Creating a Mobile Learning Environment

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phoneThere seems to be a lot of chatter on blogs and in forums about the mobile learning environment concept these days, and it’s easy to understand why. There is the new mobile reality, in which almost everyone has at least one (and often more) smart mobile devices, whether a smartphone or tablet. Related to that, there is what is often referred to as the “consumerization of the workplace”, that is, the increasing use of personal mobile devices to access company data and materials, both inside and outside of the office.  With SaaS making a big mobile crunch, and every other digital industry being very amped up on the artificially-created mobile revolution, there’s not much surprise to see training specialists looking to how to leverage mobile technology for a new and more effective training environment. Well, while I am all for technology, I always greet mobile concepts with a little skepticism, simply because I think mobile is very underdeveloped in some aspects, mainly interface and operating system UX. But that’s another topic for another time. However, I have to say that, having given some thought to mobile learning environment concepts, and the problems they aim to solve, I have to say I am far less skeptical about this idea than a lot of other questionable mobile schemes that’ve been tried of late. So I see what they’re trying to solve, and that’s the fact that work is a lot more mobile than it used to be. With tablets and smartphones and laptops, people can work from anywhere, including airplanes, buses, restaurants, home and the office, or anywhere between. This means that training, which is often piggybacked on top of the work schedule, is kind of up the creek if it can’t account for the increasingly mobile nature of that upon which it sits. So, I see the problem and yeah, this needs a solution. I also see the benefits of this, and I see them being applicable more broadly than businesses. Mobile learning would be great for college students as well, so that their work life would be less stressful, and they could escape more of that classroom horror they endured for twelve years beforehand anyhow. So, there are benefits to it. It alleviates scheduling problems, for certain. And if this mobile technology can be integrated properly, there’s a ton of room for integrating gamification and curricular assets through this model that other models couldn’t allow too. Soon, augmented reality will be a de facto asset of mobile devices, and I’d love to see that used in training creatively, wouldn’t you? There are of course a few hurdles. Mobile devices need better interfaces, and mobile internet needs to be better. 4G still isn’t real internet, and WiFi on most of these devices I mediocre at best. Security also remains a concern among IT departments in empowering employees to access company materials. Still, it’s worth a try, but know that for now, your training material and requirements of mobile platforms’ capabilities may leave some users with less fancy machinery behind, or annoy others as you pace for their outdated, slow devices. This is a problem, and one that will take a lot more trial and error to iron the kinks out of unfortunately. But, nothing’s ever perfect, so I see no reason to not suggest experimenting with a mobile learning environment and seeing what does and doesn’t work, for now. If we don’t experiment with it now, by the time it’s viable, we won’t be ready to use it to its fullest, and we’ll be burning more time getting a feel for it then.
Head of Corporate and Marketing Communications at WalkMe and Contributing Author to Training Station blog.