Mobile Learning

Mobile Learning (mLearning): Why Your Business Needs It

The Rise of Mobile Learning: What You Need to Know

When you think of how quickly corporate America has transitioned and adapted to a remote workforce, two things stand out. First, it couldn’t have happened without our amazing human resources professionals and trainers; and second, it wouldn’t have happened as quickly and as seamlessly without the power of mobile technology.

Mobile learning, or mLearning, has been a critical factor in companies’ ability to effectively onboard and train employees, customers, and partners in varied settings – whether all stakeholders are present in-person, remote, or some of each. Although mLearning has been around for a couple of decades, right now it’s coming of age.

What’s the Difference Between eLearning and mLearning?

Before we go any further, let’s talk about definitions: What is mLearning? It’s a general term that refers to learning that’s designed to be consumed on a mobile, portable device such as a smartphone or tablet.

But mLearning is more than just learning on a mobile device. Real mLearning occurs when employees control the pace and direction of their own training. Its power resides in its ability to empower employees to take ownership of their training by learning autonomously, socially, and collaboratively. In practice, mLearning typically involves micro-lessons that are easy for employees to consume via mobile device.

By contrast, eLearning is training designed for delivery to a desktop computer. This type of training is more focused, formal, and finite; it cannot be consumed “on the go.” However, it has its own advantages. It’s still the preferred way to train employees with in-depth company or product knowledge. You can incorporate videos, complex graphics, and high-resolution photos into your training without worry about bandwidth.

Mobile learning, on the other hand, emphasizes short bursts of information that are easy and fast to absorb. A more streamlined and user-friendly approach, mLearning usually features only one idea per screen.

Top Features of Mobile Learning Solutions

A new generation of mobile learning apps is helping human resources teams, learning and development specialists, trainers, and employees work more efficiently and effectively than ever before. As we speak, mLearning is fueling and fulfilling important training initiatives across multiple industries, including social learning, gamification, and new-product training. Mobile learning is ideal for rapidly changing environments such as retail, where sales representatives must stay on top of a dizzying number of new products. Below are just a few (among many) of the unique features and benefits that mobile learning brings to the table.

Bring Social Learning to Life, Remotely

One of the most exciting theories in employee training today is social learning: the idea that we humans are programmed for learning in a social context. We learn by interacting with and observing our peers and mentors, by mimicking or modeling their behavior, and by collaborating as part of a workgroup.

But what happens when all of your employees don’t physically share the same space, roof, office, city, state, or even country? It makes social learning more challenging. This, of course, is what the last year has been like for many companies that were forced, with not much notice, to transition to virtual onboarding and training.

One of the silver linings of COVID-19 is that we are getting to see what social learning looks like – what works and what doesn’t – when it’s adapted to a mobile environment. Mobile technology has enabled virtual social learning to evolve a great deal and given trainers an up-close view of what is possible when we separate ourselves from the classroom environment. We’ve learned that mobile learning and social learning go hand in hand; mobile technology has enabled virtual social learning to move from theory to real-world practice in the corporate training world. Social learning elements include everything from knowledge sharing and gamification, to course-specific forums and discussion groups, to connecting with experts and peers through chat and social media.

Gamification and Mobile Learning

Gamified learning – think leaderboards, points, and rewards – is used as a tool to help develop and implement more engaging and memorable employee training experiences and to achieve faster training completion rates. Employees tend to concentrate better, absorb information faster, and retain it for longer periods of time. It’s important to recognize that mLearning, more so than eLearning, lends itself to gamified learning.

Data and Analytics

Just because mobile learning is streamlined on the front end doesn’t mean data and analytics will be lacking on the back end. Dashboards and reports are available to trainers, administrators, and employees anywhere and anytime. This enables the human resources department to monitor in real-time who has finished their training and who hasn’t. It also features KPI tools and automated exit interviews. With a comprehensive view of engagement, completion, and other key data points comes more informed decision-making around implementation and continuous improvement.

Compliance Training

Highly regulated industries require ongoing education and plenty of paperwork to document compliance training. This can be streamlined and standardized using the power of mLearning in conjunction with a Learning Management System (LMS).

Testing and Evaluation

Empowering employees and giving them more autonomy does not mean there is no rigor or accountability around progress against learning goals or compliance requirements. On the contrary, mobile learning allows for online quizzes, puzzles, and tests to be easily administered and even automated. In real-time, trainers can measure course comprehension, completion progress, and identify any unmet needs.

Employee and Organizational Benefits

With these features specific to mobile learning come a number of benefits – both at the micro employee level as well as at the macro organizational level. Here, we’ll answer some key questions: How can incorporating mLearning into your training mix help your employees succeed at their job? How does it help the larger organization? What results should you expect from an investment in mobile learning?

  1. Accelerated Completion Rates

What does the research tell us about mLearners whose preferred device is their smartphone? According to Lynda (now a part of LinkedIn Learning), employees that use smartphones complete their courses 45 percent faster than their co-workers who tackle their training while tethered to a desktop computer. If your department is discussing how to accelerate completion rates, mLearning could be a big part of the solution.

  1. Lower Costs and Higher Profit Margins

Some companies are just beginning to move toward a paperless HR department, while others are just transitioning now. Significant cost savings and higher profit margins are a likely outcome of digitizing your training and delivering it via mobile technology. As companies turn to mLearning, they tend to see substantial savings, which is a function of relying less on instructor-led training and reducing the number of instructor hours.

