Archive for the ‘performance support’ Tag

SMS for Mobile Learning

Image of hand using mobile phone for text messaging

SMS for mobile learning

In the last post, I talked about some ways that you could use voice in mobile learning. I’m going to attempt to show some ways that you could use SMS or text messaging for mobile learning. There are lots of ways that SMS could be used. I liked the simple example that I saw when working for a previous company. An individual in the knowledge management group decided to simply pose questions to a group of students in a class. Each question was carefully crafted to be simple enough to answer in 140 characters, while still requiring real thought. This is sort of like running a forum through text messages, but the great thing about it is that… it’s mobile. Learners can tend to those questions anytime they have a free moment, without needing to be near a PC or needing to login to any kind of system. Our administrator (the knowledge management worker) was able to collect the responses and pass them to the instructor so he could see them and he loved the idea.

Beyond that, there are a lot of more advanced solutions that use more technology than the SMS text itself. I’ve used PollEverywhere in presentations and I’ve seen it used in the classroom. The PollEverywhere service allows your learners to respond to polling questions through SMS and a web interface for devices equipped with a modern browser. The beauty of a service like this is that you can see the results right away and so can your learners. Check out the 1 minute video on the site for an overview.

If you’re more inclined to tackle the technical side of all this, you can setup an SMS gateway. It’s not trivial, but you can configure your service to be flexible for your needs.

You can also setup a support number for learners. Learners could send texts to that number and receive feedback from an expert or a group of support personnel. Think about how you can support your eLearning and mLearning resources. The simplicity of text based communication is where it really shines.

Where Does the mLearning Go?

learning within the task

Task based learning with mobile devices


We talk a lot about mobile learning in a general sense. Most learning professionals agree that it’s at least another tool in our arsenal and certainly could be very valuable to learners. But two questions come to mind when I reflect on my conversations with students and learning professionals:

Where does mLearning fit in?

What does mLearning look like?

I wouldn’t want to suggest that we only use a particular strategy for mLearning. Like all technology, mobile should only be used when it makes sense and helps your learners accomplish a learning task. But one place that you can really start to help your learners is within the task that the learner is performing. This means that you need to know what your learners are doing. I recently did a survey of my core group of learners within my previous company (I just moved to a new employer). The survey focused on a few things, but mobile tasks were one of the major areas. I wanted to know what the learners within my group were doing with their mobile devices… so I asked them, and I got some good answers. I did a session on this at the eLearning Guild’s latest online forum, and I found that while phone calls and email were the two biggest mobile activities performed by our learners, text messaging and web browsing/searching were right up there. These results may not surprise you, I guess I figured that communication would be one of the most useful functions of a mobile device! But knowing that people are using their mobile browsers, their voice capabilities and their text messaging capabilities allows us to think about how we could embed learning into those capabilities.

I’ll take a cut at the first of those in this post, and I’ll cover the others in subsequent posts. Let’s start with voice calls:

Voice calls – how can we support learning before a phone call takes place?

My ideas: Most of my learners had iPhones or Android phones. My first reflex is to use the browser. We know that those learners can use a WiFi connection on their device while making a phone call (provided that one is available). So we could look to build a simple interface to support those learners with their corporate phone calls by providing access to different learning resources that are designed to be easy to read and otherwise accessible to our mobile learners. I believe the simplicity of the interface and the content is key because the learner’s attention will be divided between their phone call and their attempt to view the resource. The content could range from immediate data to support the substance of the phone call to coaching suggestions that a learner could reference when talking to a client or even a checklist of things to cover during the call. You may say that some of these are straight performance support and not “learning”, but I am in favor of learning professionals owning all of that since we are the ones who know how to structure content for learning… why shouldn’t we be making the performance support content?!

Another option – Provide voice coaching to the person who is in the conversation. You could help learners by embedding actual coaching through voice to the learner. This strategy has been used to teach and coach help desk and support technicians for some time now and has shown itself to be effective in the field of customer support.

Another option –

Provide text messaging based question and answer services. Basically, a learner could be on a call and send simple text message questions to a system or individual. The individual or automated system on the receiving end would respond immediately with an answer. People use this method all the time when they are on a phone call with one person and they need information from another. I was recently on a call with one friend, who asked me what time my flight landed, I was visiting him in his city. I didn’t know, so I sent a text message to my other friend who bought the tickets since we were traveling together. I got an answer back during the phone call and was able to provide an answer. We could automate this model with any number of text-based Q&A systems (just do a search).

These are just suggestions, so feel free to comment on your thoughts and suggestions. In the next post, I’ll make some suggestions regarding email.