We spoke to Jesse Tinsley, Founder and CEO of Job Mobz, about how he uses mobile learning in his day to day life and how companies can utilize it to engage their workforce – and what they should be aware of as they approach this trend that is quickly becoming a must-have.
What is Mobile Learning?
Mobile learning involves any kind of learning that occurs on a mobile device, whether that refers to tablets or laptops or smartphones. This form of learning can refer to anything from listening to podcasts, reading articles, or completing full elearning courses on the go. Whatever form it takes, in order for learning to be compatible with mobile use, it must be responsive. That it, it should detect the device a user is on and adjust the content to be usable on that device.
This course example from dominKnow both explains and demonstrates this. The microsite layout changes depending on whatever screen size the learner is viewing the content on:
Advantages of Mobile Learning
Tinsley explained to us that “the modern workforce is quite eclectic depending on where you are in the United States or internationally… more and more companies are moving towards a distributed workforce.” Modern workers want to learn to develop their skills in a fast-changing world, and are a curious crowd, but they don’t have a lot of time to fit training into their work days. Mobile learning is a great fit for the training needs of the contemporary workforce. “Once you’ve hired and created a really good team, the biggest thing is retention, and learning and development really plays into that.”
The modern workforce is busy and digital-first, and adult learners are not interested in sitting in a classroom. As Tinsley put it, “If you put me in a classroom, that’s definitely not my ideal learning environment. Sitting in a classroom is super boring.”
Future-Proofing Your Training
Mobile learning is a great way to “future-proof” your training, explains Tinsley. “I think everything is transitioning to mobile.” He discussed how mobile is not going away – it has already become the standard and is only going to become more ubiquitous as time goes on. Creating training is an expensive investment – courses, especially custom ones, can cost thousands of dollars. In order to future-proof them, they need to be compatible with mobile learning. Adding on mobile compatibility ensures your training investment remains relevant and widely used for longer. “Mobile is basically a competitive advantage.”
Flexibility in Learning
Tinsley divulged that his “favorite form of learning is podcasts and audio, but obviously YouTube is a huge reference point as well.” He loves to pop in his earbuds at the gym and absorb the information via audio while lifting weights or running. The great thing about mobile training is that there isn’t one right way to learn. Learners can choose what works best for them, whether it’s completing the courses on their commute to work (as long as they’re not the ones driving!), fitting it in at lunch, or listening to it while doing other things.
Plus, learners can reference their training at any time to view their progress and see what’s next so they can easily plan ahead for completing their training and see how far they’ve come.
Younger workers are used to having information available at their fingertips. They can pull up how-to articles as they’re working on their car, figuring out software, or just have a random question. As a result, millennials are used to learning as they go, jumping into activities and looking up information as they need it. The learning and development response to this modern way of finding information is the just-in-time learning format. This is training that anticipates what common questions or issues users might have and provides official answers to them in the form of training. It helps workers learn in-the-moment while also adhering to company standards; something YouTube videos and other internet sources won’t offer.
Tinsley said that many companies use this as a starting point, to say “do it this way,” but believes that learners who are self-starters will also go beyond the provided learning environment and “explore on their own.” This self-learning is something that companies have struggled to track for some time, but xAPI software is beginning to find a way to keep tabs on it.
Mobile learning enables just-in-time training to exist. Afterall, people aren’t able to have a desktop wherever they go; but they have their phones. Imagine workers on a business trip being able to look in your company training library for tips on giving a speech. Or line cooks being able to easily glance at your restaurant’s best practices for slicing a tomato, or getting the perfect brand-specific swirl on an ice cream cone.
The ability for training to be present on multiple devices makes training convenient and easy to complete whenever learners have a spare minute, no matter what device they’re on. Millennials are used to being able to access information on multiple devices, and this will make the training more intuitive to use.
The power of that convenience is no joke – 45% of users of mobile learning completed courses faster than those who took the modules on their computer. Mobile learning can make your learners more effective at getting through certifications.
Disadvantages of Mobile Learning
Mobile learning may feel like a no-fail solution, but there are a few things to consider before diving in.
Learner Motivation can Vary
Tinsley shared one of his main concerns about mobile learning is that some learners may not have as much motivation as others. “You have to want to be successful. If you don’t do as well without a structured environment, then mobile learning can be difficult. You don’t have a teacher there helping push you through. If you don’t want to learn the subject matter, it’s going to be difficult.”
However, he says there are solutions that can help learners stay accountable and on-track, even if they struggle with self-motivation. “There are ways companies can mitigate that with assisted live chat, or learning hours at work.”
Logistical Technological Issues
There are plenty of logistical issues that come along with depending on technology for training. This can be a major disadvantage of mobile learning depending on your company and what your workforce tends to be like.
Does everyone have reliable Internet access? Is that Internet access fast enough to handle sophisticated software? Some organizations, especially those with learners that work in remote settings, will struggle with connectivity issues for accessing elearning on mobile devices simply because cellular service isn’t as widely available. In these cases, most learners have to download a course, complete it without internet, and then wait until they have internet access again to sync up with an LMS.
Does everyone own their a mobile device? If not, will you enforce a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policy or provide devices with which learners can access the training on-the-go?
If your learners bring their own devices, are all the devices up-to-date enough to interact with advanced training software? Not every mobile phone is a smart phone these days, and older smartphones might not be able to handle heavy data loads that come with more complex elearning modules.
Too Much Multitasking
Some companies fear that mobile learning will encourage learners to attempt to multitask. It’s widely understood that there are costs to focus and effectiveness of attention when people multitask. If learners try to take on too much mental load, they will become overwhelmed and make mistakes.
In training, the fear is that learners won’t be absorbing the material properly. The learner may have officially completed the course, but how much of that time were they paying more attention to something else?
One way to mitigate this fear is providing enough learning checks so that even if the learner was a little distracted, they have a chance to prove that they’ve learned what they need to learn via a post-training assessment before marking the course as complete.
Mobile learning is certainly here to stay, and certainly has many benefits. It’s up to you to decide whether your learners could benefit from it depending on your particular situation and what your workforce is like.