Using Mobile Devices For Learning
USING MOBILE DEVICES FOR LEARNING, GOING PAPERLESS IN TRAINING
1. USING MOBILE DEVICES FOR LEARNING, a.k.a. GOING PAPERLESS IN TRAININGSELECTED OBJECTIVES AND CONSIDERATIONS FOR USING TABLETS IN AND OUT OF THE CLASSROOM* OBJECTIVE/PURPOSE 1. Simplify Material LogisticsDESCRIPTION AND PROMISE/BENEFITSCONSIDERATIONS AND POTENTIAL DRAWBACKSCollating, packing, and shipping printed materials to multiple or international locations, can be very expensive, complex, and errorprone. Governmental regulations, customs charges, and delays can make things even worse.Just as it can be difficult to get the right printed materials into the right box, and shipped to the correct location in a timely fashion, electronic distribution can easily involve similar challengesconfusing filenames, uncertain email addresses, spam filters, and end-user inattentiveness.By contrast, distributing electronic versions via email, SharePoint sites, or other e-distribution methods (e.g., flash drives) can save considerable cost and confusion. This can offload any required printing to the learners location. Or, if mobile devices like tablets are available, the full distribution, learning, and support cycle can be accommodated via the tablet device.Some users lack the technical knowledge for retrieving, opening, printing, and storing files on mobile devices. In fact, depending on the witches brew of installed software and apps, doing these tasks can be much less intuitive than expected, and can differ across devices. Complicating this, most tablets lack the USB, VGA, and printer ports that facilitate some of these functions. And of course, the rate of technology change is daunting.Organizations can create learning repositories using advanced LMSs or SharePoint sites accessible from traditional PCs and mobile devices. Learners will benefit from having one-stop learning, review, and performance support at their fingertips. To summarize, there is immense logistical potential through the use of mobile devices to access and store written and video learning material electronically on those devices and in the cloud.Further, with video media, there can be bandwidth and video codec compatibility issues with the networks and devices involved. Finally, controlling and assuring authorized use of electronic intellectual property is very challenging. In summary, the promise of the new technologies to simplify learning logistics is moderated, at least for now, by the current state of technology complexity and user experience.A partial list of issues to consider: > How dispersed are your learning locations? > Who bears the burden of distribution nowyou or your learning providers? > What is your true, fully loaded cost of inventory, packing, shipping, re-shelving, and disseminating content to your learners? > What software do you have available for housing and providing access to the content? Do your people like to use it? > Will most learners have similar devices, applications, network bandwidth, and skill in using them? > Will you or your vendors be able to make it easy for your learners to annotate, highlight, and use form-fields in your electronic content? > If the material is to be printed in remote locations, what is the capability to do so in those locations?Development Dimensions International, Inc. MMXIII. All rights reserved. 2. OBJECTIVE/PURPOSE 2. Leverage Existing Investment in Mobile DevicesDESCRIPTION AND PROMISE/BENEFITSCONSIDERATIONS AND POTENTIAL DRAWBACKSThe shift from traditional, office-based to mobile devices is accelerating. Even in businesses with minimal investment plans for mobile technology, individual employees are purchasing their own mobile phones and tablets.There is a tendency to use new technologies like the proverbial hammer seeking nails in every opportunity. But good tools are bestsuited to the work for which they were designed. Some training needs may match up better than others.Given the accelerated pace of business, organizations need to minimize travel and time associated with classroom training. Why not avoid the logistical and environmental issues associated with paper in traditional classrooms, in favor of learning delivered via these popular devices? Such a strategy would leverage and extend the business case for mobile investments.Mobile devices are nearly ideal for performance support and factual information (just in timejust enough). But they are less suited to conceptual and skill-building domains. For example, the relatively high tech world of electronic devices may be mismatched to teaching high touch leadership skills like coaching and conflict resolution.Generational research shows that the new workforce isnt just comfortable with technology, but expects it. Leveraging mobile devices for learning may significantly aid in recruiting and retention as the war for talent heats up. Further, some organizations have been successful equipping their training facilities with pre-configured devices ideally prepared for the learning at hand. These are issued for the course, and collected at the completion of training. Learners upload their scores and notes to a learning database before turning them back in. This leverages an investment in a few dozen devices across hundreds or thousands