Delivering Learning to an Increasingly Mobile and Flexible Workforce
The workforce today demands more flexibility than it did even five years ago, especially when it comes to delivering learning. Although it can vary by industry, there is no doubt that you’ll likely have more people working away from the office in the future than you do today.
Consider the following workforce trends:
- Not every employee will be at their computer all the time. Mobile workers now carry, on average, 3.47 mobile devices for work. They are expected to work and be available beyond standard office hours.
- Not every employee even has a computer. In environments such as retail, hospitality, or manufacturing, training may currently be done on shared terminals and work done on the shop floor with a tablet.
- Overall, work is trending toward mobility and flexibility. Companies are allowing more employees to work from wherever they happen to be — in home offices, on the road, and around the world.
When it comes to learning, those trends can spell big trouble for programs that have relied on classrooms, instructor-led training, or on-premise e-learning courses. Learning organizations are being caught unprepared for the shift to flexible “work anywhere” attitudes — and it’s hurting their overall effectiveness.
According to Brandon Hall Group, only 10 percent of organizations indicate a high use of mobile learning when delivering learning. In another study, Bersin by Deloitte reports that only 12 percent of training assets are enabled for mobile. There’s an enormous gap between the level of mobile work taking place and the level of mobile learning taking place.
Though it can seem like a large task, having a scalable, ready approach to introducing learning to a mobile workforce isn’t out of reach for most organizations. Unfortunately, most organizations just aren’t there yet. If you’re considering adding more flexibility to your learning program, you’re not alone. A significant percentage of companies will increase focus on mobile learning initiatives in the next 12 months. Most of them will need help, too
In this Lightpaper, we’ll help you understand:
- Potential hurdles companies must overcome when taking learning mobile
- Best practices when considering mobile learning solutions for your organization
- A better approach to delivering flexible, mobile content
Potential issues many companies encounter when taking learning mobile
This probably isn’t the first time you’ve thought of mobile learning for your organization. In fact, our discussions with many organizations show that they have thought about it for years and have tried to even implement it themselves in more than one way. Mobile experimentation has led to a clearer picture of what works — and what doesn’t. Organizations are conscientious of failure and they don’t want to repeat the mistakes made by others.
Let’s recap the significant challenges that any organization faces when taking its learning content mobile.
Modern learners want to serve themselves.
When employees can’t easily access the learning content they need, they go to places that are easily accessible — namely, Google and YouTube. Organizations can pay dearly for this choice, with employees making inconsistent or poor decisions based on what they happen to find online. Learning organizations have to produce vetted content that is findable, accessible, and has the context needed to help them at the moment of need. You’ll require a posture that assumes that employees are going to serve themselves — and that’s a big change from the attitude that you’ll be able to guide them through instructor-led training or full-blown multi-hour e-learning courses.
Going mobile with a small subset of your content only creates learner frustration.
Getting learning content delivery right is even more critical when your content is distributed outside of a classroom or corporate firewall. Responsive Web design allows organizations to deliver all of their learning content, regardless of the device and screen size. That means people can access the information they need to make just-in-time decisions with consistent content.
What works for traditional learning doesn’t work for mobile.
Gartner found that 40 percent of employees used personally owned smartphones, tablets, laptops, or desktops as primary or supplemental business devices. While large images, videos, PDFs, and PowerPoint presentations can be fine on a laptop, they can degrade significantly based on the screen size, and they don’t leverage the capabilities of mobile devices.
The amount of content is growing at an exponential rate.
Some solutions for mobile learning delivery require you to develop content for mobile and desktop separately. That means when you need to update or create new content, you have to make sure to update it in multiple areas. It’s not only confusing for content creators and administrators but for end users as well. Going to different sites, depending on which device you’re using, can be tough for people whose first job isn’t learning.
Organizations aren’t tracking how learning content is being used.
Today, most organizations only track content on their LMS. Though it might do an adequate job of tracking and reporting on the content there, learning that happens within the walls of an LMS only accounts for 10 percent of all learning. Learning organizations have to be able to control and track 100 percent of learning, wherever it happens.
Although these concerns are valid, companies are finding they can grow and scale their mobile learning strategies to fit within their overall business goals without reinventing the wheel.
A better way to deliver learning content
How can organizations create a sustainable, forward-looking path to creating learning content? The best organizations take a two-pronged approach, focusing on a flexible content strategy and a “wherever” delivery strategy.
Flexible content strategy
Content strategy is the methodology to solve business goals through the systematic design, development, delivery, and maintenance of learning content. Simply put, it means creating content with the assumption that you may one day want to deliver it on a mobile, flexible basis.
Even if you’re only creating content for desktop- or classroom-based learning today, you can take steps now to ensure that your content is ready to go mobile. You can also reduce the footprint of your content, treating it in smaller, reusable chunks so that it can more readily be applied to multiple use cases. That way, when you do need to deploy mobile — and let’s face it, it’ll probably be sooner rather than later — you can almost flip a switch to enable it.
