Let’s start with a little story- It’s 1998 and you’ve heard about a new restaurant across town. You need directions so you look at a paper map to figure out the route. Flash forward a decade and in 2008, you use Google Maps on your home computer to generate the route and then print out your directions. Zoom forward another decade to now when you can get directions read to you in your car as you drive, along with real time traffic updates and alternate routes.
Now think about how you provide training in your company. What decade are you in? Are you still in 2008, where your employees are anchored to a computer for their learning needs? Or are you using a present-day strategy that leverages the power and the unique opportunities of mobile devices? Here, we’re going to explore how corporate training experiences can be transformed and improved through mobile technologies – just like personal navigation has.
How Mobile Learning Design Differs From Traditional eLearning
Traditional eLearning instructional design assumes that learners sit in front of a laptop or desktop computer. Moving to a mobile learning design incorporates more than just shrinking the content to fit a smaller screen. Mobile devices create many opportunities to design new types of user experiences for learners. Let’s consider a few.
MicroLearning at the Point of Need: When designing for mobile experiences, lessons should be short. Learning can be designed in brief, targeted lessons that typically are less than five minutes long and focus on one key topic (to find out how to do this, see How to Design Engaging MicroLearning Experiences, Part 1). Employees can access specifically what they need to learn on a mobile device when they need it at that moment, even if they are not next to their laptop or desktop computer.
Learning within Context: Mobile design not only allows you to learn when you want – it allows you to learn where you want as well. Employees simply access learning experiences on a mobile device such as a tablet or smartphone whether they are in the field, a conference room, on the factory floor, or wherever they are. In fact, mobile learning has gone to a whole new level with Augmented Reality by enabling rich, immersive experiences anywhere the learner is (to find out more about how this can be done, see 3 Wonderful Ways Augmented Reality Will Transform Learning).
Performance Support: Since eLearning modules can be accessed whenever and wherever the learner is, it can now be used both as training and as performance support. Let’s say an employee took training three months ago on how to use a particular tool and now needs to use it, but is not confident on the correct protocol to use. He really just needs a quick refresher in order to do the task. Using a mobile device, he can simply and quickly access a two-minute MicroLearning to review the content to increase his confidence and performance- no need to retake a long course back at his desk.
Designing with a “Mobile First” Strategy
To leverage these benefits within your overall learning design, one strategy you can use is a “Mobile First” approach. This means keeping in mind that you are designing a mobile user experience that can also be used on a desktop or laptop (vs. designing a desktop experience that can be used on a mobile device). This shift can be made independent of the instructional design methodology you use (ADDIE, SAM, etc.). This will affect the intent, scope, utility, and development of your project. When you know that your learners can access it whenever and wherever they want, it will allow you to better meet their learning requirements and give them the boost that they need.