of learners. Bottom line, people are using mobile devices for almost everything: Why not training?In soft skills development, learning together with a group of peers is critical. Further, instructional strategies often include discussion planning forms, case analyses, and journaling of experiences. While writing into a workbook or course journal is relatively easy, typing into form fields on mobile devices can be daunting. Finally, saving, storing, and retrieving such learner notations are awkward on mobile devices, depending on the model and the installed apps. Another issue is that the popularity of smart phones and tablets vary by industry, and job level/function. A front-line leader or worker in a manufacturing environment is less likely to have a company-issued mobile device than a mid-level executive in a financial institution. Of course, some environments have encouraged BYOD (bring your own device); but this introduces the challenge of a diversity of hardware, software, apps, and security risk. Learning or performance support that can be consumed quickly, or use non-interactive designs are well-suited to mobile devices. But learning requiring time for skill building, interactions, and some degree of written activity are less suited.A partial list of issues to consider: > What objectives do you need to accomplish? Is it learning or performance support? Are the mobile devices you have in mind suited to the task? > Is there consistency in the mobile hardware, software, app assortment, and skill level? If not, can you fix that or mitigate the possible support difficulties? > What has been the recent track record in your organization for high-tech roll outs to the target population? > Do you have solid support from your internal IT partners? > What are the politics around leveraging corporate mobile devices? If in reality it is a mandate from senior leadership, then perhaps the question is not if, but how.Development Dimensions International, Inc. MMXIII. All rights reserved. 3. OBJECTIVE/PURPOSEDESCRIPTION AND PROMISE/BENEFITSCONSIDERATIONS AND POTENTIAL DRAWBACKS3. Environmental Stewardship (being more green)Our planet needs better stewardship by corporations and individuals alike. The resources consumed and carbon footprint of manufacturing and transporting paper are a legitimate concern. Electronic distribution of learning content can avoid or minimize much of this negative impact on our environment. Why have reams of manuals and training resources transported far and wideonly to gather dust on our learners shelveswhen we can have it all handily stored on our mobile devices for instant, and repeated, access?Its about more than saving trees (which are generally replanted and farmed). In fact, paper manufacturers plant millions of trees every year, contributing to natures natural process of filtering carbon dioxide and generating oxygen. In most areas, paper is recycled, and a large proportion of training materials uses the recycled product.Summary: By avoiding the manufacture, distribution, and storage of paper-based learning materials, we could save costs, improve our environment, and make learning more convenient.The other often forgotten reality is that electronic distribution is not necessarily environment-neutral. Carbon-based fuels power most electric generation plants. Computers, laptops, tablets, and phones consume not just power, but are made from numerous special and rare materials. Safe disposal or recycling of electronic devices is difficult and rare. However, it is often observed that perception is more important than reality. Clearly, the vernacular around saving trees demonstrates that constituents of organizational learning value minimizing paper-centric training as much as possible. Bottom line: Environmental stewardship needs to go beyond simplistic slogans like save some trees and look at the broad realities of resource allocation and energy consumption.A partial list of issues to consider: > If your training materials are paper-based now, what is their source in terms of sustainable resources? Perhaps the paper being used is made from recycled or sustainable sources. Ask if your suppliers can assure their responsible stewardship in how they use resources. > How do your target learners feel about physical materials vs. leveraging electronic devices? > Do your learners ever really return to the paper-based learning resources they receive? If not, why not? > What is the fully-loaded cost of continuing the purchase, distribution, storage, and distribution of physical materials, and how does that compare to the purchase and support costs of mobile devices? > Is availability, cost of electronic devices, and energy to run them consistent across your learners locations? > Does your organization have a procedure for disposing of outdated electronics in an environmentally sensitive way? Have you considered these disposal costs in your calculations?Development Dimensions International, Inc. MMXIII. All rights reserved. 