The Impact of BYOD on Workplace Training – An Interview with Matthew Sakey

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As part of a continuing look at the topic of how the growing trend of BYOD (“Bring Your Own Device” to the office) is impacting workplace training, I spoke recently with Matthew Sakey, who has served as Creative & Instructional Design Supervisor, for the National Center for Manufacturing Sciences (NCMS – since 2005. In his position, Matthew oversees the development of corporate and public sector multimedia training for private businesses, government-supported entities, nonprofits, and schools as part of a collaborative management consortium dedicated to enhancing the competitiveness of North American manufacturing.

The full interview is below. Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section.

(scroll to the bottom of this post for more information about Matthew and NCMS)

Click here to read an earlier post on this topic, including an interview with noted expert Lawrence I. Lerner.

Training Station: Obviously we live in a BYOD world nowadays especially with the use of smart phones and tablets. Four or five years ago a lot of enterprises would get their employees a Blackberry, a Blackberry being known as their “work phone” versus some of the most consumer outside phones. But nowadays everyone wants to bring their iPhone5 or Galaxy S III to the office and more and more companies are allowing that and coming to grips with that reality.  So to what extent do you think training managers should welcome from their side the use of personal devices in training sessions or as a part of the training process?

Matthew Sakey: I tend to think that training managers would do well to embrace BYOD if for no other reason that it’s going to become a reality, whether they like it or not. We are in a sort of a transitional phase right now with the BYOD concept because as you say more and more people own their own hardware and are wanting to use that hardware. There is still a lot of corporate culture and in some cases formal policies that require that the corporation to be able to support the device or own the device. So there is a lot of disconnect between what the old policy says and what the users want to do these days. I think in a few years this will be cleared up, but right now, whether training managers want it to be the case or not, more and more learners are wanting to bring their own devices. They are more comfortable with their own devices and they are going to have access to those devices 24/7, whereas they may not if it’s not a BYOD situation. So aside from the concerns about security, and document handling and so forth – which are important factors – I really think training managers would do well to embrace it if they can.

TS: Well, that’s a good transition because I was going to ask – I know that security is often mentioned, and some related problems, but how can learning executives overcome those fears that BYOD brings?

MS: It is an interesting question and I’m not sure that there are many hard and fast rules. Here at NCMS we’ll often manage R&D collaborations between private companies and the US Department of Defense, for example, and obviously there are instances in those cases where research is being done or intellectual property is being exchanged that absolutely cannot be released.  So we spend a lot of time thinking about data security and intellectual property protection, not only in training but in all aspects of what we do. What training managers can do I think is, obviously first and foremost, talk to attorneys and make sure that you have the appropriate documentation that everybody digitally signs, and that the documentation makes it very clear that the user is responsible for following all the rules, and keeping confidential what needs to be confidential. That’s not necessarily going to protect you if the worst should happen but it’s a good start.  I’d say that at the opening of any training session, and built into any multimedia training, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to have some kind of disclaimer at the beginning that says if you are using your own device there are security issues, and you have to sort of fill out the following checklist in terms of device security and other protections in order to take this training. If you don’t you are going to be proceeding at your own risk and the provider can’t be responsible for what may or may not happen.

Those seem like common sense steps and in the future we will probably see a lot of software development that will help it, for now it’s just going to be necessary for corporations and training managers within them to be thinking about how do we keep our data safe and still train the people we need to train.

TS: On the flip side of that, what are some of the general benefits if trainers would come around to embracing the fact that people have devices having internet connections wherever they are, and also related to that, a lot more material being in the cloud where people can access it from anywhere? At a basic level, what are some of the basic benefits that come with welcoming the use of BYOD in employing engagement and training?

MS: I think that one of the key benefits is that with BYOD training, managers and providers of education do not need to provide the devices. That’s a huge savings right there if it’s bring your own, and assuming whatever we are doing is compatible with someone’s personal device, that’s going to save providers a lot of money.

Another benefit is of course, users tend to be most comfortable with their own devices. I honestly never really used a Blackberry and wouldn’t know my way around one if my company expected me to use it. It would take me a while to get comfortable with it.

