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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
The future is mobile
Article Type: Interview From: Development and Learning in Organizations: An International Journal, Volume 28, Issue 6
An interview with Adam Bockler, mobile learning expert based at float mobile learning
How would you define mobile learning?
Good mobile learning first and foremost serves the user in their context.
Mobile learning focuses on the fact that the learner is mobile. For instance, consider the following roles: salespeople, field service workers, consultants, transportation personnel and high-level executives. All require being on the move, all have their own specific needs and constraints, and mobile learning helps connect them to their work environment.
As a result, mobile learning is not just eLearning on a mobile device. Mobile learning takes into account timing, how much information is accessed, the context in which we access that information and the assessment of what has been learned.
Just because mobile learning is different than e-learning doesn’t mean it’s better. With the unique affordances of mobile technology, such as sensors, geolocation, push notifications and more, we’re able to create new ways of learning. How organizations deliver learning depends entirely on their audience.
There have been suggestions from some quarters that mobile learning may be just a fad. How would you respond to this?
It’s true that “mobile learning” is a buzzword making the rounds lately, but it’s no fad.
Consider the following reasons:
The need for speedier delivery of training materials is evident.
What’s more, the time for available training has been reduced, meaning it must be done on the fly or outside of work. Mobile learning offers a solution to this problem.
Mobile learning helps increase performance by giving people access to information when it’s needed.
The infrastructure is here. Companies either provide the devices for their employees, or they take advantage of the “bring your own device” strategy.
Many workers are already mobile because of their jobs, so it’s hard to bring them in for training in a central location.
To build on that, larger companies may have globally dispersed workforces. A mobile device may be the only way to access training materials.
To say m-learning is a fad would require either one or both of the following to be a fad: the mobility of your workforce, and ubiquitous mobile devices. The tsunami is here, so you must learn how to navigate it.
What are the barriers preventing greater uptake of m-learning in organizations?
The greatest concern for mobile learning is budget, according to a 2012 study conducted by ASTD (who is transforming into ATD) and the Institute for Corporate Productivity. Nearly half of companies (46 per cent) said budgetary concerns were an impediment to mobile learning.
Companies have three basic approaches to deploying mobile:
Corporate-liable: The organization selects, purchases and supplies devices (with the software) to their employees.
BYOD: The organization supports employee-owned mobile devices and supplies software when necessary.
BYOT: The organization allows access to its systems through employee-owned devices. Software choice is left to the discretion, and responsibility, of the employee.
In addition to budget, security concerns and integrating mobile learning with existing company assets were the other top concerns.
How can social and mobile technologies combine to enhance the learner experience?
Mobile is social, and social is mobile. The two are inexorably linked.
As much as 90 per cent of workplace learning happens informally, according to social scientists Michael Lombardo and Robert Eichinger in their concept of 70:20:10. The other 10 per cent is formal education and training. Basically, the model says humans are social creatures and learn best from each other.
The learner experience can be enhanced by giving the learners what they want. What I mean by that is 83 per cent of respondents to a 2011 e-learning Guild survey said that using social media for learning has value, but less than one-third of organizations were using social media tools for learning.
Here are a few practical examples of how companies can support mobile learning using social media.
Curation: Social media and networks that feature the ability to organize and store information for later retrieval can be valuable tools for the enterprise in order to prevent the loss of institutional knowledge through employee attrition, changes in careers and retirement. For instance, the National Archive and Retired Federal Employees Association calculates that 10,000 years’ worth of American federal worker experience is lost every day, or 46 days every second, according to The Washington Post.
Internal sharing: If one attendee from a company attends a conference, for example, that employee can post a short video of his or her findings of the event for fellow colleagues to watch.
External sharing: Twitter chats and LinkedIn groups can expand the networks of employees by allowing them to ask questions. Additionally, those same people can be seen as experts by providing answers to those questions. It’s an incredible learning loop.
Location: Since so many workers are mobile, employees can check in on public or even enterprise social networks to help give colleagues a sense of where they’re at, what they are doing and, of course, what they are learning.
What developments in the learning space most excite you?
The developments in the learning space that excite me most are the affordances of mobile technologies.
Let’s take wearables and beacons as examples.
A survey of 10,000 people conducted by Virgin Atlantic revealed that roughly half were less than impressed with their flying experience. In February, the airliner said it wanted to make flying “more glamorous” again.
Over a six-week pilot, so they tested out two new technologies at for their Upper Class passengers at Heathrow Airport in London.
Virgin Atlantic staff, wearing Google Glass, started the check-in process by greeting passengers by name. They were able to update them on their latest flight information, weather and local events. They could also translate any information in a foreign language. This is very powerful, next-generation performance support in action.
Additionally, Virgin Atlantic installed iBeacons in the terminal. The low-powered Bluetooth transmitter can notify iOS users of nearby services, discounts and scheduling updates.
One of the key benefits of mobile technology is the access to just-in-time data. Does this actually aid learning though?
Mobile technology uses just-in-time data to improve performance.
To stick with the Google Glass example, I would encourage anyone to look at Google’s Explorer Story video on firefighter Patrick Johnson. Within the course of about 90 seconds, Johnson was able to see the floorplan of the burning building he was heading into, locate a fire hydrant near a home engulfed in flames and find the extraction diagram of a vehicle to pull out a crash victim.
Additionally, a CNET video shows a surgeon saying that Glass “saves time and improves patients’ safety.”
The line between “learning” and “doing” is becoming increasingly blurred, with real-time performance being the ultimate measurement of success.
How do you see the future of learning and development?
The future of L&D is poised to be disrupted by mobile learning because of the unique possibilities of mobile technologies that could not be carried out previously: learning from any location, using location as a contextual variable in instructional design and leveraging affordances such as cameras, gestures and touch.
The future of learning and development will require a dramatic shift in the focus of the group to produce more advanced solutions in order to provide measurable results and value.