Right now, 37 percent of organizations offer a mobile version of some of their content and another 28 percent are planning to add that capability in 2015. If you are in that 37 percent, you may have fallen into the trap of creating multiple versions of the same content, and you may be trying to manage multiple delivery channels. If you’re looking at doing this now, the good news is that you’re not alone. The great news is that you can learn from early efforts already taking place.
Wherever delivery strategy
Your learners need access to the right information, when and how they need it. Mobile isn’t the strategy, but it’s part of an overall learning strategy that acknowledges the opportunity for learning in today’s organizations is scarce and that you need to take every chance you can to get the critical information in front of employees quickly.
Here are some best practices that every organization must consider if they are going to strategically deliver mobile learning content effectively.
Break learning down to the smallest reusable part
If you assume your learners are going to be consuming content where and when they can on any device that is capable, it’s easier to think of ways to help them. You need to create stand-alone, bite-size pieces of content that can live on their own with minimal context. Even long courses can be broken up into more manageable pieces. Telling your learners ahead of time that each piece will only be a few minutes long will help people take in content at their own pace and, to your benefit, make it easier to access on mobile devices.
Make your learning content searchable
Searchability of content becomes critical to help learners find the information they need, when they need it. Bersin by Deloitte recently noted that 34 percent of organizations feel a lack of effective tools like search makes it difficult to find the most useful content. There is an overwhelming amount of information in most organizations, but you need the context and tools to make use of it.
Create an ecosystem for learning — desktop, laptop, tablet, mobile, e-books, classroom materials, and handouts
No one learns everything at one time, in one place. Think about the full learning ecosystem and all of the different types of content you produce. For example, around a given subject area or competency, you might have a classroom event, followed by job shadowing, 15-minute learning sprints, quick-reference guides and checklists, and a social site for bringing experts and novices together. These should all be part and parcel to the development process for learning content. You will find that the same bite-size pieces of content will be used over and over again across different applications of learning.
Choose your approach wisely
Some organizations think it just might be as easy as copying and pasting content. Sean Bengry, senior principal for learning strategy at Accenture, says, “Many companies say, ‘Let’s just convert our e-learning to a mobile-friendly format,’ but we’re discovering that that’s not the best way to do mobile learning.” The fact is, some of your content has to be reimagined or reformatted to work for mobile learners. One winning solution that has gained incredible traction over the last year is Responsive Web Design applied to learning materials. Because the majority of our learning content is now electronic, developing it in a responsive skin means that it will adapt to the device automatically based on design rules that you control.
Centralize content for learning delivery
Most organizations cannot rely on the Internet to serve up the right answers for their audiences. In order for your learners to access the right information anywhere, on any device, there needs to be a central source with cloud delivery that is owned and maintained by your staff, that can serve and track the various learning tools — be it e-learning, performance support, or classroom training.
The LMS is no longer the center of your learning ecosystem
Ten to 15 years ago, an LMS sat in the center of every significant learning organization — and that was probably the right approach. Now, an LMS can be a significant barrier to creating a holistic learning environment, particularly one that’s mobile-ready. Learning is distributed beyond the LMS and it’s only going to expand even further.
Those are six huge pieces of a wherever delivery strategy and it’s easy to be overwhelmed by it all. If you’re wondering where you can start and what will make the most impact quickly, Xyleme can help.
Xyleme offers a smart approach to delivering learning to mobile workforces
At Xyleme, we’ve heard the concerns and issues organizations have faced as they’ve taken the frustrating route to delivering their content on mobile devices. We’ve seen every difficult-to-use system, and we built our Content Delivery Service (CDS) to overcome most of those issues.
With our CDS in place, your content simply gets delivered where and when people need it by:
- Giving learners access to up-to-date content anywhere, on any device
- Adjusting your content automatically based on screen size and device capability
- Using a single source of content delivery, so updates and new content get delivered immediately to all systems of engagement, including LMSs, portals, and devices
- Protecting sensitive content through user and content permissions
- Focusing learning and development organizations on staying on top of developing the right resources, instead of fighting through delivery issues
- Building in best practices to deliver the best experience for learners
CDS can help your organization deliver all of its learning content to any device, which can include:
- Bite-size content, which helps uptake of content on mobile device
- Reusable content, to reduce redundancy across multiple modalities
- Updated content, for when things change and people need to be in the know
- Performance support, so your employees can access information just in time
Best of all, Xyleme’s CDS is the perfect match for a wherever learning content strategy. We can help you develop a content strategy and help you deploy to a primarily desktop-based learning environment while keeping you ready for the future of mobile learning. When you’re ready to flip the switch, you’ll be ready with mobile-enabled content that looks good and works well on every device. That means better and more accessible learning across your entire organization.
Ready to implement a wherever learning strategy or just want to learn more? Contact us today and let’s figure out the best way to create the right plan for your organization.