In my previous two posts, I considered the questions of "Who can benefit from mobile learning first?" and "Where is Mobile Learning Most Helpful?" Now I'd like to consider mobile learning from one more angle: What kinds of content can be used for mobile learning?
But before describing specific examples, I’ll start by noting the broad applicability of mobile learning (learning while on the move, using highly portable devices such as smartphones or tablets). To do this, I will first remind you of industry expert Conrad Gottfredson's "Five Moments of Need" for learning. I've always thought this list nicely covered just about all workplace learning needs that learning professionals encounter and support. I'll quote Gottfredson's own description of these from his recent article at Learning Solutions Magazine, "The Other Side of Learning: 'Performance is Everything'":
- When people are learning how to do something for the first time (New)
- When people are expanding the breadth and depth of what they have learned (More)
- When they need to act upon what they have learned; which includes planning what they will do, remembering what they may have forgotten, or adapting their performance to a unique situation (Apply)
- When problems arise, or things break or don’t work the way they were intended (Solve)
- When people need to learn a new way of doing something; which requires them to change skills that are deeply ingrained in their performance practices (Change)
The mix of formal learning, informal learning, and performance support that are often used to support these learning moments of need generally fall into a pattern, with formal learning (training) being used more often for the first couple in the list, and informal learning and performance support approaches being more relevant for the last three (though specific circumstances and contexts can vary widely).
The point here is just that "mobile learning" can be a good fit for any of these five learning moments of need. That is, mobile learning can be used for formal learning, informal learning, or performance support; or, using Gottfredson's words, when the learner is learning something new, learning more on a subject, applying what he or she learned, solving a problem that has arisen, or facing something that has changed.
In considering mobile learning content that could support those needs, there is no lack of possibilities. I like to group these into three broad areas: formal learning and training, review and retention, and performance support.
Starting first with formal learning / training, consider these mobile learning possibilities:
- Courses to replace traditional ILT and e-Learning. Although not likely to be common, you could deliver training courses via smartphones or tablet devices. (See the success that early adopter Merrill Lynch had with this).
- Book abstracts. Several companies, such as Element K's partner GetAbstract [LINK], have long provided the key points from great books, either as five-page PDF documents or as audio recordings. This kind of short content is ideal for consuming while on the go, in short periods of time, via a smartphone or tablet device.
- Blended learning assets. Content delivered to smartphones or tablets can be part of a blended learning program, to complement training materials provided in a classroom or through traditional e-Learning. This could include content such as audio podcasts of subject matter expert interviews, or videos of impactful stories from leaders in the organization.
- Full-length e-books. As the popularity of e-readers and tablets is demonstrating, learning from reading full-length e-books can provide many benefits.
- Quizzes and assessments. Just as formal training content can be delivered to smartphones and tablets, so too can quizzes and assessments. Answers and overall results can be tracked and synchronized to a back-end system for reporting.
Consider now the needs of review and increasing learning retention:
- Book abstracts. While a book abstract can be read or heard in place of reading the actual book, they also can be used as a great follow-up to help with retention of the key points from the book.
- e-Learning abstracts. Similarly, a 10-minute video that highlights the key points from a much longer classroom or e-Learning course can also help with retention of key points. Making such content available on a smartphone or tablet allows learners to consider the highlights again a week or a month after the initial formal learning.
- Follow-up quick-tips. To really help a person review and retain what they have learned, a steady stream of "quick tips" -- whether in text, audio, or video format -- can help cement the new ideas.
- Test-prep flashcards. For anyone studying for a certification or other exam, being able to frequently review relevant material on the most convenient devices could make a significant difference in their preparation.
And finally, consider some of the possibilities for performance support:
- Job-aids, checklists, and product information look-up. Most job roles benefit from one or more "job-aids" for performance support. These can be procedures, checklists, product data-sheets, and so on. There can be great benefit to having such aids available via the devices that are most easily accessible and that you carry with you the most often.
- Motivational audio and daily quick-tips. Just as regular quick-tips can help with retention of learning, they also can help drive improved performance. For example, regular tips or even motivational clips could be useful for field salespeople to read or hear before their next big client meeting.
- Mobile e-reference. While reading full-length books on a tablet is growing in popularity, being able to search a full library of e-Reference materials from one's smartphone or tablet device can also be a great performance support solution.
- Access to social media (forums, micro-messaging, and more). Increasingly, people are learning informally from peers and experts in their field through social media. So providing a user-friendly access mechanism to blogs, discussion forums, wikis, social messaging, or similar platforms can increase the value obtained from these interactive tools.
As you consider the possibilities for mobile learning in your organization, which of Gottfredson's "Five Moments of Need" for learning are ones you might address with a mobile learning initiative first? Which of the many content ideas above (or others) might be of interest to you in meeting those needs.