In 2012 Xerox Corp. began deploying a mobile learning strategy, and now roughly half of its e-learning content is tablet-friendly, said Steven Rath Morgan, the company’s manager of global learning process and solutions.
The company took hourlong e-learning courses and broke them down into 20- or 30-minute modules for tablets. This activity was rooted in a broader strategy to make learning more modular and content bite-sized, he said, “which we can stitch together in learning paths of personalized content targeted to the needs of our workforce.”
Xerox also began to encourage workers to share knowledge by generating their own videos on mobile devices using the Xstream Video streaming media platform. By the end of 2013, more than 30 percent of company content was user-generated video; the goal is to reach 70 percent by 2015.
Farmers Insurance Group began adopting a mobile learning strategy in 2011, partly because the delivery method appeals to its growing Gen Y workforce. Annette Thompson, senior vice president and chief learning officer at the University of Farmers, also said the method is ideal to supply learning to agents and representatives in the moment of need.
“When an agent walks into a beauty shop, they may want to quickly access the types of exposures that such a business might have,” Thompson said. “We might provide a product card that refreshes an agent’s memory on the types of coverage and other concerns that a beauty shop owner might have in mind.”
Likewise, claims representatives can learn about requirements to settle unusual claims via mobile devices, or whether there has been a change in endorsement to a client’s policy that changed the original terms, said Ilene Haber, Farmers’ head of learning and development for the claims department.
After a six-month pilot in 2011, Farmers now supplies more than 8,000 smartphones to its claims representatives. The University of Farmers also supplies reusable tablets to agents and employees who take weeklong classes. The effort saves the company about $100,000 annually in printed binders, said Art Dobrucki, Farmers’ director of learning strategy and performance.
In 2010, sales managers at Boston-based New Balance Athletic Shoe Inc. began considering the need for a mobile learning strategy. As of 2013, the footwear and apparel company has provided iPads to its sales force of roughly 200 people, some of whom are independent contractors, said Ashley Renzi, the company’s sales training and development manager.
This distribution format is better than bring your own device for New Balance because it is easier to secure, allows Renzi and her team to perform stronger user-acceptance testing when rolling out new functionality, and confirms what content the sales force can access. “We don’t want unauthorized users to view information about new products or corporate strategies, so security is critical,” Renzi said.
Since its sales staff used their own mobile devices until 2012, New Balance created an app catalog that would function on one preferred device — the iPad — that all field sales associates could use. The more devices and applications, the less Renzi and her team would be able to create standard documentation and testing guidelines.
This year, New Balance aims to deploy all learning objects on its learning management system with offline compatibility, which will rely on the LMS functionality to have an offline mode. “This is a strategy that allows them to access learning 24/7,” Renzi said.
Yum Brands Inc. is experimenting with performance-support content for mobile devices during employee training before it opens one of its restaurants, which include Taco Bell, KFC and Pizza Hut.
“Because we open more than 1,500 restaurants per year in many places where we have never operated before, including developing countries, it would be great if we could simulate what the job entails, how to perform core tasks and educate on operating standards before the restaurant was even built,” said Rob Lauber, vice president of the company’s Yum University.
Performance support, or just-in-time learning, also might prove useful when customers order products that aren’t listed on menus, so employees can quickly access how to make them.
In a 2012 pilot, Yum provided content via mobile learning to restaurant managers, and 89 percent said mobile performance support made their job easier or somewhat easier.
Lake Forest (Ill.) Graduate School of Management is offering mobile learning content for both students in its immersive Master of Business Administration program and to employees in corporations that receive leadership training at the school.
Kathy Leck, the school’s vice president of corporate learning solutions, said the most important element in deploying a mobile learning strategy is measurement. Unless mobile learning is proven to be a convenient, cost-effective way to get content to employees when they need it — and employees are proven to improve performance as a result — the learning delivery method will fall flat.
“If people can’t apply the learning, I don’t care what device it’s on,” she said.