Mobile Learning: The gulf between learning strategy and learning reality

It’s all about perspective. When you sit within a problem, the walls loom up around you, whilst from the outside, the problem can seem quite small, easily surmountable. Perspective is hard to find and harder to retain, so any strategy we can use to lift ourselves out of the reality of our day to day business to get a better view is surely welcome and certainly valuable.

It’s on my mind because i see a lot of organisations pitching into mobile learning with enthusiasm, starting with a broad perspective, but rapidly getting bogged down in the challenges and reality of specific, often narrow, projects. The net result is that what should be an agile, fast moving and learning process of trying something new becomes instead a procurement project for IT or a series of technical challenges. Somewhere in the mix, the strategy gets lost and we adopt a narrow mindset of a project. This may deliver an individual piece of work, but it won’t deliver effective change.

Mobile learning is not just about technology, it’s a mindset. At it’s very broadest, our mindset for learning should be about achieving sustainable change. Why? Because that’s the point of mobile! Formal learning, classroom based, time bound, abstract from the everyday reality of work: that’s what we used to have, but now we have options. Mobile learning, coupled with the use of social learning spaces, gives us the chance to extend the learning experience. We are able to move away from pure formal learning experiences to semi formal, socially supported, agile learning that takes place not just in workshops but in your workplace.

No longer bound by time and place, we are able to use mobile learning to deliver effective performance support to learners whilst they are actually working. Learning ceases to be just something you do from time to time, but instead becomes part of the everyday.

Or at least it should. If we retain a broad perspective, we are able to build a learning strategy that supports this. Every project should be in service of delivering organisational change. Every project should take into account what formal elements we will use (classrooms, e-learning, handouts) and also use a mindset for mobile learning. How will we support the learning and how will we support the skills and behaviours for change?

When we are developing the organisational strategy for mobile learning, we need to create space for risk, space for mistakes, space to learn. If we try to develop a mindset for mobile whilst applying the same rules that we already use, we will simply create a distribution channel, but mobile should be so much more than that.

It’s about how you judge success: on time and on budget is good, but what have you learnt? What are you doing differently across all mobile projects as a result? What have you learnt? If we judge mobile by the metrics for normal projects, we are missing this narrow window to learn in. The whole point of pilot projects is to learn, so if we don’t take the opportunity, we won’t learn, and if we focus on the wrong areas, we will learn the wrong things.

This doesn’t mean that we should allow these projects to go off time or budget, simply that we should do smaller projects that are easy to control: put the complexity in the learning implementation, face the challenge around delivering behavioural change or developing skills. The technical challenges are, largely, a red herring. Let the commercial market work out how to do the clever animations and interactivity, our focus should be on how we leverage this for learning.

What will make a difference to the leaner in the field: what will enable us to do something differently tomorrow from what we are doing today? This is the broad perspective that we need.

If we let our focus slip from developing a learning strategy to end up as just delivering a new piece of compliance training, we are missing an opportunity and missing the point of mobile learning.

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About Julian Stodd

A learning and development professional specialising in e-learning and learning technology.
This entry was posted in Challenge, Change, E-Learning, Failure, Formal Spaces, Learning, M-Learning, Mindset, Mistakes, Mobile Apps, Mobile Learning and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Mobile Learning: The gulf between learning strategy and learning reality

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