4. OBJECTIVE/PURPOSE 4. Coolness Factor (i.e., Learning Sizzle)DESCRIPTION AND PROMISE/BENEFITS This is an undisputed advantage for using mobile devices. Printed workbooks and 3-ring binders are more than a century old. They are clunky, hard to store, and difficult to use for rapid information retrieval. Contrast that with a tablet device that weighs about a pound, and is thick, with a 10 X 6 HD screen, stereo speakers, a nine-hour battery, up to 65 Gigabytes of data, and the ability to access all the information in the world in seconds. And recent smart phones can make all the same claims in even more portable sizes. Bottom Line: People who have mobile devices are proud, people who dont are envious. Nearly everyone desires to use them for business and pleasure. Training with them looks a lot cooler and is clearly smarter than using paper.CONSIDERATIONS AND POTENTIAL DRAWBACKS Obviously the issue here is to avoid seizing sizzle at the expense of substance. If smart phones and tablets match the kind of training needed (see topic #2 above), can be made available to your learners, and are a cultural and generational fit, then they will generate a lot of learning enthusiasm and appreciation. However, if the learning objectives are difficult to accomplish within the technology and form factor (i.e., size), or the technology is uneven or beyond the grasp of the target audience, then the investment in the sizzle may be ill-advised. All learning design and media decisions must start with the end in mind. What different understandings and skills does the organization have as its goal for the investment of time and money? Then, what is the best way to accomplish it? In Summary: Dont sacrifice your substantive learning objectives simply to gain the trendy sizzle of electronics.A partial list of issues to consider: > Are you and your HR/Training colleagues receiving a substantial pattern of complaints about outmoded training methods? > What is senior managements point of view about technology? Do they value sizzle or substance more? Will they trust you with the choice? > Are you prepared for the rapid change in technology trends and fads? How will you manage your learners desire to always have the latest release of their pet devices? > Are the learning objectives your organization needs for the target population more suited to low-tech or high-tech modalities? > Are your learners highly adept at technology and motivated by it? Or, are they intimidated by it? > Will you have sufficient support from your IT colleagues? > Are you personally motivated and energized by technology, or will you be stretched too far out of your comfort zone?Development Dimensions International, Inc. MMXIII. All rights reserved. 5. OBJECTIVE/PURPOSE 5. Enhanced Learning Through Automated ContentDESCRIPTION AND PROMISE/BENEFITS Mobile devices can leverage the advancements in e-Books and electronic text books that have opened up a whole new range of potential. Learners can not only read and search text, but they can also explore rich embedded audio and video media at will. Links to optional resources and related topics leverage the learners natural curiosity and desire to be in control of their learning. They can work at their own pace and choose their own learning path. They can work independently when time is available, or they can elect to interact with a cohort of colleagues using asynchronous social media or synchronous communications (e.g., instant messaging, social networks, and video conferencing). The possibilities are rich and varied. Summary: Electronic books running on mobile devices will provide deeper, faster, more empowered learning.CONSIDERATIONS AND POTENTIAL DRAWBACKS Rich, interactive electronic books are intriguing for learning and development, but are they really a new frontier? Well-designed WBT (web-based training) already incorporates all the same advantages: rich embedded media, branching, book-marking, links to related resources and job aids, adaptability to mobile devices, etc. On the downside, much like WBT, interactive e-Books can be very costly to develop and revise, and translation and support issues can be daunting. People are social learners. Interactive and leadership skills need the involvement of real people to be mastered. Classroom/cohort training, whether co-located or virtual, will always be superior to any book, however automated. Presence modalities also enjoy social learning tensionif you are absent or non-participative, your colleagues and facilitator will know immediately. Bottom Line: Self-learning through automated books may suit some factual or conceptual learning needs, but it may never be as effective as people learning about people-skills with people.A partial list of issues to consider: > Are there existing e-Book offerings in the right topics, or will you need to develop them internally? If the latter, what is your capability? > If eBooks are not yet available, have you explored existing, highly-interactive WBT that runs on the devices in your organization? > How do your learners prefer to learn people skills? What will be the trade-off in your organization for high-tech learning vs. high-touch learning? > Are there any international, regional, or language needs for your initiative that may be a challenge in the early days of electronic textbooks? > Does your target population have the hardware and software for the electronic content, and the skills to use them?MKTIMMIS122-1013Development Dimensions International, Inc. MMXIII. All rights reserved.