stakeholders. Any capability-led strategy will require a constant flow of knowledge, skills and behaviours into the right job roles.
It’s also easier to maintain the necessary pace of talent mobility when learning is continuous, and only bolsters a culture learning (that itself is key to the success of your learning strategies).
A mobile learning program speeds up the delivery of feedback in learning and assessments. This is important for a couple of reasons.
- People love recognition. It motivates by validating the way in which a learner has approached a task or problem, sparking a flame to replicate and build on that approach.
- It allows learners to establish self-evaluation skills. The more one is exposed to instant feedback, the more they are able to appraise their own method of inquiry and problem-solving, and course-correct quicker.
What that means for ROI
Regardless of mode of delivery, learning won’t be sticky if it’s not contextual or timely. While the former point is on the quality of your content, the latter exists within the realm of mobile learning apps.
Access to learning materials whenever and wherever they like means that employees can receive formal reinforcement or feedback of their capabilities when it’s needed, which only helps L&D metrics like completion rates and individual performance.
Mobile learning software can quickly, efficiently and often autonomously update to reflect new content, technology or information to thousands of users. This saves the hassle of manually updating resources for large cohorts and then having to manually notify the entire cohort of new information available, which are tedious tasks for L&D leaders to perform.
Within mobile learning environments, you can also host guest instructors with no cost for travel. This allows more employees to access training at a much lower cost without inhibiting productivity and profitability in the process.
It’s also easier to incorporate a blended learning approach using mobile technology, since any face-to-face programs can be supported by online resources.
What that means for ROI
Proving literal ROI for L&D isn’t always easy. But showing smart investments (in tandem with other metrics mentioned in this blog) makes it easier to justify and even minimise costs relating to enterprise technology. Not to mention, automation helps improve business processes within organisational development and L&D, only furthering the business case for eLearning technology.
The challenge of mobile learning
Where there are many ways mobile learning streamlines the learning experience, there are also some challenges we’d be remiss to leave out of this guide.
The main challenge is the absence of face-to-face interaction; but one of mobile learning’s greatest strengths is the offer of an intimate, spontaneous and pervasive style of learning.
Lack of focus
While self-motivation can be a happy side effect of mobile learning, it’s only a short detour into distraction.
Unlike a work computer or laptop, on which certain apps and websites may be restricted, a personal device is often full of tantalising games and enticing social media apps that can cause learners to lose focus.
Combating lack of focus
You need to offer something in exchange for self discipline in mobile training. Personalised learning pathways demonstrate clear career progression, particularly when using systems that map content to capability frameworks.
Reliance on internet
Most LMS mobile apps will require an internet connection to function, which can exclude:
- Employees in remote areas with patchy service
- Workers who travel frequently, and cannot always rely on having a connection
- Those who may need to share mobile devices at home.
Combating connectivity issues
The simple answer is to look for an LMS vendor who’s product allows offline learning.
But for a better risk management plan, dig into what offline access really means to each vendor. Look out for functionality like:
- The ability to download content for access at a later date
- Background saving that syncs progress when a user logs in again online
- Push notifications.
Reliance on technology
While mobile learning meets learners more than halfway, the problem with learning in your comfort zone is you might not be tempted to move outside of it.
Those who acclimatise to an online environment may not be open to face-to-face or longer training sessions. You may also be concerned about issues with certain types of content not being appropriate for different screen sizes, such as graphics or technical topics with detailed images.
Combating tech reliance
Enter the responsive screen. The content formatted for many eLearning solutions is done so with responsive design in mind. This means a single master course is created with elements that automatically adjust based on screen real estate, resolution and interface.
And as for lazy learners, don’t rely solely on online training. Experiential learning helps reinforce theoretical knowledge by translating it to a real-life environment.
Optimising the mobile learning experience
Clark Quinn, a leading learning technology strategist, posits five main affordances of the mobile device in learning.
- Content: Delivering instructional materials that can be accessed anywhere.
- Compute: Leveraging device capabilities to assist in manual tasks, e.g. language translation or a mathematical solution.
- Communicate: Reaching either a classmate or instructor via a chat feature.
- Capture: Recording sound, images, video or ideas from the surrounding environment as part of the learning experience.
- Context: Combining the first four points to assign meaning to coursework that is interesting to the learner.
The groundwork is already laid for you with the mobile learning experience. That being said, there are still factors consider in a mobile learning app to better engage employees.
Discussion plays an important role in eLearning, not least because it brings a little humanity to a technological environment. Beyond that, it also gives learners a risk-free space to workshop, makes development opportunities more inclusive and helps employees self-contextualise capabilities against their peers.
Amplify discussion by:
Using cohort-based programs for more collaborative learning experiences. These:
- Enable real-time communication and feedback
- Help benchmark best practices and process improvements
- Support team effectiveness
- Are easily scalable across dispersed workforces, connecting otherwise siloed job roles.
The art of evoking competitiveness and motivation through learning is known as gamification. And it is an art form, because it encourages learners to engage better with content and view it through a new lens.
By imbuing an element of competition into coursework, you’re giving employees something to discuss, something to intrigue them, and something to drive completions—since, if they don’t complete the course, they don’t rank on the leader board.
Introduce gamification by:
Offering time-sensitive incentives.
Imagine a regular, mandatory course. It’s filled with videos, quizzes and even a forum. At base value, it’s engaging enough. Add some elements of gamification, however, like points and a leader board, and suddenly it’s a race to finish the course before anyone else.
Supplement formal training
While mobile learning supports the creation of simplified training courses, it can’t have an impact where the rubber hits the road.
Sometimes supplementary training is needed to reinforce capabilities, especially given on-the-job training (like we’ve said over and over) provides that added context needed to perform behaviours and processes to your organisation’s standards.
Supplement formal training with:
- Coaching and mentoring opportunities
- Stretch assignments and project rotations
- Team bonding activities, to strengthen communication skills.
Building organisational capability relies on two elements:
- Digestible, timely and relevant training content
- Immediacy of access to said content.
Introducing more mobile platforms to the learning process is the quickest way to boost engagement rates in corporate training.
Mobile learning helps support learning in the flow of work by giving employees immediate and offline access to learning. Flexibility and autonomy in development plans only helps engage learners, which serves to provide rich, tangible data to prove L&D ROI down the line. Win-win.
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