When the iPhone first released, it created a hype cycle that couldn’t be overlooked. Now, the hype has calmed — simply because mobile devices are a part of everyday life for almost every person in the United States. They are everywhere,  and they keep getting smarter. From watches to phones to glasses, mobile devices are changing the way we see technology. Increased clarity and power now make it simple to use phones as an effective channel for content distribution, especially in learning and communication.

But how do we know when to use mobile for learning? What factors make mobile a good choice? Should your learning project be mobile only, mobile as part of the tool-kit, or not mobile at all?

The answer? Deciding if your project will be mobile first depends on many factors.

The Current Facts

These numbers are only going to keep growing. And with that much saved time and increased productivity, it sounds like mobile’s the way to go. But a little caution goes a long way when caught up in the exhilaration of tools and technology.

5 questions to explore when considering mobile learning

Before jumping into mobile learning, it’s important to make sure it’s the right choice. To start, ask yourself and your team these five questions.

  1. What is the learning context?
  2. What are your desired learning results?
  3. What is the seat-time length?
  4. How much screen real estate do you need?
  5. Is your business ready and willing to embrace change?

1. What’s the learning context?

The setting where your mobile learning takes place is just as critical as what you will be learning through mobile. Think about different scenarios and how your learners would engage with a mobile learning experience in that context. Will it be:

  • On the job training?
  • New hire onboarding quick references?
  • Sales support for reps right before they meet with a prospective client?
  • Or something else entirely?

Also keep in mind that some learning contexts just don’t work for mobile devices. For example, if you’re looking at long seat time, complex illustrations, or in-person practicals, the smaller mobile screen just doesn’t give the room you need. Staying sensitive to your learning context helps you create learning that’s best for both you and your learners.

2. What are your desired learning results?

You want to make sure you’re getting the most for your investment when you invest in a mobile approach. So when creating mobile, think through what success looks like for you and your team.

  • How will you track results?
  • Analyze data?
  • Can mobile learning be accessed from computers?

Consider whether mobile learning will stand alone as its own entity or if it will complement an existing learning strategy.

3. What’s the seat-time?

How much time will users need to spend on their mobile devices to meet the objectives that having a mobile strategy will bring? If it’s more than a few hours, learning done on a laptop or desktop might be more comfortable than staring at a smaller screen.

Mobile learning is best for shorter learning chunks of less than fifteen minutes. This helps your learners retain information over a longer period.

4. How much screen real estate do you need?

What’s the subject matter? Depending on what your learners are studying, they may benefit from different screen sizes. If they’re studying something straightforward, such as proper hand washing, then mobile should work without a problem. But if they’re learning a subject that includes large or complicated visuals, such as anatomy or engineering, then a larger screen might be easier on the eyes.

5. Is your business ready and willing to embrace change?

Much of this will be tied to your organizational readiness. This is something that you’ll have to take an honest look at because it means assessing what technology usage looks like at your organization. If the majority of your team already uses mobile devices — think tablets or smartphones — adopting mobile learning will be much easier.

You’ll also need to consider the rather messy topic of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) versus company issued devices. If your employees already use their own devices on the job, keep an eye security and compatibility issues. If your employees don’t use their own devices because of company policy or security concerns, this impacts the flexibility of mobile learning. 

After these key areas are considered, determine if mobile is your sole learning tool (mobile first) if it supplements another tool, such as a computer or instructor-led training (ILT) or if it’s a blended approach. Either way, developing mobile learning requires careful analysis and exploration to determine your approach.

Mobile as a learning tool

During the initial mobile hype (around 2007 – 2014), mobile became the way to create learning. But now that mobile’s settled into daily life, we’ve grown to see mobile as just one tool in a vast tool-kit of learning technology. And in most cases, mobile works best as part of a larger learning experience, such as ILT support, formal training extensions, continuous learning, or performance support. 

The mobile first mindset is outdated. Today, we think strategy first.

Curious about what good mobile learning looks like?

Check out the onboarding app we made with Southwest Airlines.

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