A colleague asked me for 5 paragraphs on mobile:
Let’s get that straight right from the beginning: mobile learning is not about courses on a phone. mLearning is where we really bring home the message: “It’s not about learning…it’s about doing”, because while there are learning implications for mobile devices, it’s really about performance support. Yes, one of the applications of mobile devices is learning augmentation, extending the learning experience over time through distributed presentations, examples, and practice, but the real opportunities are providing context-sensitive support for the mobile workforce. Increasingly, the workforce is mobile, whether directly for work or indirectly, e.g. commuting, and they have the devices (“Have you already purchased a mobile learning device?” “Let me rephrase the question: do you have a cell phone?” “Hello…”). Not taking advantage of it is just leaving money on the table.
The variety of mobile devices is vast, spanning media players, handheld gaming platforms, PDAs, cell phones (though that name is no longer apt; cellular technology is long gone), and, increasingly, smartphones. There are convergences, however, where many mobile devices are now phones, media players, PIM (Personal Information Management, read: contacts, calendars, memos, and ToDos), GPS, and more. If you’re having trouble with any of these TLAs (Three Letter Acronyms) BTW, you can do a search on them to get them defined.
The issues are in how to develop content and resources for these devices, and the answers stack up like a pyramid. The bottom is the proverbial “low hanging fruit”, the content you already have that can be made available “as is” or converting the files to mobile formats. So, your PDFs, your audio recordings of presentations, any videos, and of course your web pages/HTML. The next level is taking all the content you will continue to produce, and proactively capture it (if you’re not) and ensure that it’s an automatic feature of your process to produce mobile ready versions. The top is to develop specific mobile resources, and that’s where we’re reaching the tipping point: instead of custom tools, we’re seeing the major tool providers now providing mobile output options. The mobile web is another increasing option, as more and more mobile devices include browsers. As I say, “480 x 320 is the new 1024 x 768”. Mobile is hitting the mainstream.
And, it is hitting it in many ways. There have been instances of successful courses on mobile devices, but that’s not the sweet spot. One of the more useful options is in augmenting online or face-to-face courses.
We know learning retention fades fast unless reactivated, and mobile gives us a great way to do that. We can send out different ways of thinking about it, more examples, and even new forms of practice. In fact, we should start rethinking the course, moving to blending including mobile as part of the extended experience! The second major big win is in making accessible support for the mobile workforce. We can provide manuals, trouble-shooting, even remote part ordering, to the field engineer. We can bring customer refreshers and updates, cross-selling recommendations, and purchasing capabilities to our mobile field force. And more.
Organizationally, the workforce is more distributed, more mobile, and needing to be more opportunistic and contextually optimal. Mobile is an enabler of increased individual and organizational performance. You need to treat it like any other initiative, managing the change process, but it also leverages other changes that might be happening. Knowledge or content management, mobile device deployment, webinars, many are the initiatives that, with a marginal extra effort, make mobile an additional delivery channel and opportunity. Take advantage of this new direction!
Further resources include: