The workforces appeal for m-learning has surged from ardent
interest to a resounding demand within three years. And learners,
not the learning department, are driving this demand.
According to Bersin & Associates March 2011 report, m-Learning:
Mobile Learning Is Finally Going MainstreamAnd It Is Bigger Than
You Might Think, in 2009 17 percent of the workforce used mobile
learning, compared to 14 percent in 2008 and 9 percent in 2007.
While the growth has been positive, it is slower and less
transformational than predicted by Bersins 2007 study, m-Learning:
The Latest Trends, Developments and Real-World Applications.
The report suggests that m-learning has remained largely in the
early-adopter stages during the past three years because of
immature m-learning technology; destabilizing innovation in mobile
devices; business mobility lagging behind the consumer world; and
business audiences who are simply not ready.
We were surprised at the slower pace of adoption, admits Janet
Clarey, senior analyst for Bersin & Associates. However, after
nearly 10 years of predicting that m-learning will go mainstream,
were finally seeing enough momentum now that it really is going
mainstream, and its driven by the consumer market.
A July 2010 Pew Internet & American Life Project study found
that 55 percent of U.S. mobile web users go online from their
handheld devices on a daily basis, compared to 24 percent of mobile
Internet users from the previous year. Because of the boom in the
number and variety of portable devices, platforms, and mobile
applications, consumers general interest has evolved into true
demand. Clarey notes that many corporations are still not
distributing tablets or smartphones to their employees; instead,
most m-learning takes place on individuals personal devices.
The Bersin study reports that most m-learning has taken the form of
short nuggets of learning content offered on-demand for performance
support purposes. It is recommended that mobile learning continue
to be delivered in these smaller chunks because of the format of
mobile devices and the likelihood that learners attention will be
somewhat divided while consuming the information.
Current and evolving uses for m-learning include
- communications such as news and alerts, event information, and
- formal training delivery such as e-learning courses, tutorials,
and virtual instructor-led training
- on-demand access to assessments, surveys, practice materials,
job aids, podcasts, searchable references, articles, and videos
- social networking hosting with direct connection to experts and
coaches, virtual meetings and teams, and social media
- embedded functions including decision trees, augmented reality,
and feedback capture.
While most companies currently use m-learning to communicate
information to employees and deliver small segments of formal
training, there is a widespread interest in more informal and
collaborative approaches. As informal learning grows, so does
m-learning, Clarey says. It is following the evolution of
enterprise learning overall.
Early adopters of m-learning represent all levels of the market,
from small to large businesses, and primarily the technology,
business services, and healthcare industries. The developing world
is leading the way in mobile adoption: Of the 1.9 billion global
mobile cellular subscriptions added between 2006 and 2009, more
than 1.6 of them were from developing countries, compared to fewer
than 300 million from developed nations. In many developing
countries, more than one-half of rural households have a mobile
phone, and, because of mobile, more than 90 percent of villages in
China and India are now connected.
Such growing use of emerging technologies is reaching the
workplace, too, where many organizations are unlocking new mobile
learning possibilities. Kelley Executive Partners, the executive
education program at the Indiana University Kelley School of
Business, uses an alternate reality game (ARG) to create an
engaging and customized learning experience for its clients.
Coca-Cola recently sent 16 executives from its North- African
division to Kelley in an effort to better market to its Millennial
consumers who are immersed in Web 2.0 technologies. The
participants used blogs, YouTube, mobile GPS devices, and
smartphones to complete the ARG activities. The experience helped
the team to better understand how Millennials share information and
to determine targeted marketing strategiesand it was fun.
Accenture offers another mobile learning success story. The global
management consulting, technology services, and outsourcing company
launched a podcast initiative called uPodcasts using its existing
conference bridge system, which resulted in a low-cost, high-value
mobile learning program. Employees record podcasts via a telephone
conference call, and the system edits the recordings into the
necessary format. Accentures learning function uses the platform to
record interviews with key practice leads, which employees can
access on their mobile devices at their convenience. According to a
course calculator that determines a learning solutions impact on
performance, retention, and recruitment, the podcast initiative has
resulted in a return-on-investment of approximately $519,948.
These case studies and the studys supporting data should serve to
urge the learning function to adapt its methods to meet the needs
of the changing workplaceand the world at large. According to the
report, Timeliness, proximity, [and] versatility are some of the
measures of the modern high-impact learning organization.
M-learning is an important part of improving at these measures.
As for the future, it can only get bigger from here. I think well
see positive growth continue in the next three years, Clarey
predicts. I also expect that soon we wont see the m in m-learning.
Its difficult to separate training and technologytheyre almost
intertwined. It seems odd to be tethered to a desk or classroom