I recently had the opportunity to write a short article for ELearning! Magazine on the topic "When Mobility Meets Learning". It gave me an opportunity to share a series of questions that I have been asking my clients over the years whenever they have started thinking about whether or not a technology learning project makes sense for their organization.
With laptops, notebooks, netbooks, tablets, feature phones, smart phones, iPods, iPhones and iPads at the ready, the question may not be if one is going to look for opportunities to try a mobile learning initiative, but when it is going to be time to “go mobile”. When thinking about adding mobile services to your enterprise’s learning technology portfolio, it is useful to give some serious thought to WHY a mobile learning initiative makes sense. Without establishing a baseline for assessing and evaluating costs relative to outcomes the likelihood of being able to demonstrate value and impact will be compromised.
With this in mind...
Why a mobile learning project? What is it that a mobile learning project will allow you to do that you could not do before?
What do you really want to do? Is the fascination with the attraction of offering learning stakeholders something new and different? Are there people in the field who won’t have the resources they need without a mobile learning solution? Are you simply curious, and just want to see what happens?
How you know when you have met your goal? How will you know if your mobile initiative made a difference?
What unique result do you want your mobile learning effort to achieve?
What technologies do you need to get started? What devices will you support? What network will you use? What carrier will you choose? Will you establish strict selection policies, or will you try to integrate everyone’s devices regardless of operating system?
For whom is your mobile initiative intended? Will it be for everyone, or will you focus more on the needs of traveling staff, or will it be aimed more at remote, distributed and field based personnel?
What will your stakeholders need to be successful? Will they know what is expected? Will they need training or orientation sessions to understand what they need to do?
How are you going to fund it? How are you going to sustain it, and for how long?
How will you evaluate your effectiveness? What will you tell your sponsoring executives when you go back for next year’s budget request and they ask you to justify your program?
Although mobile learning certainly brings its own unique challenges, the good news is that many of the antecedents of mobile learning have prepared learning technology stakeholders for the journey ahead. In reflecting upon Christiansen’s notion of disruptive innovations, Penny Wilson has described mobile wireless devices—such as cell phones, handhelds, and notebook computers—as “tools of mass disruption” that are going to help spark a period of innovation for learning technology stakeholders of all kinds. While these devices may not yet be completely ubiquitous, reliable or rich, it is already clear that mobility is changing life as we know it. Our challenge as learning professionals is to make mobile learning so compelling that stakeholders continue to see possibilities, not problems.