New Report Reinforces Mobile Learning is Best as Performance Support

I just read an article titled, “Smartphones Make IBM Smarter, But Not As Expected” about IBM and Columbia University’s recent study on the behavior and effects of mobile learning within IBM. The study was very insightful, and the findings support the notion that m-Learning is currently best consumed in the form of performance support material. Employees in the study used mobile content that helped them find information about clients and other employees at the point of need before communicating with clients. Employees did not find the mobile courseware to be particularly helpful. This may be the nature of their jobs, so I don’t think this means that mobile courseware of any kind is not useful. We’ve seen examples of compliance training work for other organizations, so there is room in the mobile world for certain types of courseware. However, this study does point to mobile performance support, delivering context relevant content quickly and efficiently as a major enabler for productivity. I would urge you to go to the ASTD Web site and get a copy of the article. Here are some main highlights:

  • “surveyed 400 employees about their use of mobile devices to access company information”
  • employees used mobile information “for two main purposes: in-field performance support from colleagues and access to late-breaking information”
  • “IBM employees, especially sales¬persons and managers, need current, just-in-time information that is relevant to their specific task and contextual to their environment.”
  • “generally dislike having to learn any new user interface;” – go with established norms
  • “employees seem to prefer fewer options and less information on their mobile phones than would be available on their desktop computers”
  • “Mobile phone users typically have more immediate, goal-directed intentions than desktop users. The former know what they seek and rarely deviate from the path toward finding that information. Presenting only the most critical information, mi¬nus extraneous and potentially distract¬ing segments, is far more desirable than offering a wealth of opportunities.”
  • “As a result of the study, IBM has shifted its mobile learning focus from delivering formal learning modules to creating just-in-time performance support systems. IBM is now building a new system for executive sellers that provides, via mobile phones, reference checklists of critical information that is useful when preparing for client meetings.”
  • “In June 2009, IBM announced a $100 million investment in mobile research over the next five years, focusing on mobile enablement, emerging markets, and enterprise-to-end-user experience.”

The article also includes some good design tips, so definitely do what you can to get a copy of it. It was $10 to download. The article is in the January 2010 Issue of Training and Development Magazine.

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