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mLearning Lessons Learned June 18, 2008

Posted by B.J. Schone in eLearning.
Tags: , , , , , ,

I’m in an interesting position right now: I get to work on designing our organization’s mobile learning (mLearning) strategy and I get to develop mLearning applications, but things aren’t working 100% as I would’ve imagined. I’m finding there are more roadblocks that I expected and they’re popping up in unusual places. I want to document my experience here…and I appreciate any feedback / tips you can provide.

So, here’s what I’ve recently learned:

  • If you’re thinking about implementing mLearning, make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons. Don’t use mLearning because you think it would be cool, or because somebody else is doing it. Otherwise you’ll find yourself wandering around with the proverbial hammer, looking for nails to hit. I recommend that you research mLearning a bit and then see it as another tool in your toolbox. Use it when it is the best solution for the situation.
  • The hardest part isn’t the technology. The hardest part has to do with politics, logistics, and security. Be prepared to involve several departments and get ready to face barriers. Just stay creative and look for ways to work around these road blocks. Read case studies to see how other companies have overcome obstacles and seek out blogs, articles, etc. Share the info with peers (ahem). 🙂
  • To SCORM or not to SCORM, that is the question. When developing mLearning applications, decide early on if you need to track usage in your LMS. If so, you’ll need to research something like Pocket SCORM or OnPoint’s CellCast Solution. Fair warning, though, this definitely adds complexity to your project. You may even want to consider the SCORM tracking to be the second phase of your mLearning deployment.
  • Know your audience and the devices they own. Create your mLearning solutions based on this info. If your learners have a wide array of devices, aim for the lowest common denominator: Use voice and text-based solutions rather than fancy animations, web-based content, and downloadable applications. There are podcasting solutions that allow for delivery via phone call, and there are SMS text-based learning solutions that can be quite effective, too. Remember Occam’s razor: "All other things being equal, the simplest solution is the best."

I hope all of this doesn’t come off as being too negative, but I’m trying to be very open about my experience. Please chime in – I’d love to hear your thoughts!



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3. Gary Hegenbart - June 19, 2008

I don’t have any suggestions, just hope it goes well and that you continue to share you learning with the rest of us. If I ever get around to mLearning, I’ll know where to look for help.

4. John - June 19, 2008

Excellent information. I agree that the mobile application of learning is a bit tricky. To your last point, I agree it is important to know what devices your audience is using, but we should keep in mind that we are not limited to those devices. I think there might be a way to cost justify the purchase of a device for all or a group of employees. For example, a mobile application could potentially result in significant savings or earnings and therefor the cost to purchase a specific mobile device may be justified.

5. Robert Gadd - June 27, 2008

Hi B.J,

Thanks for the mention of the CellCast Solution in your posting. Indeed, our experience has shown that moving from a working prototype/active pilot stage into a production environment with a mobile learning project can add tremendous complexity in all the areas you cited — technology, politics, logistics and security (and others to boot!). The bigger the organization/objectives, the more people in the enterprise space who are there to say “no” or “not now/not yet”. This is certainly one of the reasons we worked with our early customers and partners to develop the core CellCast Solution platform since it targets deliverables at that “lowest common denominator” level of voice/IVR and SMS (1-way or 2-way) — virtually every cellphone is capable of leveraging these delivery modalities without any restrictions of device type or carrier plan — and no one needs use training on how to make a call or send/receive messages.

The “differentiating aspects” of our approach comes down to management and tracking — who, when, for how long, did they learn/remember anything, what else can they add/offer to the conversation? — and have that all manifest into an easy to install/integrate platform that reports results back to an existing LMS, ERP, CRM or SFA application.

Another valuable lesson we’ve learned to date is this: mlearning is a not elearning smashed down onto a smaller screen/device; rather, what works best in the mobile space is some combination of up-to-date access to new content and information packaged in small, easy to consume “nuggets” that help with knowledge retention, learning reinforcement, act as quick reference tools or job aides, provide J-I-T performance support. Something as simple as a scheduled series of SMS messages in the form of reminders or updates automatically sent out to every mobile phone 30 days after they attended a big ILT event or corporate webinar can have dramatic impact on knowledge retention and Kirkpatrick Level 3 reinforcement.

Better yet, allowing managers and learners to use their mobile phones to call in and record fresh, up-to-the-minute knowledge nuggets about a new customer “win” or meaningful field service support strategy and immediately route that information back to coworkers/subordinates via their own cellphones makes the whole mobile experience “transformative” – this is what’s essential in our mind. mLearning is not eLearning on a smaller, cheaper device or network; it must be and become something else given the way knowledge workers and millennials work, think and play.

My two cents worth (okay, 10 cents)!

Cheers and keep up the great work on your blog.

6. Ben Wilkoff - July 2, 2008

I appreciate the honest reflection on this piece. It definitely seems like you have gone through some growing pains with setting up mLearning solutions for your organization.

I am definitely interested in figuring out the marriage of eLearning and mLearning for K-12. I will be reading your archive for any clues on that (I just found your blog on technorati today). I’m working on eDCSD: Douglas County Online Education at the moment and I am always looking for better ways to integrate the tools that students are already using. Keep up with these posts and I will definitely be back.

7. Viswa - August 20, 2008

Gr8 post. really eye opener post for beginers in particular 🙂

8. links for 2009-03-17 « Learn-Learn-Learn - March 17, 2009

[…] mLearning Lessons Learned « eLearning Weekly (tags: mobilelearning) […]

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