Oh, those fateful words. The ones that you wish you could call back and place deep in the confines of your brain, as far away from consciousness as possible:
“In my next blog I’ll discuss some of the challenges related to mobile learning development, and suggest some solutions.”
What a blithe, naïve promise. Woe is me!
OnlineColleges.net came to the rescue with their post The 10 Biggest Downsides to Mobile Learning. Although this article is directed at leveraging mobile learning in an academic environment, some of the concerns they raise are transferable to the world of business. I’d like to point out a few of these:
3 Barriers to Implementing Mobile Learning
“Districts these days aren’t exactly enjoying the budgets needed to incorporate smartphones, MP3 players, laptops, and other mobile devices into the hands of every student.”
Same thing for business: M-Learning lends itself better to corporate environments where mobile devices are fairly ubiquitous throughout the business. If not, mobile learning solutions might still be useful to target those who receive those devices, for example, managers who are issued smartphones or tablets as one of the perks of the job. Given that smartphones are becoming increasingly normative, you might be able to reach many of those in your target audience by developing apps for mobile. But this raises some other issues, discussed below.
To my mind this is the single biggest impediment to developing workable mobile learning solutions. As OnlineColleges.net puts it:
“No universal platform between mobile gadgets exist[s], proving quite a challenge when it comes to synching projects…Try and confine mobile learning to spaces where compatibility problems will not emerge.”
Easier said than done. In most companies, employees are using a panoply of devices. In my small office we are using Mac and PC laptops, iPhones, Androids, and Windows phones, with a couple of tablets thrown in for good measure. The challenge of creating device-agnostic training content has not fully been addressed, especially not for “the rest of us.” (i.e. those of us without a degree in I.T.). I recently tried to take a course on app development at a community college, which was canceled before it began, and so far hasn’t been returned to the curriculum. So the quest continues to find the right products and make them user-friendly enough to maintain cost-efficiency.
“Old people are right: technology does progress at a frequently dizzying rate, and keeping up with it often proves a most costly venture. Introducing the kidlets (or adults) to digital literacy projects might wind up futile, as a shiny new option might emerge mere months after they master one particular device. Rolling lo-fi often proves just as effective as the latest gadget trends, costing less and requiring fewer upgrades in the long run.”
This, too, is a big risk for business. Part of finding the sweet spot between creating engaging training, using new media, and containing costs is evaluating the solution (to the extent possible) in terms of life-cycle. When scoping an mLearning project it’s helpful to consider how long you expect the training to be used. Content that is meant to be “evergreen,” such as new hire training, might be costly to deliver in a mobile format, especially over time. Consider future spending on maintaining your training after launch.
But don’t take it from me. ASTD provided an article in their newsletter entitled Barriers to Mobile Learning. According to their study, the chart below displays several constraints that respondents considered the most important challenges of mobile learning adoption in their companies:
All of the above being said, I think the biggest barrier to implementing mobile learning solutions is simply this: What kind of content is appropriate for mobile learning? Next time, I’ll suggest some types of content that might be delivered in a mobile format.