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Effectively using mobile technology for learning and development

Piers Lea , 19 Sep 2011

Piers Lea

There has been a great deal of interest in the use of mobile technology in learning for many years now, and it’s an issue I’m set to explore further at the World of Learning Conference this month. Research firms like Gartner have frequently shown the increase in Smartphone and tablet adoption, particularly their rising web access penetration set to usurp the desktop as the most common mode in 2013. Similarly, the tipping point of Smartphones over feature phones will occur next year according to Kantar Worldpanel.

Drivers for mobile learning and communications have been strong for some time but it has been the last two years that have seen the most significant advances. According to the most recent findings from a survey by benchmark organisation Towards Maturity, 76% of 300 businesses surveyed stated that they will use mobile technologies for learning over the next two years (last year the figure was 35%). This is corroborated by our own survey of nearly 100 organisations where only 3% said that they could see no use for mobile learning whatsoever within their organisation.

The popularity is, in part, down to the use of employees' time when they are at their desks. Desk time is limited enough and with the little time that there is they'd rather it wasn't spent doing compulsory online learning. But ask those people if it would be beneficial for them to do their learning whilst they are on a train or in an airport lounge or during on-the-go moments when day-to-day business is restricted, then they'll almost certainly say yes.

The increasing popularity of mobile technology and m-learning is one thing, but creating something that is effective as a piece of learning is entirely different. Like many trends, there is a distinct danger that many will overlook proper learning solutions in favour of submitting to the pressure of producing something that's in vogue.

Designing content for mobile isn't a matter of simply creating a piece of learning and synching it to a device, for example. As we know the mobile market is built up of a variety of main players with different operating systems. In the Big Three, Android has increased its market share in the UK from 1% in June 2010 to 9.2% in 2011, Apple doubled its share during the same period to 10.3% and RIM, despite many predictions, increased its UK market share from 3.7% to 7.4%, so the learning you provide will need to be suitable for the device your employees have in their pocket. A learning and communications organisation must, therefore, be able to cost-efficiently produce m-learning for different systems whilst paying close attention to the differences between them to ensure that learning remains fully engaging.

As mentioned, there has to be a valid requirement to go mobile. In fact, there have to be two valid requirements; firstly, a learning requirement and secondly, a business requirement. The mobile element must provide part of the overall remedy to a learning and development headache.

Royal School of Artillery - Fire Control Orders

LINE's work for the Royal Artillery (RA), the combat arm that supplies the British Army's firepower, is one such case study. The RA operates in teams to locate the enemy, direct attack and fire guns, rockets and missiles and uses digital communications to transmit orders. Current deployments, particularly in Afghanistan, have placed increased demands on the RA for key on-field communications skills and it is essential that the Royal School of Artillery (RSA) are able to deliver soldiers who meet the training performance standards.

The complexity of commands used means post-training skills fade is a real problem. Not understanding a command can be catastrophic.

The solution was to enhance the existing training provision and replace some of the classroom content with immersive exercises, delivered through a mobile device with wireless functionality; in this case, the iPad to take the training right to the place where it's needed.

The iPad allows the learners to take part in accurate on-field scenarios with multiple gun placements, compete or play alongside their peers in a variety of roles and practice anywhere in the barracks right up to the evening before a major operation. By taking training as close as possible to the actual event skills fade has been dramatically reduced.

Piers Lea (pictured), CEO of LINE Communications, will be talking in more detail on 'Effectively using mobile technology' at the World of Learning Conference and Exhibition taking place at Birmingham's NEC on 27th and 28th September.

Alongside the world-renowned conference, the show will also bring together around 100 UK and international exhibitors and a range of free advisory services and workshops. Together they make the show an essential date in the diary for leading L&D professionals.

To register free for the World of Learning 2011, and for more details about the event, visit www.learnevents.com or call +44 (0)20 8394 5171. For the latest news and updates about the World of Learning 2011 follow the exhibition on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Learn_EventsUK , tweet about it using #WOL11 and join the World of Learning Conference & Exhibition group on LinkedIn.

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