The Feature Sets - A Range of Possibility
The variety of available mobile devices enables a myriad of potential uses for the preparation, delivery and tracking of learning for mobile workers; and the more capable the mobile device, the wider the array of possible content delivery methods. As shown in Figure 1 below, we classify these possibilities into the five different classes of learning content and focus much of our R&D efforts into how we can help our customers and partners to leverage each type to broaden the learning experiences for their targeted mobile audiences.
1. Basic Communications. Basic voice and messaging communications represent the primary reason and easiest cost justification for enterprise mobile device purchases. For most organizations, the ability to contact a person either through a phone call, an email or a text message remains the principal use case for equipping a manager, salesperson or field technician with a company-supplied device. Everyone knows how to use their issued device without much (or any) training and these devices facilitate the completion of typical knowledge worker tasks just about anywhere. And as highlighted in previous posts to this blog, the basic communications features found on virtually every phone can be used to distribute a variety of mobile learning content types that enable anytime/anywhere learning for enterprise workers.
2. Training Delivery. Indeed, knowledge workers can learn new things and acquire new skills leveraging properly designed and formatted content on a supported mobile device. Common learning experiences include learning a new skill, refreshing a recent training or reclaiming forgotten knowledge. Just like desktop learning methods, the variety of content types possible in the mobile realm – especially with more capable smartphone devices – are broad and varied and include videos, podcasts, mobile versions of traditional “page turner” courseware/modules, animated slide presentations and more. All required and optional assignments can be accompanied by integrated tests/quizzes/surveys to measure learner assimilation or opinions. Most mobile learning content tends to be packaged in shorter, bite-sized deliverables for easier and more frequent consumption.
3. Information Access. In many cases, learning while mobile may not be about assigned content at all and be much more about providing just-in-time access to a variety of on-demand resources and reference materials which can be read and mined for relevant information at the time of need. Examples of on-demand content span access to appropriate (and compatible) web sites and RSS feeds, mobile-friendly publications in traditional Adobe Acrobat/PDF format and long-form materials in more contemporary eBook and ePub formats.
4. Social Networking. Sometimes the best way to learn is for a learner to connect directly with an actual expert or an entire extended learning community. The growing popularity and acceptance of social networking in support of enterprise learning is driving organizations to identify and implement effective ways to build and manage these communities to harvest institutional knowledge and extend the reach of the best ideas and people out to others wherever they are and whenever they need it. The real trick is to harness the power and potential of the popular social network methods and sites (e.g., Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Yammer) but channel all relevant social interactions into a private monitored and managed network that properly vets and leverages organizational value. Mobile devices -- especially smartphones – are well suited to package, deliver and manage these social interactions as part of the overall fabric of a blended learning environment.
5. Content Creation. Finally, easy-to-use features are available on both basic feature phones and advanced smartphones that can enable an organization’s content consumers to actually become content creators using their own mobile devices. User-generated content can be authored in many different formats using recorded voice for audio podcasts such as a customer testimonial, camera snapshots for visual imagery of a competitor’s product capture “in the wild” or a short video of a subject matter expert detailing a practical process or procedure they’ve mastered that can benefit others across their learning community.
As you can see, there are many possibilities and potential feature sets to leverage across any organization seeking to broaden the range of mobile learning services and solutions they wish to deliver to their target audience. Thankfully, there's no one-size-fits-all answer to which of these feature sets work best or should be implemented first -- each team just needs to pick what's right for them and addresses their own objectives.