Mobile Learning: Not Just E-learning on the Phone

Mobile learning (or m-learning) is much more than enabling users of your LMS to access existing course materials via smartphones and tablets. It is a rethink of how and when learning is managed by your learners and employees.

M-learning, also called micro-learning, empowers employees to pick suitable times to learn, and gives them the ability to engage in discussions and debate with their community about what they have learnt. It is  a two-way channel: Informal learning is boosted by the learner’s ability to upload information via articles, photos and videos to the knowledge base

On-the-job training and performance tracking can also be managed via this mobile platform. In this way, learning is truly embedded in your learning organisation.

New thinking about learning

Consider these situations where your employee may decide to engage with your LMS:

  • On a trip out of town, in the hotel that evening;
  • While waiting outside a meeting room, where the previous meeting is running late;
  • Commuting to or from work via car pool, bus or train;
  • On a break.

The distinguishing factor is the time available to explore and learn. The out-of-towner can open his or her laptop and engage in a webinar, spend an hour or two participating in an e-learning course either from your own library or a MOOC (massive open online course) on a subject such as user experience or Excel. The commute also can offer 20 minutes to an hour of time to watch a video or complete an assignment.

M-learning

What is needed for the other situations is “bite-sized” learning – small pieces of information that are easily absorbed and assimilated via phone or tablet. This is where the challenge lies — creating new, small chunks of content.

If you are old enough, you might remember being delivered information in just this way inside a bubble gum wrapper, baseball cards are an obvious example, but less collectible were “Ripley’s Believe It or Not” bits; how engaging they were! Twitter’s 140 characters can be an end in itself, or can contain a URL to an article of greater depth.

Besides the convenience of a quick read and its on-demand, anywhere access, an important feature of micro-learning is the opportunity for learners and coaches to leave feedback and to add to the basic information. That enhances the basic offering, improving it and providing additional tips and help.

Microlearning or m-learning has been shown to improve exam scores and reduce the high dropout rate that plagues MOOC.

While your existing knowledge base is still valid, m-learning requires your learning managers to upskill in mobile content delivery.

Where m-learning wins

There are many benefits from implementing mobile learning. Here are a few of them.

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Informal learning — The application of LMS is so wide, ranging from pre-school education through to serious games, and professional and post-graduate education. One of the challenges has been in the management of informal learning. A case on point is continuous professional development where professionals such as financial planners or HR professionals can earn continuing ed credits for reading relevant articles. M-learning allows the professional to upload either the URL or article to his/her body of work via a phone or a tablet and receive points as acknowledgement.

Employee participation — The engagement of employees improves because they can add their voice to the learning conversation. What is more, if there is little feedback from the employee, the coach can now see that there is an issue and address it. Gamification can be introduced and progress in relation to peers can be measured. Employee engagement is highlighted as one of the strong needs of millennials, who are also geared towards communicating and interacting with electronic devices.

Talent management — The unique perspective of each learner as demonstrated by his/her profile can be used to build a suitable educational or career path. Succession planning can be based on the profile of the individual’s work, rather than a list of training and certifications acquired. Performance can be measured against what training was provided. Both the employee’s performance and the quality of the training can be assessed in situations where there’s a deviation from expectations.

Better time utilization — This applies both to the employee and the organization. The employee can learn at his/her own pace and preferred time. While formal classroom training does not fall away, it can be reduced and the loss of productivity is reduced. This is appealing to professionals who are required to earn educational credits annually to retain their license, but resent the need to attend courses and events when they should be running their own business, overseeing a project or providing care. Time management can also be improved for procrastinators, where reminders and nudges can be sent to help them stay on course.

Is your LMS m-learning ready?

The advent of LMS systems and MOOCs has disrupted traditional learning. M-learning is equally disruptive, especially because it makes life-long learning integrate seamlessly into any organisation. Most vendors of LMS systems will claim to have mobile capabilities. However, from what we have highlighted above, we are not talking about technology. Some major overhauls to your current LMS program are required:

  • Your learning model needs to be adjusted to enable a free flow of communication, especially if the current model is geared towards pushing training rather than the learner pulling what they require.
  • Your learning store may need to change to cope with aggregating uploads and feedback from learners.
  • Your learning analytics need to be able to give comprehensive reporting on what matters.
  • your talent management model may need revision to ensure that m-learning capabilities are embedded in performance tracking and appraisal.
  • Any supporting business processes need to be revisited and remodeled.
  • Your learning managers will require training on how to provide content that is suitable for m-learning.

Even with an m-learning model, you will still need a traditional LMS and formal classroom learning. The question is – does your LMS offer you a true m-learning platform or does it merely take your existing learning material and display it on Android and iOS devices? If that’s all it does, now is the time to explore alternatives.

Sophia Brooke is a technical writer with diverse project experience in many kinds of content development. With 3+ years of prior experience as a business analyst, her primary research interests are on adaptive e-learning, virtual environments and web development. 

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