What does Mobile Learning Look Like?

This article is the second in a two-part series on mLearning. The first article, Why Mobile Learning is Here to Stay, covered why you should consider embedding mLearning into your overall learning strategy.

curious baby toddler exploring mobile phone

If you’re just getting started in mLearning, the key is to educate yourself and experiment with technology and content delivery on mobile devices. Before facilitating another person’s mobile learning experience, learn the technology, tips, and tricks—and the lessons learned from others—of the mobile platform.

On the other hand, if you’ve already implemented mLearning programs in the past, then investigate if your program may need technology and/or content updates. And incorporate based on the lessons you’ve learned from past projects.

Mobile “Lessons Learned”

Research, gathering feedback, and polling learners is an integral part of learning market research. Connect with people who have successfully taken or deployed learning mobile programs, read articles and books, and poll your learning stakeholders to gather data. (Tip: To poll your learning stakeholders, use a quiz transformed into a survey and designed to be completed on a mobile device.)

mLearning has some unique challenges and opportunities to take into consideration:

1. Mobile Content Design: Design for a mobile environment. Sometimes, it works to convert your online training to mLearning. (But, double-check that it really works before you release mLearning this way!) However, more often than not, you will need to design, or re-design, your learning experiences while keeping in mind the way learners learn in mobile environments, how content looks on mobile devices, and the capabilities of mobile devices. When designing mobile content, think in terms of performance support and point-of-need learning, microlearning, learner communication and collaboration touch points, and how to quickly and easily update your mobile content as the learners’ needs change.

2. Technical Challenges: Have a plan to ensure that technology enhances, rather than hinders, learning. Technical considerations which may come into play include: device battery life, how the presence or absence of internet connectivity affects learning, screen size considerations, types of file formats supported by devices, which devices and operating systems will be supported, and device memory considerations. And by fully exploiting the latest technology available on those mobile devices you will maximize the impact of your online training.

3. Social Challenges: Consider the digital divide—the accessibility and cost barriers for end users. In a corporate environment, you can provide the needed devices to your employees and exercise more control over the technology used. However, consumers will have a larger array of devices, if they have devices at all. Content security, piracy and privacy are potential issues. When you’re letting your learner learn “anytime, anywhere”, the risk of distraction and the lack of restriction on the learning timetable could be challenging. And as with any training, making the content engaging and relevant is a requirement to ensure that the learner uses your content and puts it to use.

What does Mobile Learning Look Like?

When it comes to mLearning capabilities, the satellite-studded sky is the limit. Here are three examples of how mLearning has been implemented in schools and non-profit organizations. What might mLearning look like if we took these instances and adapted them to corporate training needs?

1. QR codes—Content Curation: Monica Burns, a teacher and education consultant in New York, uses QR (Quick Response) codes in the classroom. Any multimedia content on the internet can be linked via a user-generated (in this case, teacher-generated) QR code. So, Burns is able to help her students access point-of-need video, audio, graphics, or text on their mobile device. Burns also differentiates learning by directing subgroups of learners to different content, thereby providing differentiated learning experiences. In this way, QR code-empowered “scavenger hunts” can be designed, sending learners to physical locations where QR codes are posted, and then providing the learners with location-specific content on their mobile devices when the codes are scanned.

Potential corporate learning parallel: Similar scenarios can be set up at a job site, where location-specific performance support information can be accessed via a QR code and a mobile device.

2. Gamification—Consumer Activism: Recycle Bank, a project backed by Al Gore, was created to encourage recycling and the reduction of landfill trash by awarding points for recycling, saving energy, and answering sustainability quizzes. The points are redeemable at several stores (e.g., WalMart, BestBuy) as city governments pay RecycleBank for reducing landfill waste.

Potential corporate learning parallel: Gamification techniques can be (and have been) successfully used in corporate environments to bring an element of fun to learning, increase brand awareness for consumers, and change behavior through gaming.

3. Video—Communication: Ramsey Musallam, a high school chemistry teacher in California, holds review sessions with his students before each exam. The mobile twist is that each review session is held the evening before the exam, online, when Musallam and his students are all in their own homes. Concepts are reviewed in chat sessions. When a concept needs to be discussed in more detail, Musallam creates short videotaped explanations that include audio recordings of his voice and captures his handwritten notes digitally. These videos can be shared instantaneously to further the learning conversation.

Potential corporate learning parallel: Subject matter experts can easily generate content and collaborate, to contribute to the organizational knowledge base and support co-workers to apply that knowledge on the job.

Get Up and Go Mobile!

mLearning matters.

What lessons, tips, tricks, and technology can you share for going mobile with learning? Please share what mLearning “looks like” in your organizations with us via our social media channels.

Gauri Reyes is a talent developer and learning leader with extensive experience in roles ranging from software management to managing the learning function in organizations. She is Principal Learning Strategist and CEO at Triple Point Advisors and Founder of the YOUth LEAD program. Follow her on Twitter, LinkedIn or Google+.

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