Building The Business Case For Mobile Learning: Faster Learning Through Mobile

Building The Business Case For Mobile Learning: Faster Learning Through Mobile
Summary: In this article, we will explore the role of deliberate practice for faster knowledge building and how businesses can create a case for using mobile learning to help their staff build expertise.

What You Need To Know About Building The Business Case For Mobile Learning

One of the challenges for any Learning Manager or Director is to present a persuasive business case in order to try out a new training method, project, or approach. Building that business case can be difficult, but without good arguments in favor of training innovation, true employee development can’t happen.

In this article, we will look at a case study of an enterprise that chose to be bold and embrace mobile, self-directed learning for its large, distributed workforce. The name of the enterprise in this story has been changed, but the case is based on a real life, forward-thinking business that found and substantiated a great business case for building expertise through Practi mobile learning.

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Mobile Learning Case Study: The Paperless City

Problem Statement: Governments have a public responsibility for saving costs, creating efficiency and becoming more environmentally responsible. As a result, many branches of government are now moving more of their operations online. Digital operations and services can be a huge time and cost-saver and the business case to go paperless is well established.

However, if the workforce is not technically confident or has limited knowledge about important  things like cyber secure behaviors and safe computing, then cyber threats are a dangerous business risk during the transition to paperless. The risk is significant, too, since any cyber attack could quickly shut down government systems that are essential to the public.

Background: The town of Cityville is a medium-sized midwestern municipality with a workforce of approximately 5000 and they have recently purchased mobile tablets for use in all departments. Their leadership team has set a goal to become paperless by 2018. Their customers and citizens are excited because this environmentally-friendly goal includes online hosting of nearly all of Cityville’s  divisional operations, as well as many public services.

Objectives: With the goal of moving to digital, the leadership at Cityville needed to make sure that all 5000 of their team members have essential ICT security knowledge including basic password security behaviors, knowing about the difference between strong and weak passwords, how to use two factor authentication, and how to use password management tools.

Why Expertise Matters To This Business: If Cityville can get their entire 5000 member team trained and prepared to safely transition their operations to digital, it means this municipality can quickly reap the large cost savings of going paperless sooner, can offer easier access to information and services for their public faster, and can achieve their goal of generating less paper waste by 2018. When their leadership team can verify that all staff are competent regarding safe online behaviors, their systems will be far more secure.

The town of Cityville chose to deliver their “Cyber Security” course using Practi’s self-directed mobile LMS. They knew that this short course content could easily be converted into micro-learning and distributed it on mobile first to their leadership and management.

They also chose to use mobile to train on digital security since it is the municipality’s responsibility to the public to properly handle sensitive online transactions, services and documents such as  program registration and permit applications.

With an increase in recent news stories about government shutdowns due to cyber security threats, the leadership at Cityville considered it essential to their role as a public service provider to assure their residents that city staff are experts in cyber-safe behavior and that their move to digital services will happen in a safe and efficient manner.

Acquiring Expertise: How Cityville Used Deliberate Practice For Expertise Building

In the case of Cityville needing to quickly get a large team up-to-speed on the rules of cyber security and safe computing practices, the good news was that all of their training content was declarative knowledge which is perfectly suited material for rapid mobile learning.

Build Declarative Knowledge With Deliberate Practice

The easiest description of declarative knowledge is simply “knowledge that can be declared in spoken or written form”. For example: Let’s say I want to learn how to stitch a wound. Let’s also assume that I have practiced some course material and I can speak the steps I will need to steady my hand and prepare to stitch. I can describe how to prepare the wound and supplies, how to keep the wound sterile, the physical properties of the sutures and even how they will help the skin form a bond.

This is all declarative knowledge and, with repetition, reflection, feedback and practice, I could become an expert in the declarative knowledge related to stitching people’s wounds. This might not mean I am ready to perform the action of stitching someone’s wound but it is one of many cases where strong declarative knowledge can really support expert performance (and is arguably necessary before I try stitching anything).

Similarly, the team at Cityville recognized that their Cyber Security course was entirely declarative knowledge: Definitions of safe and unsafe actions, lists of do’s and don’ts, legal policy and procedures, roles and responsibilities. They knew that evidence supports deliberate practice as one of the most effective ways for learners to rapidly acquire and strengthen declarative knowledge.

Rapid mobile learning is an excellent training delivery method for the deliberate practice of declarative knowledge (the rules of stitching), as opposed to the deliberate practice of performative skills (the actual stitching). In many cases that are important to business, the declarative knowledge (and expertise of it) is necessary to precede the performative expertise.

It was important to Cityville that their team had deep expertise in the declarative knowledge about cyber security before they began the action of moving sensitive operations to digital.

What Is Deliberate Practice?

“Practice isn’t the thing you do once you’re good. It’s the thing you do that makes you good.” - Malcolm Gladwell

Deliberate practice is the best, fastest, and most efficient way to build expertise. When we structure our learning with the explicit goal of improving our performance and practicing in ways that challenge us, we engage in deliberate practice.

This way of learning is much different from practicing for the sake of practicing. With deliberate practice, learners test the boundaries of their abilities and knowledge in order to expand and build expertise.

According to Ericsson, Krampe, and Tesch-Romer’s influential 1993 study [1], expertise is linked more clearly to deliberate practice than it is to innate talent. While some people have a natural affinity for certain activities, we don’t have to be naturally good at something to achieve expertise — that comes from deliberate practice.

Expertise Matters To Business And Mobile Delivers Expertise

Not only is deliberate practice the best way to acquire expertise, but it is the best way to acquire declarative knowledge. When we put effort into practice that is intentional, we streamline our path to expertise. Mobile learning systems like Practi, which are designed for the delivery and measurement of deliberate practice, can significantly speed up the acquisition and retention of declarative knowledge.

A major business outcome for building expertise is that businesses can reduce costs and save money. In the case of Cityville, they were able to convert their course content easily and deliver their Cyber Security courses in the most efficient way by using deliberate practice on mobile. Their team, as facilitated by the Practi software, followed the behaviours of deliberate practice and spaced their learning, regulated their practice, and achieved high competency in the subject of Cyber Security within a very short time.

Using learning analytics available with mobile learning, the leadership team at Cityville was able to confidently determine that a high level of competency had been achieved regarding the declarative knowledge surrounding safe computing practices. This meant that they could go forward and implement their move to becoming paperless more quickly, achieving the cost savings that comes with digital operations.

Valuing Expertise Makes Business Sense

Businesses that value expertise remain highly competitive in finding innovative ways to be economical. When enterprises such as the Cityville case transition their operations to a paperless digital platform, they can enjoy large cost savings and resource reduction.  And if they can build expertise across their divisions by training on issues of cyber security, they can make the move quickly and with confidence that their team will safely perform.


  1. The Role of Deliberate Practice in the Acquisition of Expert Performance