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What's Holding Back Mobile Adoption


Tue Jun 11 2013

What's Holding Back Mobile Adoption

In the first installment of this blog series, we surveyed some of mobile’s immense possibilities, and we concluded with a startling revelation: According to last year’s ASTD whitepaper Mobile Learning: Delivering Learning in a Connected World, of the approximately 88 percent of training professionals who say mobile technologies will improve learning in their organizations in the next three years, only about 4 percent know of any internal learning content that is currently being made available on mobile devices. In this post we want to explore some of the factors that might be holding people back.

Traditional mental models are some of the most common shackles. In creating courses, training professionals may not always know if performance is being improved. Although mobile has enormous potential for performance support, its value may be overlooked or underestimated.


Training departments are often very separate from both marketing and IT functions, and they’ve historically had little opportunity to work together. Training and marketing do share an interest in one of the biggest uses of mobile: sales enablement. However, doing much of anything with mobile requires interfacing with IT. Here’s why.

Constantly changing technology…deployment protocols…security…BYOD (bring your own device)…these factors and more are the price of admission to the world of mobile. Gone are the days when training could set up an LMS and then remain largely independent of IT. Most training staff struggle with handling all the technical knowledge required to go mobile while balancing their own training and development responsibilities.

Traditional models may also make it difficult for training professionals to see mobile as a truly new development. While they talk about m-learning, what they are often describing is e-learning courseware deployed to a mobile device.  Those already involved in mobile learning see how valuable it is in transferring new knowledge and taking advantage of the technology’s unique capabilities.

The feeling of being overwhelmed and not knowing where to start also hold training departments back. These feelings are certainly understandable--especially given the fact that mobile is a new frontier with its own set of perils.

Training personnel are often seen by others as the department that builds training tools at the request of others. Since the other departments requesting courses may be operating with the same traditional mental models mentioned earlier, they are likely to press for course solutions, denying training personnel the opportunity to be proactive by conducting learner research, evaluating the mobile mode of delivery and considering all options in the curriculum design.


We have already seen that the lack of technical knowhow may be holding training departments back. The same is true of not having a specific, pressing need to serve as a motivator or catalyst. LMS-minded training folks are used to tracking results of courses closely. Since LMSs are not generally mobile friendly, this is likely another factor slowing down training personnel.

Albatross factors that slow down training departments or flat out prevent them from making the move to mobile are bad enough. But there are also a number of barriers (real or perceived) blocking the path to mobile success:

  • budget constraints

  • security concerns

  • lack of it infrastructure to support these technologies

  • difficulty of integrating into legacy learning systems

  • legal or policy concerns.

While the percentage of those who regard these factors as true barriers varies widely, all are cited in research as obstacles in the road to mobile in the 2013 ASTD whitepaper Going Mobile: Creating Practices That Transform Learning.

But these are not the only problems. A recent article in Wired cited concerns about internal and external resources as a major obstacle for app development. And a sampling of resources report a whole host of technological issues to be obstacles for mobile app development, including

Singly or in combination, all of the factors we’ve discussed may hobble training professionals and keep them from going mobile. For them it’s a question of where and how to break free.  


Next time: How to get started.

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