As employees leverage technology, take ownership of their own training, and become self-directed mLearners, resources that are freed up can be directed as needed elsewhere. By helping to expedite and automate key processes and introduce new efficiencies, mLearning can be a catalyst that changes your culture and impacts your organization’s bottom line.

  1. Enhanced Knowledge Retention

The Ebbinghaus learning curve speaks to the idea that, after accumulating knowledge through a given training, most people will lose a significant amount of that knowledge within 24 hours and, after a few weeks, 90 percent of that knowledge will be forgotten. If learners are going to forget most of what they learned after their initial training session, then that is essentially money down the drain. The question becomes, how can companies deliver training in a manner that maximizes knowledge retention? The answer can be found in mLearning – specifically, through micro repetition.

Take, for example, an employee who has just completed a webinar or in-person training. If there is no follow-up, the knowledge quickly fades. With mLearning, trainers can drop learning reinforcements, reminders, push notifications, and nudges into your employees’ mobile app or LMS, giving them the opportunity to review, repeat, and retain their knowledge. Providing a more open, and longer, horizon for learning, allows key concepts to be nurtured and absorbed. Because their employees retain and apply their knowledge over a longer period of time, companies increase their training ROI.

  1. Empowered and Engaged Employees

While eLearning remains an important part of the training mix, one of its drawbacks is that, by definition, it requires the learner to be tethered to a desk. Mobile learning provides employees with more autonomy and control over their training. Instead of feeling they have to dedicate hours in one go to a lengthy training, they realize they can take a “bite” here and there, depending on the ebb and flow of their workday. The added flexibility and convenience, which are of supreme importance to millennials and even younger members of Generation Z, increases the probability that they will become engaged in their learning journey. The value of empowered and engaged employees can’t be overstated; it affects everything from learners’ attitude and disposition, to their retention and application of knowledge, to their training completion rates.

  1. Ease of Use

Less is more. In mobile learning, content and courses are designed for quick and easy consumption. Because micro-learning lessons tend to be divided into smaller, more manageable nuggets, companies find that mLearning is the ideal vehicle for delivering them. On the other hand, if you have a larger, more complex course that must be delivered to your employees, eLearning is probably the better format. Ease of use affects initial attitude, adoption and completion rates, comprehension, and knowledge retention.

  1. Encourages Collaborative Learning

We now have a better idea of how people learn. We are social animals and, not surprisingly, we learn in social contexts. The top-down, formal training model is gradually (in some cases, quickly) being replaced by a horizontal learning approach that puts the learner in the driver’s seat. The employee- or learner-centered model, however, is not designed for the go-it-alone hero. On the contrary, employees are trained to figure things out collaboratively and collectively via their social networks – for example, peer groups, mentors, and subject matter experts – who can be accessed face-to-face or through an LMS. Knowledge sharing is a key to the success of collaborative learning; learners must pay it forward, so others can benefit from their knowledge.

Discussion boards are a key feature of mLearning. They give employees the ability to collaborate with each other, solve problems and answer questions, and then share that knowledge. Over time, this creates a company-wide knowledge bank that can benefit everyone in the company – now and in the future. While employees can use eLearning to participate in forums and discussion boards, the real power, connectivity, and immediacy are functions of the mobile app.

Potential Disadvantages

While there are many benefits of adopting mLearning to advance your org-wide training and learning set-up, it’s important to be aware that there is a time and place for mobile learning and, in some instances, disadvantages. Be aware of these potential pain points to ensure you are serving your employees and organization well.

For example, companies tend to assume that everyone will have access to a personal mobile device. This, of course, is not always the case – especially in rural regions of the U.S. and throughout the world, which may lack the infrastructure needed to enable the use of mobile devices.

Another potential concern with mLearning is system compatibility. This issue arises because employees use different mobile operating systems to power their portable devices. Companies may, justifiably, worry about investing in a mLearning set up that employees cannot access from their devices. Integrating with an LMS solves for this – because it is based on Software as a Service (SaaS) technology, it can help avoid or minimize these compatibility issues, making it ideal for disseminating training in real-time to a large number of employees.

There’s also the question of staying on-task – some employers may worry about misuse or overuse of a digital device as a result of encouraging mLearning. Trainers should remind employees that their portable device, if not properly used, can be a distraction or time-waster. Trainers can encourage “moderation in all good things,” and emphasize the importance of experimenting with a wide variety of apps and tools, encompassing both eLearning and mLearning; as the pandemic is better controlled, employees may also begin to re-incorporate in-person learning into their training mix.

Looking Ahead: The Importance of Mobile Learning

Is mobile learning the way of the future? Will it replace eLearning as the leader of training delivery systems? Despite the binary scenario learning solutions are often placed within, it’s not either-or; eLearning is not competing against mLearning. Both have their own strengths and differentiators, and they are, in fact, very different from each other. Instead of seeing them as separate entities, trainers should consider how they can leverage both eLearning and mLearning as part of a blended learning program.

That said, the importance of mobile learning cannot be overstated. In fact, as we speak, mLearning is clearly moving from an option to a must-have feature. Its rise is being fueled by younger generational cohorts who tend to place more value on training than members of Generation X. If they are driving the demand, then it’s up to employers to deliver training and development in a way that is fast, engaging, and convenient to access.

Book a demo today to learn how the World Manager LMS makes it easy to incorporate mobile learning solutions into your employee training mix. Contact Us today!

Mobile Learning Infographic


Disclaimer: This information is meant to provide general guidelines and should be used as a reference. It may not take into account all relevant local, state or federal laws and is not a legal document. Neither the author nor World Manager will assume any legal liability that may arise from the use of this information.

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