5 Disruptive Trends That Will Alter Your Mobile Strategy

March 6, 2012 Sarah Danzl

I attended a webinar two week’s ago featuring Stacey Harris of Brandon Hall Group and Mark Hellinger of Xyleme. The topic of conversation was this idea of going mobile with your learning; a hot topic in the learning space no doubt. They touched on the concept that learning expectations have shifted with all of the new technology, which has caused change among those who are initially developing the content. Furthermore, while social media monitoring and exploring, I am seeing an increase in not only speculation of that point, but a firm belief from others in the industry that there IS a shift happening in todays learning market. People haven’t exactly been able to call it by name, but its being felt. People are feeling a shift from the current learning demands of just getting the information out there, to infinite accessibility and readability. There is an incredible demand for data, social interactions and collaboration today, in what people are deeming the “communication age” or the “social age.” Stacey and Mark pulled no punches in their discussion of what it’s going to take for learning organizations to launched successful mobile learning initiatives and discussed a number of disruptive trends that are making organizations rethink their entire mobile content strategy.

Convenience is critical

Perhaps putting the most demand on companies today is this idea that for organizations to be successful, there must be a convenience factor; you must get the content to people the way they want to read or use it, on the devices they want, in any format they choose. This is of course different from the previous way of thinking that implies just having the content out there and accessible is enough. No longer; “if you build it, they will neither come nor participate,” commented Stacey Harris during last weeks webinar. As is possible with all change, this is causing massive disruption in the current way people are developing learning content.

Social and mobile converge

“They’re [organizations are] not only being asked about their Mobile Learning strategy, but the social networking and the ability to connect people in a community that can help them learn,” voiced Mark Hellinger, President & CEO of Xyleme, “This is just, you know, a massive disruptive moment here.”

Another major shift happening is signified by the convergence of social learning and mobile learning, which is demanding a more agile approach to content development. More specifically, organizations are moving away from big, monolithic courses with annual update cycles to content that can be update in much shorter cycles of two to three months to support the constantly changing learner expectations. This ties specifically into the third learning shift.

Social feedback becomes part of the content development process

It is more important now than ever before that content developers should be easily able update and manipulate the content based on collaborative feedback and user ratings. This further proves the point that Stacey Harris, Vice President of Research and Advisory Services at Brandon Hall Group, makes that it is all about the people. It is all about the way the people need to be reached to improve their reception of the content. Technology and the consumers are changing; it only makes sense that the content development and delivery should too.

Learning is consumer driven

The fourth main idea here behind the convergence of social and mobile is that more than ever, content development and delivery is being driven by the consumer.

“What consumers are looking for is the same experiences that they’re getting when they download any other business application that they’re using on their mobile environment,” commented Stacey Harris. “So what they’re looking for are things like easy to use and intuitive environment.”

Let me point out that I understand that these things are much easier said then implemented, because most of the previously used tools had been designed around what was easy for the instructional designer.

In this consumer driven environment,

“It’s not about you know, the learning management system.  It’s all about the content” commented Mark Hellinger. “I look at this in a way that’s not about the learning content developers, but it’s about what content are the people consuming, how do they want to get it, how personal is it, and so on.”

This shift in focus is a big change not only for the learning industry but for business organizations in general. This idea that it is less about just getting the content out there for general use, but instead getting it out there so that it is customized to how the consumer needs and wants it. Smart phones were the catalyst in the mobile space in changing the way people were receiving content, but since, other aggregators like tablets have continued to pushed the envelope. All of these mobile devices have created very specific and very different sets of learning expectations.

This is seemingly the key to all of the current disruption, that the developers and designers are no longer driving content creation, but the consumers and their learner requirements are.

“Some of them are being driven not only by the delivery, you know, expectations and what they’re seeing in their own environment from a technology perspective, but are also being driven by how they’re currently interacting with the world around them, which is where social learning comes in” echoes Stacey Harris.

I just want to take this opportunity to clarify an important point:  social platforms do not equal social learning. Informal learning also does not equal social learning. It is not enough to create a social platform and get your content out on it. Social learning absolutely has value and purpose, but it must be done correctly.

Stacey Harris answers:

“It’s a form of learning which the learner acquires information, skills and knowledge from interaction with formal and informal members of, as I said, a group, but more importantly it’s learning that’s affected by the act of learning in a group.”

While people are interacting socially on mobile devices, that doesn’t make it social learning.

This leads into the fifth type of disruption: the misconception that people are learning on their smart phones. Based on research done by Brandon Hall, people are not really spending their time “learning” when on their smart phones.  People are using their smart phones for weather, games, and the GPS or map features compared to tablets where people are searching, buying and spending time there.

Mark Hellinger frequently speaks to this point, saying

“M-Learning means different things to different people.  Tablets are great learning devices.  And Smartphones are great performance support devices.  They’re not better than Tablets, but they’re more ubiquitous. The ability to learn is different than the ability to get information.”

In summary, disruption means having a comprehensive content strategy. To be relevant in the current space, you have to have a strategy that encompasses more than just social media accounts. Consumers are demanding their feedback be heard and implemented. And enacted quickly. If you take only one thing from this post, understand that the main importance to be getting the content to the consumer anytime, on the devices they are already on and in the format they want.

About the Author

Sarah Danzl

Sarah manages the public face of Xyleme, overseeing all PR and Customer Communication. She is a specialist in written communications, media relations and reputation management. One of her favorite aspects of her job at Xyleme is working with the customers on on joint initiatives, including award applications.

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