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A Guide to mLearning

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Why?

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In e-learning, people are asked to come and "take the course". In m-learning, we bring the course to them.
As smart mobile devices like iPhone and Android become more and more popular and ubiquitous, so does the opportunity to leverage their technologies to develop meaningful, interesting learning experiences. Think about it - the time you spend behind a computer monitor isn't considered to be very flexible - whatever you're doing; work, browsing, playing - your time is dedicated to being behind the screen.

The same isn't true with a mobile device. When you're standing in line at the movies, you can check scores from the game. When in the airport killing time, you can play a game or surf the Internet. During a commercial break, you can update your status.

With a well executed m-learning strategy, there's an opportunity to meet learners where they are. Instead of the lesson ending once they've completed an e-learning module, learners can access meaningful learning environments anywhere and everywhere. Pretty cool - for them, and for you.

Let's look at a few real-world examples of how m-learning can make an impact:

Meet Joe

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Joe
Retail Salesperson



Joe works in the home theatre department of a popular electronics store. Each week he takes several e-learning modules from a number of different manufacturers to stay up on the newest and best, to sell to his customers.

The e-learning modules are great - but Joe will be the first to tell you that when he's not sitting in front of the computer, a lot of the knowledge from those modules inevitably gets forgotten. Itís not always easy or convenient to log back in for a refresher, especially when there's maybe just a certain product or feature he wanted to review.

With an m-learning module to complement the online training he's used to, Joe can reconnect easily and conveniently to the products his customers are most interested in. Just today on his 15-minute break he launched an m-learning module on a new Blu-ray Disc player to brush up on one of its cooler features. An hour later when a customer walked in needing some help, Joe was able to make to the sale.

Meet Amy

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Joe
Regional Sales Associate


Amy sells for a multifaceted, multinational corporation. While she sells only in the U.S., every week she travels across her region, hopping planes from Minnesota to Colorado to Nebraska.

Sometimes the only opportunity Amy has to connect to her company's online modules is at her hotel room, on an unreliable Wi-Fi connection. The modules are great - though sometimes dense - with lots of helpful information on best practices to take with her into the field.

Today while waiting for her plane she finished up an e-learning module on her laptop. Before boarding, she used her iPhone to snap a picture of a QR code that was embedded into the e-learning module. Instantly her iPhone connected to an m-learning resource for the module she'd just completed. Later, while standing in line for her rental car, she launched the m-learning resource on her iPhone and reviewed a few of the key areas. Because of the m-learning support, that afternoon she went into a meeting with an important distributor, confident and well prepared.

Meet Amanda

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Amanda
Restaurant Server



Amanda is a wonderful server. She has lots of regular customers and she treats them well. One of the things they particularly like is that she knows everything about all of the hundreds of of menu items. No small feat, because the menu is always changing - yet she always knows it by heart.

Amanda's company has great e-learning courses, and that helps. But it's only half of her secret. Any time she has a few minutes, waiting in line at the movies, or eating breakfast before her day starts, she can review all of the ingredients, for all of the menu items, right on her smart phone. She doesn't have to sit down to a 30 minute course at her desk; the m-learning is quick and convenient.

All the servers have learned that repetition builds retention, and in just a few minutes a day they can stay sharp on all of the information they need. That means spending more time with customers, who love the service they get.

For servers like Amanda, the payoff is doing a job well and being recognized for it with great tips. And for her manager, it's satisfied customers who come back again and again. All because of the convenience of smart phones, and the smarts of good m-learning!

ROI

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m-learning can extend your return on investment in e-learning.
Companies can spend a lot of time, money, and resources on e-learning courses, but thereís only so much employees and channel partners can remember. Great e-learning is imperative - but when learners aren't behind the computer...what then? Thatís why m-learning support modules are so important.

Learners can return to important concepts as easily as they text message a friend. m-Learning modules are easy, smart and an important tool to help learners refresh and retain their knowledge. m-learning can be an easy and essential way to extend your return on investment.

Audience

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The right audience for m-learning is likely already working for you!
It's important to explore some concepts when considering if m-learning is right for you.

