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Mobile technology is changing the way people work and learn. We only need to look at industries such as media and advertising to see the disruptive capabilities of ever more powerful mobile technology.
Mobile advertising, for example, already has a reach that TV can only dream about - the handset has become indispensable.
With industry forces such as Microsoft, Google and Facebook all staking their future on mobile, the power of engagement mobile devices bring is clear to see.
While the L&D industry has been much slower than some industries to embrace mobile technology, research shows that the use of new mobile products for learning, such as the iPhone 5 and iPad, as well as the multitude of Android tablet and smartphone devices, is steadily gaining ground. The proliferation of such products is indeed the biggest driver for mobile learning.
Strategy Analytics estimates that there are currently over one billion smartphones in use worldwide with this figure set to reach two billion within the next three years. Meanwhile, according to the iPass Global Mobile Workforce Report, 64% of mobile workers now carry a tablet and 61% of a worker’s day is within range of a Wi-Fi network.
While infrastructure improvements such as 4G make it faster to download large quantities of data, it’s not just the evolution of technology driving the rise in mobile learning.
Hand in hand with this is the growing appetite among the Millenials for information on demand and this is only going to grow, with Bersin & Associates estimating 47% of U.S. workers will be under the age of 35 by 2014. The dynamics of today’s workplace is undergoing a seismic shift with a corresponding change in culture and expectations for learning anywhere, anytime, on any device.
While opinion is divided as to whether mobile learning has become truly mainstream, it is only a matter of time before the L&D industry catches up with other industries in its use of mobile technologies, particularly with HTML5 set to become the de facto standard.
HTML has long been the language of the internet. Currently, developers of online solutions have to completely rework content for different mobile devices but the widespread adoption of HTML5 will change this. HTML5 is designed to be platform independent – any device can read HTML5 so the same learning content can run on a tablet, smartphone or laptop even if all these devices run incompatible operating systems and different web browsers. Learning content will be far easier for learners to access and easier and cheaper for organisations to develop, enabling a more seamless cross-platform delivery of multimedia content.
All this combines to potentially form a huge market for mobile learning solutions. According to Ambient Insight Research, the worldwide market for mobile learning products and services reached US$3.2 billion in 2010 and is predicted to rise to US$9.1 billion by 2015. In comparison, the e-learning market is expected to increase from $32.1 billion in 2010 to US$49.9 billion in the same timeframe with mobile learning expenditure equating to approximately a fifth of e-learning spend in 2015.
Mobile learning is already proving to have the potential to improve performance, productivity and engagement when part of a balanced learning strategy. A recent report from the elearning Guild shows half of all organisations are seeing a modest to very good ROI, while a further 43% said it was still too early to tell the level of ROI they are achieving.
What is of key importance is ensuring that the right content in the right format is deployed for the right learning need. Mobile learning content can define success or indeed failure of a mobile learning strategy.
It is rare that reformatting existing e-learning modules for smaller screens will be a successful strategy. Instead, the best mobile learning solutions will make use of the devices’ features and functionality, such as a touchscreen, which can be a real asset in increasing learner engagement.
Mobile devices are particularly suited to shorter, bite-sized chunks of knowledge that are relevant, engaging and easy-to-digest on the go. They also provide an opportunity for content to be more interactive and media rich through the use of short videos and gaming techniques. While currently this may require the use of Flash plug-ins, HTML5 will offer a more seamless and universally supported experience for the user.
The use of bite-sized chunks of video in mobile learning, for example a series of 30-second clips, helps to build a story and context for the learner and can really help bring the learning to life. Indeed, we are increasingly using video for storytelling in the e-learning content we develop for our customers. The use of this in mobile learning is a natural progression, but it typically needs a different approach to fit with the ways that mobile learning is adopted within an organisation.
As technology continues to give more power to the mobile user and with the advent of HTML5, the floodgates for mobile learning are well and truly opening.
Rob Caul is CEO of Kallidus the UK’s leading provider of learning and talent management solutions. To download Kallidus’ mobile learning whitepaper The future of mobile: 5 steps for developing a mobile learning strategy visit www.kallidus.com.
To find out more about our multi-platform learning solutions visit us at stand 153 at Learning Technologies, 29-30 January 2013, Olympia 2, London.