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June 16, 2010 | Volume 4 | Number 6
June 16, 2010
By Louise Miller, MPH
Are you reading this on a PDA? Was your awareness of this article pushed to you via Twitter onto your cell phone? Have you listened to the Good Company Podcast on your iPod? If you answered “yes”, then you have engaged in mobile learning.
In this article we will explore how trends in mobile device use and changes in workforce demographics are affecting workplace learning. We’ll also take a look at some examples of mobile learning programs already in place and discuss how to decide if this is a direction you and your organization want to pursue.
What is Mobile Learning?
The eLearning Guild defines Mobile Learning (m-Learning) as:
Any activity that allows individuals to be more productive when consuming, interacting with, or creating information, mediated through a compact digital portable device that the individual carries on a regular basis, has reliable connectivity, and fits in a pocket or purse.
Interest in Mobile Learning (Google Trends)
According to the 2010 Netsize Guide, more than 89 percent of the U.S. population owns a mobile device. Further, use of the Internet on mobile devices has grown sharply. In 2009, 32 percent of Americans said they had at some point used the Internet on their mobile device (up from 24 percent in 2007).
In 2009, 69 percent of all adult Americans (versus 58 percent in late 2007) said they had used their cell phones for non-voice activities (e.g., accessing the Internet, text messaging) and 44 percent of all adult Americans (up from 32 percent in 2007) said they had done at least one of the non-voice data activities on a typical day (Pew Internet and American Life Project, 2009).
Additionally, when mobile users were asked to think about how they get information or communicate with others while away from home or work:
Who is Doing What?
A 2007 survey conducted of more than 200 members of the Eliot Masie Center revealed that 24 percent of respondents currently deploy some mobile learning in their organizations.
According to an eLearning Guild survey (2008) of its members, 36 percent of U.S. respondents said they planned to “do more mLearning over the next 12 months.” Guild members who engage in mLearning use the following devices (in descending order): media players (e.g., iPods), smartphones (e.g., iPhone, Blackberry), mobile phones, and PDAs (e.g., Palm Pilots).
The top four types of m-learning content produced by Guild members: On-demand access to information (64.1 percent), Job aids and/or checklists (55.9 percent) and Procedures (51.4 percent). Given members’ complaints about difficulties with screen size and interactivity, it is surprising to see training modules in the number two spot (59.4 percent).
Following are just a few examples of how m-learning is being used in the field:
Sun Learning Systems
Here’s how Sun Microsystems describes their Learning on the Move system:
Imagine that a sales professional, or services engineer, were about ready to go into a customer environment, and needed to look up quickly how to sell a specific product, or how to debug a system. They would drop by their local Starbucks for a coffee, access the wireless on their iPhone or iPod Touch, and go to a secure iTunes-like environment, scan the genres (unfortunately, no rock and roll) and find their topic. Picking the top rated item, they watch while sipping their Grande Latté. Ten minutes later, they’re good to go, and proceed to the customer location, caffeinated and a little smarter.
Sun Learning Services has enabled that through building our own version of an environment with a format similar to iTunes. That content, which was created by anyone, anywhere is pushed to this iTunes-like environment. And just like iTunes, you can access it from multiple environments.
Click here to view a video of the actual user experience and mobile content.
What if you had workers with frequent hospitalizations or emergency room visits due to poor management of chronic conditions like diabetes or heart disease? And what if the very employees who needed a wellness program the most weren’t signing up? That was the situation at Baptist Health in Little Rock, Arkansas when the health system began a pilot test of a new model.
Baptist offered incentives for signing up for the program (e.g., reduced medication costs) and then gave each participant access to a Blackberry or Bluetooth-enabled MedApps mobile wireless health monitoring system. This allowed them to transmit glucose readings, blood pressure and other health data to a central network for a nurse coach to assess and give feedback. The biggest benefit cited by program participants was its real-time, interactive nature.
Preliminary findings suggest that employees with diabetes are managing their blood sugar, hemoglobin A1c and cholesterol levels better. While not mobile learning in the strictest sense of the definition, programs that allow employees to change behavior through direct interventions such as these achieve the ultimate goal of traditionally delivered health education programs (e.g., lectures, brochures, independent journaling): improved health. And, if effective, the impact on productivity is undeniable.
By using a camera with a video recording option, golfers can make recordings of their swing, upload the video to a professional coach, and receive individualized golf lessons tailored specifically to the individual’s swing.
Are there skill training programs in your company that might benefit from a similar approach?
Commercial Learning Content (Off the Shelf)
There are websites that aggregate learning content for iPods, iPhones and Blackberries. Samples include: LiquidTalk, which focuses on staff productivity and Total Training Network (TTN). TTN has compiled over 300 programs from over 50 vendors.
What Does the Research Say?
