Con: Adopting Mobile Learning

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

You may be wondering what the stakes are for moving to mobile now or waiting until there are tangible metrics to prove the business justification. By reviewing these challenges before you start down the path to mobile learning, you will quickly determine if you need to move toward mobile now, or plan for the future.

Does your company view learning as a formal events? If your offerings are primarily classroom, how might mobile help you? Formal classroom training always will have a place—and some topics, such as leadership and sales training, are perfect for the instructor-led setting.

Can you gain support for the necessary technology shift? Many talent development functions rely on the enterprise's IT group for support. In many situations, your technology support may come to you without substantial learning expertise, especially when it comes to implementing mobile learning.

Successful implementation of mobile learning is not easy, and it's not inexpensive. If anyone promises you these two, be quite skeptical. It's important to consider these factors when it comes to the tech required:

Work backward. Start with your end users. What, if anything, do they currently have or use when it comes to mobile devices? Is it possible for them to access mobile learning resources while working? Is there company Wi-Fi and is it robust enough? Is it culturally acceptable for end users to access learning resources while working?

Assess your tech infrastructure. How do you plan to serve mobile content: web app or native app? Do you need to interoperate with any existing mobile content systems? What device-level operating systems should you support? Where will you store your mobile learning content? Does your current LMS support mobile learning? Do you need to link to content in other locations? How will you manage curated information?

Do you have a strategy for supporting social elements in your mobile learning applications? Mobile is inherently social. Understanding end-user behavior as it applies to mobile is important. Social elements such as texting, accessing social networks, searching for information, and viewing and replying to e-mail are expected. Static, one-way transmission of information is not the default when it comes to mobile.


Can you implement the correct measures to justify the cost of mobile learning? Measuring the effectiveness of mobile learning is not as simple as implementing Kirkpatrick leveling. As you know, implementing mobile learning requires a significant investment in resources: both financial and in staff. You will need to provide cost justification and identify where and how performance improvement occurs.

Measuring true effectiveness of the learning solution itself will require you to obtain various levels of feedback from your end users, the business, and any other parties involved. The feedback also needs to be varied and include observation. In a dispersed implementation, this may be timely and require travel and potential business interruption. Additionally, you need to be able to gather usage metrics to identify how end users actually use the application.

If your mobile learning is not mandatory, then what is the direct motivational element that will drive people to engage? Furthermore, how will you make them aware that your resource is there and can provide value to them during the workday? How do you factor in the cost of development? Will you outsource the development or build it in-house? Either way, you will need to determine how to find the balance in cost versus return on performance improvement.

Do you have the staff capabilities to successfully drive a mobile learning strategy and implementation? Even if you plan to outsource your mobile learning development, there are specific capabilities you need to help ensure your strategy is aligned to your business needs and is executable across your enterprise. If your plan is to design and develop mobile learning in-house, you will need to consider new skill sets for your team.

If you desire to design and develop mobile learning internally, consider the skill sets necessary: user experience (UX) design capability, front-end engineering (HTML, JavaScript, CSS development), and back-end engineering (database administration, programming skills). You also will need your instructional designers to understand mobile behavior patterns, and how to write for mobile. Graphic designers will need to understand designing for small screens and how to design for performance.

If you outsource your design and development, you will find many capable companies that can provide stellar work. However, be sure that you and your IT business partner have a good understanding of software-as-a-service (SaaS) platforms, interoperability, and extensibility.

Read more from CTDO magazine: Essential talent development content for C-suite leaders.

About the Author
Brandon Carson, director of learning at the Home Depot, is an innovative learning strategist with extensive experience leading corporate global learning programs and teams in environments as varied as start-ups, tech companies, and retail. He is a popular speaker, delivering a wide variety of engaging presentations and workshops at industry events. He is also the author of Learning in the Age of Immediacy. Brandon has been honored with several learning industry awards, including the ATD BEST Award, the eLearning Guild People's Choice Award, and three Brandon Hall awards for Best Custom Learning Design. He has also served on the board of the North American Simulation and Gaming Association and ATD conference committees.  Brandon invites you to chat with him on Twitter (@brandonwcarson) and on LinkedIn.
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