Beyond that, I think taking advantage of the Cloud for updates to training and keeping things current is really valuable. For the longest time, especially with multimedia e-learning and how it’s built, if something changed then you would be talking about an expensive re-edit, re-narration, re-scripting and so on. It often wasn’t done for that reason.  Nowadays the software and cloud storage makes it possible to do all that, and as long as everyone’s device can connect to the appropriate cloud service, then they are always going to get the most up-to-date information which is also really valuable.

TS: You mention e-learning – in general what are some of the ways in which you can mobilize the already existing training content or the training knowledge that you are trying to get across? Through video or is there any other way?

MS: E-learning is mostly what I do and what we do at NCMS because we have a very far flung classroom base of learners. There are a number of things that can be done to really leverage e-learning, things that haven’t been taken advantage of yet. One example is the use of  tablets – they’re becoming quite common, but e-Learning hasn’t migrated to them as much as I’d like. I think a part of that is because of the dispute that Adobe and Apple had whether Flash would work on the iDevices. That really created some issues.

But beyond that, in terms of leveraging traditional training and converting things to multimedia e-learning, the first thing to keep in mind is that just because you are going to multimedia e-learning, doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s suddenly insanely fast or cheap to produce. There is the investment in instructional design, graphic design, script writing time and so forth. With BYOD, it’s not a holy grail; it’s not going to make all training incredibly cheap to develop. What it’s going to do is make it more accessible, make it more applicable because it keeps you more up to date. But trainers are not necessarily going to magically develop the skills they need to create fantastic multimedia training just because the learners are bringing their own devices to the event.

TS: Finally, the slow adoption rate that we have seen in the last few years, how do you see things developing in the next year or two? It would seem to be inevitable that the consumerization of IT in the business world is inevitable to continue and CLOs and training managers will have to adapt as they have no choice. Would you agree?

MS: Absolutely. 2012 and 2013 are kind of the cusp, where we are really entering the period of the tablet computer. It’s funny when you think about it. Microsoft released a tablet PC in the early 2000s. It was ahead of its time and the technology wasn’t really there yet and it kind of fizzled. But now, the world is really going back to portable, hand-held, lightweight computers and just this year we are beginning to see tablet like devices that are powerful enough to almost replace a desktop PC, which makes it best of all worlds.  Now that the hardware is getting to the point where tablets are almost as powerful as a good desktop computer and have most of the same capabilities, tablets are just the way it’s going to be. The desktop is probably never going to completely go away but more and more, just as everyone carries a phone now, everybody is going to be carrying a pretty powerful tablet like computer and they are going to have access to the internet, services and tools wherever they go.  So we are just in a transitional phase right now like during the early 90s or mid 90s when most of the world was on dial up and only a few people were adopting broadband. Now most people have broadband, dialup is kind of an oddity. That’s where we are right now with portable computing. It’s only going to get more and more prevalent as time goes on.

Matthew Sakey is an internationally published expert in cognitive development and interactive design. A former advertising executive, Matt currently oversees education and outreach efforts for the National Center for Manufacturing Sciences (NCMS), a nonprofit consortium dedicated to advancing the competitiveness of North American manufacturing. Outside of NCMS, Matt is a professional analyst and consultant for the $80 billion global video games industry. He is a featured monthly columnist for the International Game Developers Association (IGDA), a regular contributor to Digital Manufacturing Report, and has contributed to a series of university textbooks on game design and ludology. Matt owns the popular media criticism site Tap-Repeatedly and is a highly-sought lecturer on training, games industry issues, and interactive entertainment. 

ABOUT NCMS Committed to the philosophy that working together works better, the National Center for Manufacturing Sciences is a non-profit, membership-based consortium dedicated to enhancing the competitiveness of North American industry. We build and manage collaborations, bringing representatives from industry, academia, and government together to work toward shared goals. Well-managed collaborations reduce risk, equalize investment, and dramatically enhance the likelihood of successful outcomes – from shared R&D projects to cross-industry consortia. Over nearly 30 years, NCMS has developed and fine-tuned a proven, formalized collaborative management process that ensures fair participation, protects intellectual property, and manages competitive issues in an impartial working environment. The NCMS model has won over two dozen international awards, leveraged tens of billions in collaborative investment, and nurtured cross-industry partnerships that flourish in a global economy. 
Jason is the former Lead Author & Editor of TrainingStation Blog