Mobile Learning Is Gaining Momentum

Brandon Hall Group’s 2013 Mobile Learning Survey found that about 73 percent of organizations currently are delivering learning to mobile devices.

By David Wentworth, Senior Learning Analyst, Brandon Hall Group

The ubiquity of smart phones and tablets makes it easy to buy into the misconception that our entire world has gone mobile. Brandon Hall Group’s 2013 Mobile Learning Survey was launched in an effort to break through the hype and find out what organizations really are doing with mobile learning.

The study found that about 73 percent of organizations currently are delivering learning to mobile devices. That’s a robust number; however, a deeper look finds that most companies are still taking baby steps: 42 percent of that group allows limited access only through a mobile Web browser—not exactly cutting-edge innovation. And two-thirds of organizations doing anything with mobile learning have been at it for less than a year.

The study found that those organizations that are higher performers—defined as companies that increased revenues and improved a majority of their key performance indicators over the previous year—are doing more with mobile learning than organizations in general.

All of the high-performing companies in the survey are doing at least some mobile learning delivery. High performers also use apps and mobile learning management system (LMS) platforms to a greater extent than other organizations. Higher-performing organizations make more content available via mobile than other companies. For example, higher performers are 30 percent more likely to make most or all of their learning videos available via mobile. The story is similar for class modules, assessments, performance support, and even games.

Effectiveness Grows with Time

While mobile learning is still evolving, organizations that are using mobile learning tools are finding them to be effective:

  • Push notifications to mobile devices are very or extremely effective: 69 percent
  • Mobile video is very or extremely effective: 64 percent
  • Mobile performance support is very or extremely effective: 62 percent
  • Mobile assessments are very or extremely effective: 56 percent
  • Mobile games are very or extremely effective: 53 percent

The data also show that effectiveness ratings increase dramatically the longer that organizations have been delivering mobile learning. For example, 89 percent of respondents whose organizations have been delivering mobile learning for more than two years say mobile video is either very or extremely effective. For organizations that have been doing it for less than six months, that number is 61 percent. Clearly video, performance support and assessments are effective ways to deploy mobile and are great starting points for a mobile strategy.

Content Development and Scope Still Evolving

On average, companies develop about 71 percent of their mobile content in-house. While no one understands your organization’s learning and business needs better than you, working with mobile vendors may help make your mobile initiatives more effective. It can be challenging to build and maintain the level of technical sophistication internally that mobile deployment may require. As the organization grows, and the deployment of mobile learning expands, scalability also can be an issue with which external partners can help.

Regardless of the source, organizations still are deploying content that is simply too big to be highly effective on mobile devices. The average length of a mobile video is 9.5 minutes—not unbearable, but still not short enough for the typical mobile viewer. The story is similar for performance support materials (12.3 minutes) and games (18.1minutes). Mobile devices are not meant to be used as miniature desktop PCs. Take advantage of their potential and create content designed for mobile. Smaller, shorter content is more effective.

BYOD vs. Company-Issued Devices

It seems that everyone has a mobile device now; even small children are adept at playing games on an iPad. But how do most employees acquire a mobile device? Even in the era of “bring your own device” (BYOD), 77 percent of companies provide devices to at least some segments of the workforce, and Apple is the platform of choice.

Internal device management is beneficial in terms of standards and security, but be aware of the BYOD culture. If your organization is issuing devices, strongly consider if they would be best leveraged by executives or by other, hands-on segments of the workforce. Also, while the Apple platform has its advantages as far as uniformity among devices and interfaces, be conscious of Android’s huge market share when it comes to mobile operating systems. Google’s platform currently has 81 percent of the global smart phone market, while Apple accounts for 13 percent. This means that in a BYOD environment, you are likely to encounter a large number of Android devices.

Advice for Success

From our research, we believe this is a great time to get started with mobile, if you have not done so already. High-performing organizations have adopted mobile learning and are exploring advanced possibilities while the rest are still dipping their toes in the water. Identify the types of content you want to deliver, focusing on moving past the mobile Web browser. Mobile devices offer much more potential—use it.

Where do you start if you don’t yet have a mobile strategy?

  • Start small, think small. It won’t be perfect right away. It takes time to develop and deploy effective mobile content. Use pilot programs and iterative deployments. Keep the content small—short videos, quick updates, etc.
  • Focus on what works. Videos and performance support are considered to be the most effective types of mobile learning and they are some of the smallest pieces of content, so it makes sense to start there.
  • Think mobile first. Course modules and virtual classrooms for mobile are not considered to be as effective as other types of content. Instead of starting with traditional learning packages and trying to make them work for mobile, develop and design for mobile from the ground up.
  • Look beyond the mobile browser. This approach simply uses smart phones and tablets as another window into the old system. Be sure to leverage the features and advantages that make mobile devices unique.
  • Get started! The study shows that organizations are deploying even before their strategy is fully developed. Start building a strategy now, even if it is just a small part of the overall learning strategy. Figure out why your organization needs mobile delivery and what challenges it will meet.

It takes time to get mobile learning right. In general, organizations that have been delivering mobile learning longer have far more content available and say that they deliver more effective material. Mobile delivery won’t be perfect on day one. Give your organization time to grow accustomed to it and identify the most effective material and deployments. Success will grow over time. Your learners are interested—take advantage of the mobile momentum.

David Wentworth is senior learning analyst for Brandon Hall Group, a leading research and analyst firm in the Learning and Development and Talent Management markets.

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