Employees are on the move. Whether working from home or offsite at the local Starbucks, a growing segment of workers are rarely parked in the office cubicle all day. Forty-three percent of Americans spend time working remotely, according to a survey of 15,000 employees conducted by Gallup earlier this year.
As more people change the way they work it begs a question: If work is done on the go, shouldn’t learning be too?
While some in the learning industry believe adding mobile apps and components to existing learning management systems is the best route, others argue for a more radical shift.
It’s vital to accommodate employees by “[meeting] people where they are within the way that they work instead of them having to seek out a system,” said Scott Burgess, CEO of Continu, a provider of learning software.
Increasingly the way they work, particularly the young, isn’t through a system but rather their smartphone. According to a 2014 report released by Experian, millennials spend more than two hours a day on their phones — more than any other age group.
While technology usage and demographic shifts have had an affect, learning content has simultaneously shifted to become shorter and more bite-sized. Smaller pieces of learning that are easier to consume and retain lend themselves to mobile learning, Burgess said.
Though some believe the best way to deal with these shifts is to add mobile capabilities to the existing LMSs, Burgess disagrees. He argues for a mobile-first approach.
“You should build a product for a mobile experience rather than just an add-on … because it will provide better experiences for the user,” he said. “It can’t be an afterthought.”
Burgess said mobile learning is most effective as a way to deliver just-in-time learning in the context of employees’ work, such as “sending a push notification to alert a sales rep to a new pricing model or product feature so they can quickly deploy knowledge in the field and have the most current information at their disposal.”
Mobile learning is also useful for learning off the job, such as when employees are commuting or traveling for work, added Dani Johnson, vice president, learning and development research leader for Bersin by Deloitte. But she argued it’s important to look ahead and think about mobile learning in the context of a broader learning approach.
“It’s definitely a strategy but it’s part of a larger strategy,” said Johnson. “Whatever your strategy, is should have a mobile component to it but to go in and just say, ‘We have a mobile strategy,’ is shortsighted.”
Whether delivered as part of a legacy system or as a stand-alone app, mobile learning has benefits provided it’s used in the right way for the right purpose.
“One of the biggest mistakes that organizations make is that they use it for everything,” Johnson said. “There are very specific things it should be used for.”
According to data from Bersin by Deloitte’s “High-Impact Learning Organization” report, only 21 percent of companies utilize mobile apps for learning. But leading companies use mobile apps 32 times more than those who lag behind the trends.
“It does seem to be something that the more mature organizations are paying attention to,” Johnson said.