The persistence of our love affair with smartphones and tablets makes one thing clear: It's time to give up that crazy hope some of us may have been holding onto that there's no need to invest in mobile learning.
It's a fad. Why hound the C-suite to green-light investing in mobile when it will likely become obsolete before you finally get budget for it, right? Nope.
By next year, it's estimated that two billion people worldwide will be using smartphones; tablet users are expected to top one billion by 2018. That's a lot of opportunity (and motivation) for learning functions to put training in the hands of employees--literally. And the fact is, mobile learning is already ubiquitous.
Although formal organizational mobile learning has long seemed poised for take-off, launch time isn't even in countdown phase yet for most organizations. The Mobile Landscape 2015: Building Toward Anytime, Anywhere Learning (i4cp members: download the white paper that summarizes the key findings), the latest research collaboration between i4cp and ATD, found only a third of the 411 professionals surveyed earlier this year reported that their organizations had mobile learning programs, and most said theirs were informal.
With so many people (employees) attached to their mobile devices to the degree that they have become defacto appendages at this point, why isn't mobile technology revolutionizing workplace learning in huge numbers of organizations?
There are multiple answers to that question, ranging from security concerns and technological capabilities to the usual dearth of funding and instructional design quandaries. But beyond the standard what-obstacles-are-you-encountering sort of query, maybe a more relevant question is: What kind of revolution do we expect?
If we've learned nothing else from the rapid pace of change in our world--and especially the lightning-fast evolution of technologies--it should be that even change doesn't look the same these days. So maybe the mobile-driven revolution in organizational learning isn't unfolding as we'd imagined either.
Consider this: technology enables interactions that cause enormous changes, but big events happen with less fanfare--crowd-sourced problem-solving (Foldit, EteRNA) and crowdfunding (Kickstarter, Crowdfunder) are prime examples. Problem-solving and funding look different now. So maybe organizational learning does, too.
The fact is, we all engage in mobile learning and microlearning every day, whether we're on the job or not. Need to know the best route from the office to your next client meeting? Chances are your smartphone is your go-to resource. The CEO mentioned a term you didn't know during the company meeting this morning. Did you discreetly pull up Dictionary.com on your iPhone while still sitting at the conference room table? How about that prospect call you were asked to jump on unexpectedly and you needed a quick talking point or two about the caller's company? Smartphone in hand, you pulled up the brief intel you needed and just in time to sound as if you'd done your homework days before.
Clearly, all of those situations are examples of organizational learning, though you won't see them quantified in our study. But the reality is that learning occurs in many ways. The kind of structured learning created by our learning functions, the sort we recognize easily, is crucial. It has to happen if companies are to thrive. And that's what the study is about. Our formal research is vital in profiling that learning and identifying the best practices that move it ahead (including how to deliver it via mobile devices).
But while we're waiting for that familiar-looking revolution in learning to unfold, maybe we shouldn't fail to notice the revolution we didn't see coming. It's already here and already changed our lives--and it's bringing mobile learning to work every day.