This is the first in a series of posts where I’ll address issues related to getting started with Mobile Learning.

Over the last few years, the conversation around mobile learning has shifted from ‘what’s possible’ to ‘what’s useful.’ Many learning leaders are just starting to think about mobile learning, and they’re looking to find the right use case in their organization.

Mobile learning is much more about the learner’s behaviors than the actual technology we all think of when we hear ‘mobile.’ We are on the go more than ever, and we’re equipped with numerous devices to help us stay connected. Our ability to create, access, and share content whenever/wherever we want is unprecedented. As training developers, our task of making learning content easy to access, understand, apply, and share (regardless of what the content is, or what device is being used) has become a critical piece of the mobile learning puzzle.

Embarking on a mobile learning strategy can be a bit overwhelming; it takes time, new skills and resources, and lots of experimentation. It really requires us to rethink our learners’ behaviors and their expectations related to learning.

This can all seem overwhelming; here are a few quick, easy ways to get started in mobile learning:

  • Get inspired by the mobile tools & apps you use every day. Pay attention to the context in which you use them and what’s different about how you interact with them. Identify what you like and don’t like about the design and functionality. Make note of these observations and apply them to your own mobile learning work. For example, the Red Cross’ First Aid app has been a big mobile learning design inspiration for me.
  • Look around. Who in your company (or among your peer group) is having success with mobile? Schedule some time to sit down them to learn more about their journey. Building connections with others doing similar work helps you discover what works, what doesn’t, and any challenges to anticipate when pursuing mobile learning.
  • Talk to your learners. Ask them for ideas about how to improve their learning experience. Are there moments in their day where lack of access to key information might slow them down? What mobile tools are they already using? Take time to shadow your learners; it will help you stay focused on creating meaningful, impactful content for them. It will also challenge any assumptions you’ve made about learner preferences around mobile learning.
  • Start Small. Don’t bite off more than you can chew; pick 1-2 small (really small) mobile ideas for you to test quickly. They don’t have to be game-changers. Starting small allows you to test, learn, iterate, fail, and restart quietly and cheaply. You’ll probably get ideas for additional tests along the way as well.
  • Sketch. Once you pick an idea to test, spend some time sketching out a concept (yes, with a pencil and paper! Here are some great mobile stencils you can use). Mock up a few screens that follow a user’s navigational path. Sketching forces you to keep your ideas focused, simple, and straightforward.
  • Share your sketches with your friends, peers and colleagues. Get their input (good, bad, or otherwise). Draw, start over, re-draw, erase, edit, share, repeat. You’ll be amazed at how far you can get from concept to wireframe (and eventually to prototype) in just a few quick iterations… especially if you share your creative vision early and often.
  • Mock up a working prototype. Once you’ve gathered and applied wireframe feedback, you can build a functional prototype of your idea. Again, there are a number of free (or cheap), easy tools out there for this step. (InVision App is a free, easy-to-use option to use when you want to move your concept from sketch to working prototype). I’ve even used PowerPoint for this, and it actually works really well. Focus early prototypes on functionality, not on design elements or content.

Using these methods will help you refine and communicate your vision, get key partners on-board and engaged with your strategy, and build excitement around what’s useful in your organization.

(I’ll be co-facilitating our Fredrickson Roundtable for Learning Leaders on May 28th, “Leading Mobile Learning.” If you are attending, I’m looking forward to the discussion. I’ll see you then!)

Question: What have you done to move mobile learning forward in your own organization?

Future topics will include learner-centered design, building your team’s skills, identifying (and selling) the right use cases, content strategy, developing strategic partnerships, and overcoming obstacles.

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