To See Where Mobile Learning Should Be, Consider The Context of Work
By Caleb Johnson, Director of Strategic Accounts, Expertus
Did you know that, by 2017, there will be more smartphones on the planet than people? According to Cisco Systems estimates, we’ll see an average of 1.4 devices per person globally, and 2.2 per person in the U.S. Not only that, but we’ll also be far more engaged with those devices — driving an estimated 13x more data traffic.
For those of us who already keep our smartphones within arm’s reach almost 24-hours a day, it may be hard to imagine being even more connected in the future.
But, in truth, it’s not just about the connection. It’s not even about the phone. Technology doesn’t proliferate at such a mind-blowing pace on its own merits. What matters most is the way it improves the quality of our personal and professional lives. Ultimately, we choose to “make it stick” only when it meets or exceeds our expectations.
So, what does that mean for the rapidly evolving realm of social and mobile learning in the enterprise? I think it’s a mandate for anyone involved in transforming that process. Unless we focus first on human expectations for workflow and interaction, we are destined to fall short.
Recently, I watched a TED Talk that is quickly becoming a classic. Jason Fried, founder of the productivity application company, 37Signals addresses a critical question: “Why doesn’t work happen at work?”
As Jason’s presentation unfolds, a paradox becomes clear: Historically, businesses have built offices, assuming that workers would go to those places to get things done. Makes sense, right? But ironically, most of us think of our work space in a very different context. When we want to focus and be productive, we actually prefer other settings.
If you’re a learning professional, you probably see a similarity. For years, training organizations have implemented learning management systems, anticipating that workers would “go there” to “do learning.” But of course, workers don’t think of learning in that context.
Catching Up With Contextual Learning
What’s the solution? We must innovate from the ground up, in ways that seamlessly support today’s social, mobile workforce. Where to start? Look closer at the realities of the networked enterprise. As BYOD initiatives kick into high gear, and the fuzzy line between personal and professional lives gets even fuzzier, workers expect that data will continuously be made available to them “in context.”
For example, as I talk with corporate learning professionals about their priorities, I often hear requests like this:
“I want our learning systems to seamlessly connect with our company calendar. Why should we be forced to move through three extra steps simply to request a class invitation, or to open an ical file?”
That’s a perfectly reasonable expectation, given the popularity of cloud-based consumer applications that provide a rich contextual user experience. After all, if I get hungry when I’m shopping, I can point my smartphone camera down the street and within minutes I can: 1) See the names of surrounding coffee shops and restaurants; 2) Compare menus, prices, and ratings; 3) Pinpoint the best and worst tables, and 4) Check-in at the most popular spot. What’s more, that intelligent app may even recommend a place that serves my favorite dish. I’m ready to go, even before I leave the store. Easy!
Such powerful simplicity is a tough act for enterprise learning to follow, but companies can’t afford to settle for less. Technically, many existing LMS platforms can now send a class calendar invite along with a registration notification. However, the data resides in disparate systems, where it’s difficult to combine and transform. And for LMS users, the function is never presented in context.
Rising To New Requirements
Layering new functionality on top of isolated, antiquated learning infrastructure won’t accomplish the ultimate goal. Incremental band-aids don’t respond to the expectations of today’s workforce. The best way out of this LMS box is through cloud-based approaches — whether the box remains in place or not.
Enterprise workers already rely on cloud-driven smartphone or tablet apps to accomplish all sorts of tasks — from managing schedules and maintaining to-do lists, to curating reference information and sharing project files, to collaborating at virtual meetings and cultivating professional relationships.
Learning apps should fit right in to that context without manual intervention. For example, my formal training events should sync with my calendar, I should automatically be alerted if there’s a conflict, and as my smartphone schedule shifts, those changes should carry all the way back to the learning system.
Likewise, when I’m between meetings on the road, if I want to browse through the training calendar, I should be able to fire-up an app and see only relevant courses — those that map to my job and my learning plan, and are offered when and where I’m available. The system should remember who I am and apply my preferences as my profile and professional development evolve.
This same concept applies to social interactions. Today, in one step on a phone I can share a picture, a contact or a song. I can see where my friends are located on a map and start a video chat with very little effort. So why can’t I open a single app to see who’s attending a class with me and connect with them (just like Facebook)? Why can’t I see the instructor’s qualifications and read reviews by prior participants? Why can’t I download required reading and submit assignments and complete a feedback form — all with the same app? We should expect no less.
A Promising Challenge
We live in exciting times. Dramatic advancements in how we interact with our “smart-devices” at work and at play have created both a luxury and a curse. We now expect the elegance of social tools like Twitter and Pinterest to be expressed in every application we touch. Cloud technology creates an opportunity to consolidate data from across the enterprise, put all of it into context, and greatly enrich the workplace learning experience. And at Expertus, we’re thrilled to lead the way.
Note from Caleb: To see how a cloud-based platform like the ExpertusONE LMS can transform learning for your extended enterprise, learn more at our website or feel free to contact us anytime for a personalized consultation and demo.
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