Getting Mobile Learning Right: 6 Best Practices

Getting Mobile Learning Right: 6 Best Practices
Summary: The delivery of learning has always been influenced by technical and media trends, but none have been as important as mobile technology. The fact that most people employed in an organization have access to “at least one” mobile device means that mobile learning is an important element for Learning and Development strategies.

6 Mobile Learning Best Practices 

That said, getting mobile learning right is a challenge. When you look at the mobile app industry from a distance, it is a highly successful industry – there seems to be an app for everything after all. However, a very high proportion of these apps will fail to make an impression on us, and there are many reasons for this, from design to functionality to subject matter to lack of marketing. From a learning perspective it is important to be aware of this – more precisely it is important to have a clear understanding of what a mobile user expects from mobile apps.

Face to face or computer-based learning should not be just automatically converted for delivery to a mobile device. The way we use our mobile devices is dramatically different, and understanding this will make your mobile learning successful. We spend just over 120 minutes per day on mobile apps while accessing our mobile devices approximately 150 times per day. In most cases, we are on our mobile device for a very short period of time.

So, how much time should mobile learning content take? 

The question of how long an element of learning should last on a mobile device is therefore a critical one and is primarily down to the subject matter and engagement.

  • 2 Minute Learning.
    Most appropriate for:

    • Reaffirming knowledge through interactive knowledge checks.
    • Delivering updates to existing knowledge.
  • 5 Minute Learning.
    Most appropriate for (including the above):

    • Short interactive learning games.
    • Short learning videos.
    • Game based knowledge checks.
  • 10 Minute Learning.
    Most appropriate for (including the above):

    • High level of interactive game-based learning.
    • Integration of social learning.
    • Access to learning resources such as: YouTube, Wikipedia, or internal resources.

Delivering mobile learning with this approach engages the people within the learning process more effectively. Mobile phone users will start to schedule their learning around their day to day mobile device activities – as and when they need it.

Best Practices In Mobile Learning Design

In the app world the top 3 app categories are: Games, social media and entertainment. This means that we seek engagement, information, and interaction, and for many years these have been the top 3 priorities of any eLearning solution. So what makes apps in these categories successful?

  1. Subject matter. 
    Subject matter is critical for a successful app. Not all learning can be delivered on a mobile device, however a mobile device can support all methods of learning. This is an important factor when applying mobile learning to your learning and development strategy.
  2. Easy to follow navigation.
    It goes without saying that navigation is key; however eLearning can be guilty of overcomplicated navigational structures. With mobile apps we need to be mindful of overcomplicating screens with clickable (touchable) icons and opening other apps/browsers over learning content. Take a simplistic approach to navigating.
  3. Interactions.
    Mobile device users interact with their apps. Unless they are viewing videos (which all need to be engaging), people want to engage with the learning on their device. Getting a balance between what you are reading and interacting with is essential.
  4. Social interaction.
    There are two elements to social interaction: 1) competitive learning and 2) supportive learning. Competitive learning is linked with a game-based approach. If the subject matter lends itself well to game-based learning then an effective competitive approach will ensure that there is strong interest and ultimately a repetitive approach to learning. Our desire to network with others using our mobile devices almost creates an expectation that learning should also enable this approach.  Supportive learning leads to a strong community approach to learning, and this is essential for any organization driving performance among its people.
  5. Game mechanics.
    When a game approach is used within learning, it must become part of the learning otherwise it is just a game with no learning context. Knowledge checks provide a great opportunity to embed games within learning. This can be very effective especially for those short 2 minute learning approaches where learners just want to refresh their knowledge. The game provides the engagement and the learning is delivered effectively, especially when linked with competitive learning.
  6. Goals and rewards.
    As with any learning course goals are essential and having the ability to promote our goals is good too. Badgification has become an important factor in validating performance development. From a motivational view point badges reflect the time and effort learners apply to developing their skills. While there are aspects of competitiveness within this, it is more designed in promoting skill development and the effectiveness of learning within an organization.

In conclusion, mobile devices are fast becoming the first choice of learning technology delivery. However structure and control is necessary to ensure that it is suitable for your learners and business. An effective approach to mobile learning can provide this control. The positives completely outweigh the negatives in mobile learning, however consideration must be given to the mobile device users and their behavior.