Challenges and Advantages of Mobile Learning in Training
Mobile learning has swept the corporate world, replacing traditional learning in many areas. The challenges and advantages of mobile learning in training are numerous. These are mostly related to the benefits and drawbacks of using devices to facilitate learning that formerly occurred in a classroom or on a big-screen computer.
Mobile is not going anywhere, of course. Mobile learning—or mLearning, as we increasingly refer to it—offers numerous applications that can make workplace training more effective. For instance, did you know that without reinforcement, the brain forgets up to 90 percent of what it learns? A full 50 percent is forgotten within the hour if it is not accompanied by context.
However, it is not all bad. Mobile can go a long way toward ameliorating that, by offering learners a “constant companion” to which they can refer any time they want. Also, it will not be as hard to integrate mobile training as managers may fear. As of 2017, 47 percent of organizations already used mobile in training and 70 percent of professionals were predicted to use mobile in their jobs by 2018.
The best bet for leveraging mLearning is to recognize its benefits and drawbacks and act accordingly. The questions include: How can we employ mobile learning solutions to build up those benefits, and what can we do to mitigate the drawbacks, turning weaknesses into strengths so mobile becomes even more effective?
Advantages of mLearning
The advantages of mobile learning are myriad, offering companies a way to train employees, keep them up to date on changes, and enhance their ability to represent the organization well. Plus, it is plain handy.
1. It Can be completed on the go. Long commutes have become a norm for many workers. The time spent commuting or in the field (for those working in scientific research, construction, community organizing, and other industries) away from the office is the perfect time for learning. However, often, this valuable time is wasted. Properly implemented mLearning can benefit those employees who are away from the offices for a long duration.
2. Users do not have to wait to move on. In some cases, you lose engaged employees because a new course is not being taught yet. Instead of having to wait for a new quarter, for instance, workers now can dive right into the next segment of material, keeping them on top of the content at all times.
3. It offers real value. Unfortunately, incentives often fail. There are a few reasons for this, but the biggest is that we stop working toward the goal once the reward disappears. That means if you want people to work, you must give them a real reason. Actual motivators include mastery of their jobs, ability to sell better, looking more knowledgeable to clients and customers, greater autonomy, and better work-life balance. Fortunately, mLearning offers all of these benefits, enabling you to educate employees on their timeline.
4. It Reaches the new generations. Too often, organizations spend their time listening to top dogs, who are predominantly stuck in the past. This leaves the real workhorses of any organization, entry-level workers and up-and-comers, out in the cold. mLearning, though, reaches that generation efficiently.
Challenges of mLearning
There are fewer drawbacks than benefits to mobile learning, as exemplified by its immediate adoption across industries. Nevertheless, there are a few. Recognizing them and developing solutions is critical from the outset.
1. Limited battery life. For obvious reasons, chargers do not work on the go. Either users have to stop at a coffee shop or find an outlet at an airport, or they go without. Potable mobile chargers are helping to ameliorate this problem, as are devices that have longer and longer battery times. However, be aware of time limitations when assigning coursework on the go.
2. Small screen size. It is not possible (or at least not wise) to merely transition an eLearning course to a mobile device. Small screen size and different user requirements will ensure a poor user experience, which will disenchant your workers and diminish the effectiveness of the course overall. The solution here is relatively simple, though: Transition coursework to an app, and users will be much happier.
3. Data security. Security is an issue across the board, from power plants to the Internet of Things to mobile devices. As eLearningLearning points out, “Ninety-four percent of IT professionals expect mobile security attacks to become more frequent, while 79 percent report increased difficulty securing devices.” Completing frequent vulnerability scans, designed to assess exploitable flaws or weaknesses in a system, can help. So can careful vetting before releasing the platform; no rushing to market!
4. Divorce from context. Unfortunately, too many mLearning programs are devoid of application to the organization or the individual’s job. If workers do not understand how a safety training or math refresher relates to their sales job, they will not care. Their success is measured in figures, not gold stars. It is critical you create coursework that helps workers do their jobs better, and that “better” is also better for them, not just the company.
As with so many other kinds of technology, we will not know the final form mobile learning solutions will take without much more experimentation. The best way to overcome the challenges of mLearning, therefore, is to take every opportunity to explore its potential in training. That means integrating with more traditional classroom and desktop models, and setting expectations that individuals will spend time with content outside the workplace setting.
Moreover, to encourage people to do that, we will need to provide incentives. Incentivizing can either be very useful or prove a faulty motivational tool if organizations are not tuned in to what drives people. Hint: Opportunity, training, and flexibility are more powerful motivators than money in the workplace. This indicates that training materials are best tied to advancements at work, and are most helpful when they represent greater ability to work away from the office.
Effective mLearning will be most constructive when aligned with each organization’s goals, strengths, and needs. An instructional designer can help you determine the best approach, from targeting the audience to designing both visual and audio material to developing assessments. Don’t wait to get the right help to transition to mLearning, today.
Farhan Aqeel is Content manager - Marketing at WizIQ. He strives to create value-adding content on eLearning. He writes about eLearning, education technology, and the role of cloud in education. Follow WizIQ on Twitter and LinkedIn.