You — much like today’s learners — are always on the go. Our mobile devices are almost always on our person, ready to provide us any information we need through a quick Google search or to connect us to our friends and colleagues over a text message.
In order to reach today’s learners, organizations have embraced our mobile technologies’ ability to meet employee training needs when and where they need support. However, mobile learning continues to evolve in unique and exciting ways to make learning increasingly more accessible and digestible. As a result, organizations must keep a finger on the pulse of mobile learning in order to effectively leverage the medium.
Decreased cost and time away from work have already been distinguished as major benefits of mobile learning. Let’s take a look at where the future of mobile learning is heading, as well as the breadth of additional benefits it will offer the organizations who use mobile learning platforms to their advantage.
The future of mobile learning is…
The phrase “mobile learning” may call to mind a brief video accessed on a smartphone describing a process or a nudge to review a module in a learning app. With this traditional approach, the interaction is primarily passive. Modern mobile learning offers increased levels of, and new opportunities for, interaction.
Learning and development (L&D) professionals can find increased interactivity for their mobile learning efforts in text message-based mobile learning platforms. For example, Arist, the first text message learning platform, enables organizations to connect directly with their learners via SMS messaging.
Michael Ioffe, co-founder and chief executive officer of Arist, says that in this platform, “engagement and interactivity are built in.” With up to 1,200 characters of text per message, users can include images and short videos in the modules. The content, says Ioffe, is then followed by “a multiple-choice question, a short answer question or an open-ended exercise of some kind.” These activities require the learner to directly engage and respond to the learning at hand.
With mobile learning platforms like Cell-Ed’s, on the other hand, learners can interact directly with a digital coach and receive personalized feedback. According to Jessica Rothenberg-Aalami, founder and CEO of Cell-Ed, the platform offers a two-way exchange over text message. “Mobile learning doesn’t mean it’s automated,” says Rothenberg-Aalami, “We pair every one of our folks with a live coach that talks and texts, and I think that’s key. It can be human, too.”
The improved interactivity of modern mobile learning means learners can meaningfully engage with both content and coaches rather than more passively watching an online video or module. These increased levels of engagement can lead to higher retention and reinforcement of learning.
Delivering the learning content is only half the battle, though. The real challenge lies in reinforcing the content so that employees can recall that knowledge in their time of need. “We realized that a lot of organizations are creating really amazing content delivered … in person or [using] video, but they’re having trouble reinforcing that content and ensuring that users remember it a few months out,” says Ioffe. Whether the training is delivered in person and reinforced by mobile learning or delivered by mobile learning alone, these platforms enable learners to revisit content and keep it fresh in their minds.
This reinforcement is perhaps especially critical for industries such as manufacturing, where workers’ safety is contingent on their ability to perform tasks and processes accurately and effectively. Ensuring that training is delivered and reinforced for frontline manufacturing employees is critical, and Intertek Alchemy’s new mobile learning platform, Playbook, aims to meet the needs of learners on the floor, in real time.
Archie Barrett, executive vice president of product management at Intertek Alchemy, believes that “to say that someone is qualified to do a job is more than just asking them to take a course and answer a few questions, watch a video, and do some knowledge checks … That’s an important piece, but another important piece is observing them,” says Barrett. With mobile learning at their fingertips, manufacturing supervisors can provide workers with a training video or module, observe them completing the task, and then reinforce their learning with coaching.
Perhaps the greatest need that mobile learning can help corporate training teams meet is accessibility at the learner’s time of need, place of need and level of knowledge. “We meet every learner where they’re at, at whatever unique, individual learning level they’re at. That’s often difficult or impossible for an instructor in a training program,” says Rothenberg-Aalami.
One of the biggest obstacles to training is time, but mobile learning modules are now deliverable in condensed formats, precisely when employees need the information. “The beautiful thing about messaging,” shares Ioffe, “is it’s accessible anywhere in the world, and it lets you train large audiences and large workforces seamlessly.” These platforms can be especially beneficial to organizations with hundreds or thousands of dispersed employees, who may be impossible to gather together in a single classroom for training.
Manufacturing workers can be particularly hard to reach and train, as stopping production on an assembly line to train workers in person or virtually could be detrimental to the business. “Typically,” says Barrett, “they’re not sitting in front of computer screens all day long, where e-learning would be a good format … When you think about job-specific training, what’s really critical is this mobile learning — they need to be able to train out on the floor at any time.”
“Even with a microlearning app, the user has to go into the microlearning app and engage with it,” Ioffe shares, “Here, the content is being sent directly to me, at a time that works for me, on a messaging platform that works for me.” While the difference between opening a mobile learning application and reading a text message may seem miniscule, employees without high-speed internet or the data plan to support an app can attest to the importance of accessibility.
Our mobile devices allow us to connect globally and learn endlessly. As technologies advance, mobile learning and other learning modalities must evolve with them. In order to remain competitive, organizations must recognize mobile learning’s role in meeting learners where they are in time, space and knowledge. As Ioffe asserts, one of mobile learning’s greatest assets is its ability to “reach users in a frictionless manner, all over the world.”