The (Unfulfilled) Promise of mLearning

mLearning is hot. If you Google corporate mobile learning, you get 114 million results, but only 416,000 if you Google corporate mLearning, which only goes to show that the nomenclature is still in the process of changing and settling down. There is a lot of writing going on all around the Internet related to corporate mLearning. And yet, according to the Association for Talent Development (ATD), the amount of training delivered to employees through mobile devices is a thoroughly underwhelming 1.47%. How can something so “hot” still be so underutilized?

The (Unfulfilled) Promise of mLearning

I think part of what’s happening here is a natural result of the ubiquity of mobile devices. Back in October 2014, The Independent announced that it was official – the number of active mobile devices in the world had surpassed the human global population. The tally of tablets and cell phones was 7.22 billion, while the world’s population was slightly less than that. Perhaps more startling is the fact that the number of mobile devices is growing five times faster than the population. We have truly become a mobile-dependent species.

It’s only natural to assume that corporate learning and training efforts should also go mobile, right? Given that mLearning only accounts for 1.47% of the training made available to employees, the answer to that question can obviously and only be maybe.

What’s behind the under-utilization of corporate mLearning? Some would say that many of the barriers are simply persistent myths, such as the following:

  • mLearning and eLearning are the same, so why bother. If your experience of mLearning has been one of stumbling across eLearning content on a mobile device, it’s perfectly reasonable that you might form the opinion that mLearning sucks. After all, if the content you come across hasn’t been specifically designed for the mobile environment, the chances are very high that your experience will at best less than ideal, and at worst nothing short of horrible. Developing learning for the mobile environment takes care and attention, but it can be accomplished in a way that results in satisfying end user experiences.
  • mLearning is the ugly stepchild of eLearning. Too many companies feel like they have to take an all-or-nothing approach. But in what other areas does this happen? None, hopefully! When it comes to delivery methods for instruction and training, you should utilize whatever distribution method makes the most sense for the content and the people accessing it. If that turns out to be mobile, then go with it. There should be a number of delivery tools in your instructional toolbox, ranging from the traditional instructor-led classroom, instructor-led eLearning, self-paced eLearning, mLearning, and so on.
  • mLearning is all hype. Yes, there is a lot of hype around mLearning, but the plain fact of the matter is that society is also becoming increasingly dependent on mobile devices, which means its worth exploring whether or not it makes sense for some of your learning programs to be delivered that way. It’s all about context, which means you need to do some internal market research around what your people want. If the demand is there and it works for the content, by all means utilize it.
  • mLearning won’t work with my LMS. That may or may not be the case, depending on which LMS you currently use. If you’ve determined that mLearning is both viable and even necessary to add to your delivery methods toolbox, then you need to make sure you have the right LMS that can handle it as well. Don’t make assumptions – look at the realities, determine where you need to be, and then make the necessary changes that will get you there, even if that means getting a new LMS.

I hope my message here is loud and clear – mLearning may be just what the doctor orders for your company, but it also may not be. It’s very context-dependent, so take the time to do a little leg-work in your company to find out if it’s right for you.

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