Mobile is ubiquitous. People use mobile devices, both tablets and smartphones, to access information, stay connected, play games or learn something new. But you don’t often see people working or learning something job-related on their mobile devices. In fact, many people use mobile devices for everything except their jobs.
Convincing employees to use mobile devices to do their jobs better is just a pipe dream for many businesses and a frustration for both learning professionals and the employees themselves. But mobile training provides companies the opportunity to leverage technology to broaden their reach and bring efficiency to their learners.
Often, the reason mobile learning is not used is because stakeholders think it will cost a lot of time and money. But what if there were a way you could enter the world of mobile training without spending much money, time or human capital? One company was able to test the waters and embark on a mobile training journey with low time and money costs. The journey ended in success and has spurred additional mobile training options for the company.
IDENTIFYING THE BUSINESS PROBLEM
In July 2014, the training department for an insurance company wanted to create a mobile application to help learners easily select insurance products based on their clients’ needs and eventually learn how to make the decision themselves without a mobile device. The company’s learners are selling advisors who meet with clients to discuss their financial goals and how to achieve them. Frequently, they need a variety of insurance products, but the advisors don’t sell them often enough to be familiar with the products. Therefore, they may struggle to determine the best products based on the client’s needs and goals.
The training team had never designed a mobile training program before, but they conducted a learner analysis and found that their learners are mobile, and their need is just-in-time learning. They needed to consider training methods that included a mobile option to reach the learners where they were and when they needed the training.
Additionally, through training analysis, they knew they wanted to create a decision tree program that would guide their learners through a series of simple questions to a product recommendation. The process would be fairly short, one to two minutes, and would help the learners not only select a product but learn how to select a product. This type of mobile training would help learners narrow the time from learning to execution and eventually save the company money.
DESIGNING A SOLUTION
The training team knew where they were and where they wanted to go. Next, they needed to determine how to get there. Decision trees and interactive PDFs are a great way to start with mobile learning, but they can become complicated. The team wanted a simple result. Mobile training offers bite-sized amounts of training that are easy to digest, understand and use.
The training team researched different types of existing mobile apps that had decision-tree formats, and they contacted the people who developed those apps for pricing and timelines. They found out that it would take approximately $50,000 and a minimum of six months after they gave the developers a prototype or storyboard. For some companies, this price and timeline would be no problem. However, the training team decided that the stakeholders would not agree to trying something that expensive with no track record of success.
The training team contacted their internal design and web teams to see what options were available in-house. They laid out the parameters of the tool they wanted to create, and the design team said they could build an interactive PDF, which the web team could make available to tablet users. However, they were concerned that a decision tree would require a couple hundred pages with all of the possible options. It could take a long time to build and would be very challenging to maintain.
Therefore, the training team went back to the drawing board – literally. The team was used to creating branched scenarios in e-learning programs and hoped they could design a prototype that better showed what they wanted to develop in a mobile application. They took out their storyboards and developed a branched learning decision tree that demonstrated what they wanted the mobile application to do.
They also created a flowchart diagram to explain what happened at each decision. The decision tree was created from 15 slides that brought the learners to their tailored recommendation based on their answers to pertinent questions. The training team then took this decision tree back to the design team and showed them one way it could work with an interactive PDF on a tablet.
The design team reviewed the prototype and determined they could recreate it for a tablet audience in two months. Since it was an internal department, there would be no charge; the only cost to any of the departments was time. The stakeholders were pleased and supported the venture. The mobile training program complemented and enhanced the existing training curriculum, which consisted of e-learning, virtual learning, social learning and instructor-led training.
The training team took the prototype to a variety of potential users to test it. They tweaked the questions based on what they learned from this testing and designed an even better product. They gave this updated project design to the developers. With the new mobile training program, learners would receive a simple message that would accelerate their skills, speed their decision and selling processes, and focus on their needs.
The mobile tablet application was launched in late January 2015 and used by almost 200 users in the first 11 months. For this reason, the business partners considered it a success. The training team, with stakeholder support, then built a second mobile tablet application, which used the same decision-tree format to teach a different topic. It was launched in September 2015 and used by almost 150 people in three months.
The journey is over. The training team reached its destination. Now, they are determining the next mobile journey they want to take. This time, they may go even further and include smartphone mobile applications. They are still testing the waters and making their plans.