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The drive to mobile learning – more potholes than road?

This post first appeared on the LINE blog on 27th March 2012.

steve_bardenThe road of learning technologies has always had serious potholes for organisations wanting to drive value and performance from their IT deployment. Maybe it’s because of the recent cold weather, but these potholes appear to be deepening. Or maybe there’s another cause for the current road-unworthiness.

Recent trade shows, as well as most learning blogs and forums, are littered with indications that mobile learning is throwing up a lot of potholes (if you can throw up a pothole). In fact, to extend further a metaphor which already seems to be careering slightly out of control, mobile learning is beginning to look like a juggernaut ploughing up the tarmac.

Straying across traffic lines

It is an unfortunate fact of life that any technology aimed at enhancing learning has to involve L&D talking to IT. Often this can be a challenge if there is no translator present. And the challenge becomes all the greater when the silo-busting road closed sign power inherent in personal mobile devices causes projects to stray across traditional organisational boundaries.

For any enterprise, using mobile devices as enhanced communication and training tools means there is a serious opportunity to make them valuable work tools first – something that is totally outside the remit of L&D. So what is IT to do when L&D wants to pilot their latest social learning application on, say, ‘how to be a better corporate learner’?

Our experience of such projects over the years has been one of being diverted to a side road; getting lost in the technology wilderness of trying to get the devices to display the latest and greatest piece of e-learning. But what happens next, when those initial detours have been negotiated?

Avoiding the speed traps

With the experience of many years, I would suggest the best way to get back on the motorway (highway, autobahn or whatever) would be the old cliché ‘I wouldn’t start from here’. By that, I mean to humbly suggest that the organisation shouldn’t leave it to L&D to steer an enterprise mobile strategy, but to drive it directly from the business heart of the organisation.

Er … you do have a mobile strategy, right?

And any mobile strategy that fails to consider how to scale, diversify, manage, distribute, secure, track, personalise and be cross-platform for now and the future … is not an effective mobile strategy.

One of the key themes of our work recently has been how to ensure a fully encompassing strategy is developed for the use of mobile devices – cutting across the different areas of communications, workflow, knowledge and learning. In the learning space, mobile best applies to the ‘70’ and ‘20’ more than the ‘10’ – so pulling all that together often means a complete organisation-wide focus.

With a good, organisation-wide mobile strategy you can avoid potholes and speed traps, be in the juggernaut rather than underneath it … and hopefully arrive home in time for tea!