By Chris Kiggins, Director, Creative Development, BlueVolt
The training landscape is evolving rapidly. The most effective training methods and programs of today look nothing like those from 10, or even five, years ago. Training used to have to be done face to face. Then training moved online, with courses and presentations available to anyone with a computer and an Internet connection. Now, with a smart phone or tablet and access to a data network, anyone can train on the go. Mobile learning is the future of e-learning, and it may just be the most convenient (and potentially the most effective) training upgrade on the market today.
The most effective training programs are readily accessible to learners. As we know from personal experience, we are more motivated to take a course or attend a session if it poses little disruption to our schedules. With mobile learning, training courses, Webcasts, and supplemental course or marketing materials are all available on mobile devices. That means as long as we have the device and a data or Wi-Fi connection, we can access training. Adding mobile content to an existing training program also helps keep training materials fresh.
Some of you might be thinking, “My training program is working just fine, do I really need to find the time to optimize it for mobile devices?” Computers and mobile devices have different capabilities and are used differently, so an effective mobile training program should not offer the exact same content as one optimized for desktops or laptops.
Case Study: Savant Systems
Let’s look at Savant Systems. Savant designs, develops, and manufactures integrated solutions for home automation (called “Smart Homes”) and intelligent control system solutions for commercial environments. It was the first company to introduce a native iPad, iPhone, and iPodTouch application, delivering complete control and automation of the system.
Before introducing mobile learning, Savant had an effective classroom and online training program—employees participated in the program and had a solid understanding of the products and company. As a way to get learners even more engaged with the products and training, Savant determined mobile learning was the next step. It allowed dealers and employees to not only learn on Apple’s IOS devices, but also get excited about their products’ capabilities. After introducing mobile training, Savant saw a direct increase in training participation and its sales team was more efficient and educated on the latest product updates.
One of the biggest benefits of mobile learning is that it makes training more accessible for learners. Our society is becoming increasingly “on demand,” meaning people want exactly what they want, right when they want it. In regard to training, this means you need to ensure your learners can participate in training through as many channels as possible. If they’re inspired to take your newest training course while waiting at the DMV or a dentist’s office, chances are they won’t have their laptop, but it’s more than likely they’ll have a smart phone with them.
This increased accessibility led to a clear growth in the number of course enrollments. Many of Savant’s training participants are always on the go and do not always have the time to sit at a computer and complete training. By offering mobile courses, employees can take courses whenever and wherever is most convenient, whether it’s waiting at the airport, for their next appointment, or traveling for business.
It’s Business 101 that people are more comfortable selling what they know over what they don’t. Savant found that giving its sales force access to comprehensive training resources increased their efficiency in the field and enhanced the understanding of a broad range of products. When a sales force is well educated, companies experience a natural increase in sales, regardless of the industry.
On a related note, one of the most powerful features of online training is the ability to instantly update courses and supplemental or marketing materials. However, if your trainees are constantly on the go, your updates may fall flat until they have a chance to log in at work. With mobile learning, that isn’t a problem. Training administrators can upload the latest product guide at 9:55 a.m. and it is available for a sales rep to show to an account on his or her tablet at a 10 a.m. appointment. No additional downloads necessary.
Savant found the immediate updates to the training program were a powerful instructional tool for its network of installers. When new hardware and software releases are introduced, the entire training force is updated immediately, thanks to mobile learning. Without the instant updates, some people would be left with old materials and consequently would be less effective.
Adding mobile to Savant’s training program directly benefited the company. The training resource led to increased participation and a more educated sales force. However, one of the most important factors in ensuring a successful mobile learning program is choosing the right learning management system (LMS). Most mobile devices don’t support Adobe Flash, which translates into a sub-par mobile user experience when browsing or taking e-learning courses. However, with an LMS that supports an HTML5 mobile interface, learners can access interactive courses, quizzes, and videos without relying on Flash, keeping more consistency across your mobile and desktop training materials.
Staying One Step Ahead
Many training programs are getting along just fine without mobile learning, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement. Even if your company does not leverage mobile products, it is important to keep your training dynamic and exciting. By giving learners every possible resource to complete and engage in training, you will see an increase in participation and a natural increase in the efficiency and effectiveness of your overall program. And you’ll stay one step ahead of the competition in integrating mobile devices into your everyday business practices and training programs, which is something both customers and internal stakeholders alike will appreciate.
Chris Kiggins is the director of Creative Development atPortland, OR-based BlueVolt, a provider of online Learning Management Systems (LMS) for the manufacturing, construction, and service industries. BlueVolt’s LMS for the extended enterprise delivers easy-to-use training across an entire company and its suppliers, sales channel, associations, and customers. For more information, visit www.BlueVolt.com.