Mobile addiction terrifies me. I’m a rare millennial who didn’t get a smartphone until this year and refuses to pay for more than a gig of data each month, and only because that’s as small a package as AT&T offered me. “I am not my hair,” India.Arie sings. “I am not my phone,” I sing, admittedly more off-key.
But one company has figured out how to use the widespread “must-have-phone” zombie state to its advantage. Using mobile learning programs that incorporate psychological principles, U.K.-based app developer Wranx improves retention and experience by applying the material a company needs its employees to know to its quiz technology.
Jon Davies, Wranx founder and technical officer, said the app’s structure is based on spaced repetition, a learning method that revolves around spotting patterns. Research on spaced repetition boomed in the 1970s but dates back to the Greek philosophers. Turns out the Socratic method wasn’t the only toga-teaching technique.
Here’s how spaced repetition looks when Wranx uses it: Users are asked a question and shown the answer — for example, “What is the capital of France?” “The capital of France is Paris.” Instead of answering the question, users rate how well they knew it on a six-point scale.
Based on where they ranked themselves, the app will continue showing them the question and answer. If they knew the question very well — and you all should on that example, by the way — then it won’t come up again. If they don’t know it, the app will present it again. The more they see the question and answer, the more their brain will make the connection and the better they’ll know the content.
Because Wranx quizzes only take one to two minutes a day, they play on mobile addiction and an anywhere-attitude that keeps people attached to their phones. “Every piece of frivolous technology has these things baked into it, but things that can make a change in yourself, your business, your career don’t seem to take advantage,” Davies said.
In this case, mobile addiction keeps people developing skills even outside of work, which creates a culture of learning. Davies said 75 percent of Wranx learners use it outside of the office, trading Tetris on the train for something more conducive to their careers.
It’s easy to be skeptical — how do you keep an employee from answering that he or she knows every single answer very well to avoid having to continue taking the quizzes? Davies said Wranx will call “expert” quiz takers and test them on the stuff they say they know. I guess that mobile device might not be entirely friendly, but it’ll certainly make sure learning gets done honestly.
Personal story time. Throughout high school and college, I studied best by quizzing others. I’d show them flashcards or ask questions off a study guide. By helping them come to the right answer, I’d be more in tune with the material myself. I thought I just used this to avoid working independently, which almost always resulted in napping or getting stuck in a “Who’s Line Is It Anyway” YouTube video loop. Apparently, I was applying spaced repetition to my study habits.
It’s good to know I wasn’t weird — at least in that way. The salespeople at AT&T have other thoughts, I’m sure.