Saturday, April 25, 2015

Three Essential Workstreams for Deploying Mobile Learning

For years, corporate learning has been ramping up to go mobile.   At conferences such as ATD ICE, mLearnCon, DevLearn, and others, the concurrent sessions that feature mobile topics fill up with learning professionals anxiously awaiting a session leader who they hope will unlock the mysteries of mobile learning and show them the way to make it happen for their companies.   I’ve spent plenty of time sitting in those sessions myself.

Where has it gotten us?   Not very far.  According to the ATD 2014 State of the Industry Report, only 1.47% of learning content is made available to learners through mobile technology.   Yet we all carry around our mobile devices trying to puzzle this out like Rubik’s cube.

In 2013, my company decided to get serious about developing a mobile learning program.  We did some research, worked out our plan, and selected a vendor partner to help us run a pilot.  (You can read about our pilot here.)  Two years later, we are up and running but it has been a long journey.  Getting an experienced vendor with a ready-to-go platform and a track record of success in setting up mobile learning with other companies was critical for us.

As I think about it now, there were three key workstreams that we had to move through to get our mobile learning program up and running.

Learning Strategy workstream – This is the most important workstream.  We had to flesh out how we wanted to use mobile learning in my company and build a communication plan to manage expectations.   Our plan focuses on using mobile technology for supplemental learning and performance support.   At this stage of the game, we don’t see our mobile program as the way to address primary learning needs, but rather a way to reinforce and support what people are learning in the classroom or through self-paced eLearning.

Information Technology workstream – This is the most challenging workstream.  We had to establish a feed from our Human Resources database to the mobile platform and establish single sign-on to ensure a positive user experience.   Partnering with the IT team was critical for our mobile launch.   At first, our IT team didn’t understand what we were trying to do. We lost a lot of time on our implementation trying to get the right level of support, but once we finally did things went smoothly.

Content workstream – This is the most fun workstream.   I have a good team of Instructional Designers.   They are passionate about learning and they understand what it takes to create a meaningful, engaging and effective learning experience.  Once we were clear on our strategy and got over the IT hurdles, I was able to let my team do what they do best – build great learning solutions.   Although I must admit, there has been a learning curve.   Most of our mobile learning objects run about 1 to 4 minutes in duration.  Creating short burst learning nuggets and mini-courses that are being deployed over a hand-held device or tablet requires different thinking when it comes to design.   Our learning objects are continuing to evolve as we gain more experience and gather feedback from our learners.

I’m glad I can now count my Learning and Development team among the few who are actually offering mobile learning to their workforce.   It is so powerful for learners to be able to get what they need, right in their hands, right when they need it.