In terms of technology, hardly anything is moving faster than the increase in use of mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets. This technology offers a unique opportunity for expansion of Internet accessibility, and elimination of nearly all geographic constraints as they apply to corporate training. As smart phone and tablets continue to be more accessible and widely used, we have an opportunity to capitalize on this trend by expanding the rate at which we make eLearning accessible on these mobile devices.
Mobile Device Market
At the present time, there are approximately 600 million more mobile devices on the earth than there are human beings. This figure is only expected to grow in coming years. To put that statistic into perspective, an article on dazeinfo.com translates the sale of 1.8 million smart phones sold daily is more than five times the number of children born each day. Furthermore, the article goes on to describe that with 1.4 billion smartphones on the planet, we have about 1 smartphone for every 4 ½ people in the world. The number of mobile phones in the world was expected to exceed the total world population in 2014. Bottom line, the market is huge and it is only going to get bigger.
How to make it work?
Corporations are jumping on board the trend of using technology based training for their employees. Classroom training is still common, but it doesn’t dominate the marketplace like it did just a few years ago. A recent article by Forbes indicates that as much as half of formal corporate training takes place outside of the classroom environment. This gives the eLearning environment even more credibility, as it simply must be working since more companies are finding the value this technology brings to their overall training program. Among companies that are the most technogically advanced, as much as 18% of their training is conducted via mobile devices. This number is expected to rise exponentially in coming years due to the continued influx of mobile device availability.
At the present, corporations are still trying to figure out the best way to handle this trend going forward.
- Do they need to let people use their own personal devices, or should the corporation supply the mobile devices that can be used for training?
- What about people who do not have a device and are unable or unwilling to purchase one?
- How can you ensure that they are not left behind in this process?
- When employees are participating in training on mobile devices, should they be doing that on their own time or company time?
- Are there overtime concerns associated with this practice?
All of these questions are very relevant and will need to be worked out based on the needs of your specific organization and the type of training you are planning to deliver. It’s because of some of these concerns that some corporations are hesitant about jumping into offering training via mobile devices. You may have to make decisions about some mobile training opportunities being optional or certain material only being available on a web based platform safely behind the corporate firewall. Security is a concern that needs to be addressed, but it is also one that can be addressed without limiting the use of advanced technological opportunities.
When corporations are utilizing mobile devices for their training, they are often using a learning management system (LMS) platform that has a separate mobile application or just a mobile interface. The benefits of this technology are plentiful for both the training administrators as well as the learners. Both are considered to be “end users” of this software as their ease of use will directly translate into how well the technology is received, and the overall success of the mobile learning program.
Training events that take place via mobile device have some added features that are not routinely available in a general eLearning environment. First, since the device is mobile, the training can take place over a longer period of time. It’s not just a sit down once and be done with it kind of thing. There is a better environment for ongoing collaboration and feedback. During the age of text messaging and social media, learners are used to this and tend to expect the interaction that takes place in almost “real time”. This continued involvement and social interaction within learning activities helps increase overall training outcomes.
Corporate Use of Mobile Devices for Training
As we mentioned earlier, some companies have embraced the use of mobile technology for delivering their training with great success. Here are a few examples of what businesses have done:
- A major wireless services provider used mobile apps to train and test retail store sales personnel.
- Restaurant chain used “gamification” techniques to show employees how to make a popular menu item. The game application tested users on adding ingredients in the right order and the speed at which they were able to do so.
- Another restaurant chain used a game technology to help their staff identify and respond appropriately to customer mood. They used features like facial expressions and other aspects of emotional intelligence to adapt their service based on the customer’s needs.
The use of mobile technology is increasing at a dramatic rate. Issues such as security, overtime, and device ownership are small hurdles that will need to be overcome before complete success of this technology is realized. As you’ve seen from some other major corporations, mobile training allows from some creative and innovate techniques that address the need for helping employees learn specific sets of skills that might otherwise be hard to teach. Giving people an opportunity to try out scenarios they may encounter on the job in a safe environment helps them learn the expected behavior. Even when you mess up a scenario and the customer leaves angry, or when you put the wrong ingredients in a restaurant dish, you learn from the experience. To keep moving forward with technological advances, corporations need to be finding ways to leverage this opportunity in a way that meets their needs.