If you’re considering adding mobile to your organization’s learning programs, it’s likely a smart move.
According to an Ambient Insight report, by 2015 the mobile learning market is expected to reach $9.1 billion. But don’t go off half-cocked. It pays to take the time to craft an in-depth m-learning strategy before diving headfirst into mobile.
A good m-learning strategy is divided into three parts: target market, learning content and system architecture.
1. Target market: This is, in broad terms, the internal market for mobile learning content. In this stage learning leaders need to determine who they are targeting with mobile learning. With that established, many of the following sections of a mobile strategy will fall into place. These questions may help you get started:
- Do you have employees who work remotely and may need training at the point of need like field service techs or repair techs?
- Do you have a workforce that travels often for business who may benefit from being able to access training material while waiting in an airport, or who may need offline training content while on an airplane or someplace remote with spotty cell access?
- Are the members of your organization technologically savvy enough to use mobile training? Realistically, what will they use it for and when/how often? Be harsh here; you wouldn’t want to spend time and money developing functionality in a mobile app that your target learner won’t use.
The answers to these questions should be used to develop individual profiles for each different target learner “type.” Just like customer profiles, these target learner profiles should include the individual’s goals, obstacles to using the mobile training material and a profile of the technology they use on a daily basis.
For instance, “Harry the technician needs to have tutorials for fixing specific parts when he’s in the field and happens upon a machine he’s not familiar with. Unfortunately, he’s often out of cell tower range on his repair trips. He’s familiar with smartphones, but doesn’t own one himself, though he does use a tablet for invoicing.”
2. Learning material: Use the aforementioned target market information and profiles to determine what type of course material to develop or adapt to a mobile environment. A couple of things to consider here:
- Do you need the material to be traditional e-learning courses, with tests, coursework and certificates of completion, or does your workforce need on-the-job performance support in the form of decision trees and explanations for commonly found problems in the field?
- Would your target market respond well to learning gamification? Would they prefer videos over text-based lessons? There are many different ways to present learning content, but the best ones for your organization will depend on the target learner profiles.
This is also where learning leaders need to develop goals for the course material. What metrics will indicate success for a mobile learning effort? Do you want to decrease mistakes made by your repair techs? Do you want to increase the number of situations your service reps are trained to handle so you don’t have to outsource as much? Do you want to arm your in-store clerks with the ability to do competitor price matching to cut down on lost sales? Whatever the goals are, have a concrete way to measure whether you hit them.
3. System architecture: This is the easiest, though no less important, part of creating a mobile learning strategy. Here you decide what operating system and mobile platform will host learning material. There are actually two different breakdowns here.
The first is operating system. Do you want to use Android, iOS, BlackBerry? All of the above? The second is app type. There are two main ones:
- Web-based: An HTML5-enabled website that can be accessed by most mobile devices and that can dynamically optimize content to fit the screen size of anything from iPhones to Samsung tablets. This type of app is usually operating system agnostic, meaning it can run on both iOS and Android, but requires Internet access to run.
- Native: These are apps that reside on a user’s device. You can download native apps from, for instance, the Apple App Store. These can be optimized to use a device’s unique features such as the GPS locator, built in gyroscopes and more, and they don’t require Internet access to run. However, they are not operating system agnostic, and will typically only run on one platform, so all your employees/target learners will need to commit to a single mobile ecosystem like Apple or Android exclusively.
The aforementioned two items are separate, but each has related questions that need an answer. A less important choice to be made is between actual hardware devices. For instance, should you optimize for tablet or smartphone? Most apps can automatically resize to fit a variety of devices. This decision is not as important to spend time on, however.
J.P. Medved is a content editor specializing in learning management software at Capterra, a free online tool to help people find software for their organization. He can be reached at editor@CLOmedia.com.