We had a terrific Fredrickson Young Learning Leaders Forum meeting this February. We discussed trends in learning and development. Of course, mobile learning featured prominently in the discussion – there is a lot of emphasis on it these days. We feel it here at Fredrickson, and so do our connections in every level of the L&D world.

Similar to the days when eLearning was the next big thing, mobile learning offers huge opportunities, but here’s the big “if.”


If it’s done right.

One of the most helpful discussion points during the meeting came when we were asked to think about our own likes and dislikes while consuming content on mobile devices. Think about what you like to do and what works well for you on a mobile device. Then consider what you don’t like to do, or just don’t do, on a mobile device.

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Of course, it can be dangerous to consider ourselves “representative users,” and make decisions based on our own views. However, we all do use mobile devices. Maybe we’re not perfectly representative, but we’re close enough to use ourselves as a litmus test: we can think critically about if and how mobile should play a part in learning.

Here are some other thoughts:

  • Keep it short, please. Mobile is particularly well suited to delivering small pieces of information – which is often what the learners want anyways. Have you ever looked for “how to” videos and chosen the shortest one? I have. The bottom line is that we often want the most concentrated version of learning that meets our need.
  • “Now what were you saying?”  We have short attention spans in the mobile era. But it gets worse. We also don’t pay full attention. Elliot Masie very accurately called it “continuous partial attention.” We’re writing emails…with Pandora playing…while listening to a web conference. That’s today’s reality: we only have attention for short periods of time. And, even then, we don’t command complete attention. The state of our declining attention span is worth thinking about if you’re planning for the mobile delivery of information.
  • Likes and shares are data too. Once upon a time, “completions” were all that mattered when we measured learning. But, based on our own behavior, it’s time to rethink. If we think about a piece of content long enough to “like” it or “share” it…well, isn’t that a pretty good measure? In fact, isn’t that a better measure than completions? To like or share something requires motivation and action (it also means you appreciated it). To simply complete something often requires neither motivation nor action (and it definitely doesn’t imply you appreciated it). Anyone can ignore a video for 20 minutes and “complete” it. Likes and shares may be a better indicator of how the users felt about your content.
  • Fight for your right to mobile. Or, if you don’t want to fight for it, you certainly expect it. I’ve heard several recent stories from clients who were told their company’s eLearning courses didn’t work well on mobile. But…these courses weren’t intended to be used on mobile devices. In today’s world, though, learners are trying it anyway. Part of what’s driving the mobile learning revolution is that people expect anything that’s designed for a screen to work on mobile.
  • Who does that?  If someone thinks a piece of learning content would be “great as a mobile learning course,” ask if they would take in that content on mobile? In theory, it would be great if we would all took our company’s required compliance training courses (via our mobile devices) on the weekends – thus leaving the work week free for work. But, realistically, how many of us would do this? Just applying the simple, “Would you do that?” test is a great way to filter out unrealistic applications for mobile learning.

I’m looking forward to seeing the future of mobile learning. This is an exciting time to be in L&D because mobile technology gives us new ways to help the learner. If, of course, it’s done right.


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