Putting Mobile in Your Blend

You know you need to do blended learning. You know you should be thinking about mobile. But how (and why) would it fit? You’ve got questions. We’ve got answers. Caution: some of the answers are also questions. Stay with us...

Starting point: Always ask ‘Why make this mobile?’

We are seeing huge growth in mobile devices which account for over a third of all Facebook traffic. However, just because this is an exciting, popular new technology, it doesn’t necessarily make it the right solution for learning.

Whether you’re buying or designing mobile learning, you must ask your internal or external clients the following questions.

  • Is mobile the best option for this content?
    • What makes it right for mobile access?
    • How will we make it more than just 'e-learning on a mobile device'?
  • Is mobile the best option for this audience?
    • What technology do they have?
    • Are they really on the move enough to warrant a mobile approach?
    • Are we expecting them to use their own devices? Will they?
  • Is mobile the best option for this budget?
    • What are we prepared to spend to achieve our aims?
    • What are the risks/opportunities of spending part of that on a mobile element?
    • How will we measure value and impact?

Of course, we need some risk-takers who want to use the latest and most cutting-edge technologies, just to see what will happen. That’s great, but you have to make sure there is a compelling reason for using mobile tools – unless you can do it at a relatively low cost, you probably don’t have the luxury of experimenting with high-end approaches. Fortunately, mobile learning does not have to mean high cost.

It has been argued that mobile devices can give you what writer David Metcalf calls a ‘time rebate’ of an hour or more a day. In essence you can talk, learn or access information in what would otherwise be downtime. So that’s the promise for mobile learning – the challenge is to make sure it’s downtime well spent. You have to be sure all those questions above are answered. If they are, you won’t need to worry.

Bring the informal into the blend

By its nature, mobile learning has to be something you get quickly and when you need it. It’s not surprising, therefore, that the vast majority of mobile apps (outside gaming) represent on-demand information. Traditional e-learning interactive courses may remain things you do at planned times via the desktop.

Online interaction between learners and social learning (via messaging, chats or webinars) may start to happen within mobile learning soon but, for the moment, it is mainly about consuming content.Flipboard's aggregation of online articles and blogs into a single app is a perfect example.

The big change will be about how willing people are to learn informally (and potentially out of hours). This is a complex area that challenges the existing relationships organisations have with their staff over learning. Currently, most of our clients indicate that they will be careful about how much they expect their learners to do via mobile technology. This means that they are currently working with us on performance support, just-in-time information and refresher training – useful bite-sized learning that learners hopefully won't feel imposes too much on their time or personal space.

So, a typical blend in 2012 for many of our clients is going to be:

Arguably, the mobile learning sweet spots here are in initial information delivery and performance support – both of which can be done through simple apps, and channels that already exist.

A fairly simple foray into mobile learning, then, could be to take any post-course information you’d currently deliver through e-learning and think about how you could deliver it via an app – assuming, of course, that learners will benefit from this approach.

Find the right place to use mobile learning in your new-look blends

The advent of any universally adopted technology changes the game in the world of e-learning.

It takes a while for people to get their heads around what they can do within their organisation, with both human and technical considerations making any implementation different from place to place and country to country. But it is clear, that when the dust settles, you will see roles for the different learning methods emerging. These are the criteria that we use at Kineo when designing blends that include mobile learning elements:

Delivery Method Typical Component

Mobile Learning

  • Pre-course presentations and reading
  • Post-course quizzes and tests
  • Podcasts and vodcasts
  • Just-in-time checklists and performance tools
  • Triggers and prompts
  • Ongoing communication with fellow learners, experts and trainers
  • Regular updates and tips

Elearning

  • Core concepts
  • Simulations
  • Case studies (audio or video)
  • Assignments
  • Testing

Classroom

  • Sessions focused on group learning and discussions
  • Practical sessions and role-play

Webinars

  • Expert workshops and masterclasses
  • Group sessions sharing best practice

Reading

  • Background reading pre- and post-course
  • Best practice examples
  • Workbooks

Coaching

  • On-the-job support from local experts and regular one-to-ones

Get much more on mobile learning design in our Mobile Learning Paper – available from our stand at the Learning Technologies Exhibition 2012 – or our next newsletter in February 2012.

Also, join our seminar on Mobile Learning Implementation on 25th January at the Learning Technologies Exhibition to learn more about the decision-making process you need to go through each time you are considering using mobile learning within your learning strategies.

Find out more about Learning Technologies and our seminars at the show, and come visit us on Stand 64.

 
 

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