E-learning: mobile training

Mobile learning – or m-learning, as it is becoming known – takes e-learning one step further, by allowing people to learn while they are out of the office and away from ‘traditional’ computers.

This has been made possible by the advent of smart hand-held devices such as a BlackBerry, MP3 player, smart phone, tablet computer – such as the iPad – and the deployment of robust wireless networks.

In theory, mobile learning gives staff the opportunity, within reason, to access e-learning wherever and whenever they please, as long as they can access a network. But it’s unlikely they will wade through more than a few minutes of content. Gerry Griffin, founder of mobile learning specialist Skill-Pill, says: “Two minutes is as long as you can expect people to spend looking at something on their mobile device.”

Topics that suit mobile learning will be ‘How to…’ sections on procedural issues, which are valuable at particular points in time. For example, how to induct a new employee and how to conduct a disciplinary – in other words tasks that have to be done right each time

Employees working in the field will also find m-learning useful. Because it provides real-time advice and responses, engineers, for instance, who need help with specific problems, will be able to get it almost immediately via a hand-held device. This is known as ‘just in time’ learning.

Podcasts are another useful m-learning tool. Downloadable content can be reviewed as often as necessary, whenever and wherever it suits the employee. Languages and guidelines work especially well with this medium. Podcasting, like most m-learning media, is best suited to blended learning. It would also work well as a means of reviewing material learnt on a traditional classroom-based course.

Boundaries between formal training and on-the-job procedures will inevitably become blurred, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But one note of caution – with m-learning that doesn’t require a certain outcome (for instance the solution of an engineering problem), it will be difficult to guage what your staff have learnt, and whether or not they have applied it.

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