Dana Alan Cook, Learning Strategist at Accenture, suggests evaluating:

- Business Need - can your business benefit from an increased speed of uptake or ease of access to training materials?
- Receptive Audience - is your audience mobile, or at least familiar with mobile devices? Can they benefit from accessing training materials on-the-go, away from e-learning at a computer?
- Enabling Technology - Is your audience equipped with the right devices? Remember that that doesn't always require a smart phone - the iPod Touch is a "smart" iOS device as well. The best experiences are typically on forward thinking devices that can leverage modern technologies, such as the iOS devices like iPhone and iPod touch, Android devices, and WebKit browsers on RIM or Windows phone devices.
- "Knowledge" content - Can your content be put into small, sensible chunks? In m-learning, it's important that content be brief, and easily read and digested.

It's important to note that your workforce doesn't need to be highly mobile for m-learning to make great business sense. With increasing frequency, your learners may, or soon will, likely have a smart device already. With effective m-learning, you're simply leveraging the relationship they already have with that device, and the ways they use it. The right audience for m-learning is likely already working for you!

In The Air

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The shift from the PC to mobile for most online use hasn't just begun - it's well underway. Your learners are here!
It doesn't take a statistician to know what common experience is showing - the mobile market is changing the way people access online information. Here is more proof to indicate just where the wind is blowing. Source: Mark Brownlow and Email Marketing Reports.

Morgan Stanley Research estimates sales of smartphones will exceed those of PCs in 2012.

The Coda Research Consultancy suggests mobile Internet use via smartphones will increase 50 fold by the end of 2015.

Nielsen report smartphones will become the majority of the US mobile phone market by the end of 2011.

Morgan Stanley Analyst Mary Meeker said in April 2010, "more users will connect to the Internet over mobile devices than desktop PCs", and eloquently states in a report that the rapid ramp of mobile Internet usage means, "Some Companies Will Likely Win Big (Potentially Very Big) While Many Will Wonder What Just Happened." (Source:Gigaom.com)

Execution

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There are as many ways to execute m-learning as there are ways to define m-learning. Let's explore some concepts and get a better understanding of what it takes for successful m-learning.

The Right Tool

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Apps, short for Applications, are small programs that are usually downloaded from a market, like Apple's App Store or the Android Market. Most Apps, by design, are trying to appeal to a large number of people, so they tend to have a more general context - note-taking apps, for instance, could be valuable in m-learning. Apps are generally better for off-line usage as well.

Web apps are typically mobile websites that have been designed to be a singular experience for the user - from the interface to the presentation of content, web apps are self contained. This guide to m-learning that you're using right now is a web app. Web apps are usually dependent on having a connection to the Internet.

An important consideration when considering Apps vs. Web Apps is flexibility. With Apps, there can be a submission policy that isn't practical when trying to easily reach specific learners with specific content. Updating Apps with new or changing content can also require a time consuming process. Web Apps, on the other hand, are as flexible as any website - changes can be made and posted instantly.

Simplify!

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One of the most important benefits of m-learning is that learners can quickly and easily access information. For this reason, it's important that content be presented in brief, easily digested chunks, and organized in smaller, easy to follow segments. At w/, our e-learning can consist of fun, elaborate sales scenarios complete with avatars, branching scenarios, and opportunities for learners to deeply explore concepts. When we port those same e-learning modules to m-learning, we distill those concepts down into readable chunks. We save the cool scenarios and system intensive video for the e-learning modules, and use m-learning to reinforce the lessons learned in those experiences.

That's not to say you can't have games in your m-learning, or even quizzes to test knowledge - you can! But in accommodating learners in m-learning, it's important to consider the learner's time - demanding too much can dilute the convenience and appeal of what makes m-learning effective. In our experience at w/, simpler is better when it comes to m-learning.

Interface

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As stated, one difference between a Web App and a Web Site is that, in the Web App, content is presented in a self-contained, easily navigated and familiar environment. If your m-learning will consist of a more typical website, be sure to design your site with mobile usability in mind. Big buttons are easier to touch, and a screen formatted to the size of a mobile screen makes things easier to read and experience. Scrolling, hunting, and pecking through a website can be frustrating - and if users are frustrated, they won't find the m-learning experience convenient, or effective.

w/

We say: w-slash. We mean: we're w/ you.

w/ delivers e-learning NOT as usual, for strategies and solutions that help channel partners sell, customers buy, and employees produce. We'd enjoy an opportunity to discuss your m-learning strategies with you.


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