The definition of m-learning is still emerging and there is no universally accepted theoretical conceptualization of mobile learning. Evaluation of this learning development and delivery approach, therefore, tends to be limited to pilots, trials and case studies in developed countries. According to John Traxler (2007; in Ally, 2009) it is too early to describe or analyze the specifics of mobile learning since the field is new and the research is sparse.
However, there are market research findings. According to Ambient Insight (2009), the “market creation phase” of mobile learning is over and the demand is now mainstream. All major education publishers are now selling content in mobile formats and are porting content at an accelerated rate. As of 2008, there is wide adoption across eight buyer segments with higher education, consumer, and health care leading the way.
Choosing the Best Learning Delivery Approach
If you think of mobile learning as simply “e-learning lite” or a way to access web pages on your smart phone, you will be missing a world of new learning opportunities for engaging your employees. Learning by using mobile devices should not be thought of as a way to shrink traditional instruction onto small-screened mobile devices, but rather as a way to deliver learning opportunities that leverage the device’s ability to give the learner more control over how learning is structured.
According to Dr. Conrad Gottfredson there are “five moments of learning need”:
1. When learning for the first time
2. When wanting to learn more
3. When trying to remember
4. When things change
5. When something goes wrong
What is the best learning delivery system to meet these needs? For example, in #3 when employees are trying to remember something, they want the information to be immediately accessible. We don’t ask people to memorize the phone book; we make it accessible so that a number can be easily retrieved. This example of performance support is a function that mobile devices do very well and, in fact, many people don’t think twice about taking out their Smart phones to look up all types of information on the spot.
Another promising use of mobile technology leverages its portability and “wearability.” One of the toughest aspects of any health promotion program is initial and sustained behavior change. Immediate feedback based on real-time health data or other inputs increases the chance that unhealthy behaviors will change to healthier ones.
When considering the best delivery system for employee learning, know your target audience. Research on those who are new to the workforce or who will be entering the workforce soon, reveals some differences that are important to how learning might be structured and delivered. According to the Pew Research Center (2010), Millennials (born between 1980 and 2000), see themselves as different from other generations because of their use of technology, both the devices they own and the ways they use them. More than other age groups, these technology “natives” fuse their social lives into them and expect to be able to use their own devices rather than ones provided by their employer. But they also want employers to provide the latest technologies (Accenture, 2010).
Is Mobile Learning Right for My Business?
That depends. The following questions, adapted from Judy Brown of mlearnopedia.com, can help you and other stakeholders decide.
Click here for a list of articles, resources and tools to guide your organization through m-Learning.
The content provided above is for informational purposes only. The inclusion of any product, service, vendor or organization does not imply endorsement, recommendation or approval by the Psychologically Healthy Workplace Program or the APA Practice Organization.
Accenture Corporation. (2010). Jumping the Boundaries of Corporate IT. Accenture Global Research on Millennials’ Use of Technology. Retrieved from Accenture Corporation website: http://www.accenture.com/Global/Research_and_Insights/By_Role/HighPerformance_IT/CIOResearch/Jumping-Boundaries.htm
Adkins, S. (2008). The US Market for Mobile Learning Products and Services: 2008-2013 Forecast and Analysis. Retrieved from Ambient Insight website: http://www.ambientinsight.com/Reports/MobileLearning.aspx
Ally, M. (2009). Mobile Learning: Transforming the Delivery of Education and Training. Retrieved from http://www.aupress.ca/books/120155/ebook/99Z_Mohamed_Ally_2009-MobileLearning.pdf
Brown, J., & Metcalf, D. (2008). Mobile Learning Update. Elliot Masie’s Learning Consortium Perspectives, Summer 2008. Retrieved http://masieweb.com/p7/MobileLearningUpdate.pdf
Brown, J. (2009). Mobile Learning 101. mLearnopedia. Symposium conducted at ASTD TechKnoweldge 2009 Conference & Exposition, Las Vegas, NV. Retrieved from http://tk09.astd.org/Session%20Handouts/TK09%20Web%20Posting%20-%20W306%20-%20Judy%20Brown.pdf
Horrigan, J. (2009). Wireless Internet Use. Retrieved from Pew Internet website: http://www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2009/12-Wireless-Internet-Use.aspx
Pallarito, K. (2009, September). Firms go wireless with wellness apps. Business Insurance, Retrieved from http://www.businessinsurance.com/article/20090913/ISSUE03/309139998
Pew Research Center. (2010). Millennials: Confident. Connected. Open to Change. Retrieved from Pew Research Center website: http://pewsocialtrends.org/pubs/751/millennials-confident-connected-open-to-change
Salz, P. (2010). The Netsize Guide 2010: Mobile Renaissance. Retrieved from Netsize website: http://www.netsize.com/Ressources_Guide.htm
Wexler, S., Brown, J., Metcalf, D., Rogers, D. & Wagner, E. (2008). Mobile Learning: What it is, why it matters, and how to incorporate it into your learning strategy. Retrieved from Elearningguild website: http://www.elearningguild.com/research/archives/index.cfm?id=132&action=viewonly
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