Five Lessons in Mobile Learning

Last week I attended mLearnCon 2011 in San Jose, CA.  mLearnCon is a growing and dynamic event by the eLearning Guild that’s focused on Mobile Learning with a mixed audience of technologists, educators, analysts, corporate L&D professionals, training & courseware providers, and technology vendors (typically for authoring tools, mobile delivery platforms, LCMSs, and LMSs).  This year some really good points came up that reinforce what we have learned the hard way via our own (and our clients’) experiences in implementing mobile learning.  I felt it might be worth recapping here.

  1. What is mLearning? It might sound surprising that there is no clear commonly agreed upon definition of Mobile Learning.  Does it include learning on laptops or not?  Does it imply Internet connectivity?  Does it apply if the experience is not mobile per se?  Does it have to involve some level of collaboration among learners?  Personally, I am not surprised there is no single definition for all.  Because what is becoming clear is that Mobile Learning really means different things to different people (depending on objectives, needs, scope, constraints, resources, and more).Now, as a side note, if you ask me about what definition I feel closer to, I will choose something that approaches mobility from the learner’s point of view and not from a technological perspective; for example the definition in the MOBIlearn Guidelines report that considers mobile learning “… any sort of learning that happens when the learner is not at a fixed, predetermined location, or learning that happens when the learner takes advantage of the learning opportunities offered by mobile technology.”
  2. mLearning is not eLearning on a smartphone. Ok, everyone seems to agree that if you take eLearning and squeeze it to fit the dimensions and resolution of a mobile device is probably not the way to go. And we know enough now to avoid the early eLearning mistakes. Yes?  Right, so why are most conversations focusing on how to make Powerpoint flash content run on iPad?  Is this even the right approach?  On the other hand, what about all this eLearning content that has (finally & successfully) been developed?  Can we port it to mobile?  Should we? According to an excellent study by Bryan Chapman, the average cost of creating an hour of interactive eLearning is $18,500 which can rise to $50,000 with more advanced interactivity. So, how do you justify the ROI moving to mobile learning while protecting this eLearning investment? I think there is a real business challenge here.
  3. It’s the learner, stupid. Maybe it’s just me, but I am seeing that most conversations revolve around devices and platforms instead of the learner.  With mobile, we have an opportunity to design technologies and solutions that put the learner in the center of the learning experience.  An experience that includes content, activities, and people, along with the ability to access and administer all these in an intuitive, if not seamless, way.  The simplest way to do this is by meeting the learners where they are, whenever they need it, and with whatever approach is most effective for the particular situation.  We also have the know-how to do all that while addressing key business drivers like supporting an increasingly mobile workforce, improving on-the-job performance, increasing the impact of corporate L&D programs, and developing a new generation of talent.
  4. mLearning is an evolution, not a revolution. This is what our clients have really taught us.  You need to think big about mobile, but start small.  Take an objective, a program, a specific group mobile and work hard to make sure the undertaking is successful.  It’s always worth listening to your own audience to see what their needs and particular situations are, and hence what makes sense to go mobile.  And always link mobile learning to your overall learning and talent strategy, because that’s where the value lies.
  5. There is no silver bullet in mLearning. No matter what vendors say, there is no single solution for all.  We are dealing with such a diverse ecosystem of technologies and business situations that we need to be thinking along the lines of multiple solution approaches.  And, I would suggest let’s not take innovation out of the way we think about mLearning.  I think there are great things to achieve in front of us, so let’s not make the mistakes of the past.

Save the date

We have announced three Next Steps conference locations for 2011 — all in September. The first in Chicago; the second in London and the third in Bangkok. Please come.

At Next Steps you can network with your peers from different industries, share your best practices, provide your input into our new products, or just listen to how the latest developments in our enterprise knowledge, learning, assessment, compliance, and talent solutions can free up your people to do what they do best.

This year we will be offering a completely new NetDimensions Product Workshop on the second day led by our technical consultants and featuring two tracks with a total of eight different hands-on sessions. We invite you to enroll in this unique knowledge-packed training program to gain practical NetDimensions product insights that you can immediately apply in your own environments.

Come to the NetDimensions user conferences and let’s take the next steps together.

Rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated said the LMS

learn-blocksRecently, NetDimensions invited a panel of very smart people to discuss a provocative question: Is the LMS Dead?

The panelists were Charles Jennings, Craig Weiss, David Wilson and Richard Nantel, all very articulate and all more than a little opinionated. I moderated, which mostly meant I tried to stay out of their way.

It was great.

We were overwhelmed by the number of comments and questions we received during the webinar. Unfortunately we had no time to answer all of the questions during the event.

We know it’s important to get to those answers, as well as explore further some of the topics raised, so we are organizing a tweet chat session for you to talk to the panelists directly on Twitter.

On December 7th, at 8:00am PT / 11:00am ET / 4:00pm GMT, all our panelists will be on Twitter for 60 minutes to discuss the future of the LMS.

Just logon to Twitter and use the hashtag #lmschat to join the discussion with Richard (@rnantel), Craig (@diegoinstudio), David (@dwil23), Charles (@charlesjennings) and your fellow attendees.

The revolution has begun

mEKP_logo_finalRecently we introduced a new product, mEKP. It’s different. mEKP gives you the power to carry gigabytes of technical documentation, learning, career and personal development support, licensing and certification records, podcasts, video and a whole lot more — all in your pocket.

It’s secure. It’s multi-platform. It is, as Brandon Hall says, disruptive. This particular revolution began quietly but make no mistake, it’s already making waves. Think of this scenario — 2,500 teachers in a poor country, each with a mEKP stick giving her or him a year’s worth of professional development training, daily lesson plans, class handouts, various kinds of support collateral — all without Internet connections to the schools.

Change happens. We think (we hope) we’re contributing to some good change in the world.

Click here for more.