Consulting For Mobile Learning: A Tale Of (At Least) Two Hats

Consulting For Mobile Learning: A Tale Of (At Least) Two Hats
Summary: As a matter of course, Instructional Designers are called upon to be flexible, adaptable, and ready to take on new challenges. I find this holds true in consulting for mobile learning solutions.

The Two Hats Instructional Designers Wear When Consulting For Mobile Learning 

Being adaptable is one of the keys to success as an Instructional Designer, especially in a world where the technology we leverage changes at such a rapid pace. As adaptable Instructional Designers, we wear many hats, but I suggest when discussing mobile learning solutions with clients you wear these particular two: Your learner advocate hat and your consultant hat.

Learner Advocate Hat

Mobile learning has become a complex discussion in our industry, and it’s imperative that we focus on “learning before delivery”. In other words, figure out what should be taught, and then determine whether mobile is the appropriate delivery modality. If learning can (and should) take place on mobile devices –after a thorough analysis, of course–, then great. Analysis is a requirement for mobile deployment. You wouldn’t just “go mobile” for the heck of it, right? Right? Right! Of course not.

I can’t talk about learning solutions without considering the end users, and that means asking the right questions. Do they know if learners will access learning on a mobile device? Which devices? What is the environment in which they’ll use those devices? Does the content lend itself to a mobile platform? From a business perspective, with mobile devices being so pervasive, what happens if the learners access content outside of normal working hours – are they compensated for that? Is it prohibited?

By keeping your learner advocate hat on, you envision the mobile learning solution through learners’ eyes, and then determine if mobile learning is the right solution and, if so, how it should function.

Consultant Hat

Just as I wouldn’t want to develop a mobile learning solution that’s not a good fit for learners, I wouldn’t want to waste my client’s time and money creating a solution that’s not effective. So I wear my consultant hat to help think about what’s in the client’s best interests.

Consulting for mobile learning and other solutions is such a big part of our job as Instructional Designers, and I believe we’re good at it because consulting is not just about research and guidance, it’s about being an educator. When a client tells me “We want to go mobile. We just want to take what you’re already developing and go mobile with it”, I see a perfect opportunity to show them why mobile learning requires a different approach. I see a perfect opportunity to show them why mobile learning requires a different approach. I also see a great opportunity to ask questions and educate them about what it means to “go mobile”.

For example, what do clients mean when they say they want to “go mobile”? Tablets? Phones? If the project is underway, how does this change the scope? There are many more questions to ask to ensure we maximize the client’s investment, which again reinforces the need for up-front analysis for mobile learning. My SweetRush colleague Clare Dygert and I created a taxonomy for mobile learning consulting that covers many of the questions you should be asking.

Remember: Consulting is not about taking orders, it’s about guiding your clients toward the most appropriate solution and educating them along the way, and that means wearing your learner advocate hat while you are consulting.

You might be thinking that it’s difficult to wear two hats at the same time. Or you might be asking “What if what’s right for the learners isn’t aligned to the client’s budget or timeline?”. This is where adaptability comes into play, along with creativity. In this case, you might suggest a phased approach, starting by laying the groundwork for mobile learning and adding engaging features later on. Or you might focus on delivering one part of your program as mobile learning to test the waters. Brainstorming these kinds of solutions with your two hats on will ensure that you do right by your learners and your clients.

For a fun look at the many different hats that instructional designers wear, check out my favorite Instructional Design meme, developed by Arizona State University.



Shauna Vaughan, along with her colleague Clare Dygert, will present the webinar “One Step Ahead: Consulting on Mobile Learning Strategy” on Thursday, January 21st, at 10 am PT | 11 am MT | 12 pm CT | 1 pm ET. Sign up here to join them!