What types of content can you deliver to mobile devices? A more salient question is: What types of content should you deliver to mobile devices?

Tablets, and even smartphones, are outstanding platforms for many types of content but a poor fit for some other content. This article offers guidelines for deciding when to go mobile—and when not to.

What is your goal?

Is your content intended to teach learners new information or to refresh their memories by helping them recall information they’ve already learned? The difference is important.

Long, complex content, such as a training course or eLearning that introduces dense, detailed information, is better suited for delivery in an environment where learners can focus on the course and will spend more than a few minutes at a time working on it. But job aids and other performance support tools are perfect for mobile delivery.

What works best on mobile?

Few learners want to complete an in-depth course on mobile. It’s not a venue for “tiny courses,” according to Sarah Gilbert, president of meLearning Solutions. “Consider that the mobile format is really intended for quick, accessible information to help an individual perform a task. It isn’t ideal to turn lengthy, traditional eLearning modules into mobile courses.”

What is ideal? Mobile devices excel at delivering:

  • Just-in-time information—Job aids allow employees to quickly look up information like specs of a product, steps in a process, or the regulations that apply to a transaction they are working on. Searchable tools with quick facts or short videos are extremely useful on mobile devices.
  • Questions—Coaches and managers can use mobile tools to send questions that prompt learners to recall information they’ve learned recently or to reflect on an activity they’ve just completed. (See “Comcast Uses Mobile to Deepen Learning and Verify Skills” for an example.)
  • Reminders and encouragement—Chatbots and other tools nudge employees to complete goals they’ve set for themselves or that managers have set, or to complete paperwork by a deadline. (See “A Mobile Coach Can Help eLearning Stick” for an example.)

Don’t forget that mobile devices offer a two-way connection! Some innovative mobile learning programs encourage learners to use their mobile devices to take photos or record video as they complete tasks. The learners then send the images to their managers or coaches and get real-time feedback—helping them improve their performance, hone skills, and build confidence. And their managers can verify that the new hires are correctly completing vital procedures.

Who are your learners?

People of all ages are increasingly addicted to their mobile devices, enjoying social interaction and instant access to information: the latest news, the answer to a question that comes up in conversation, instructions for something they need to do right now, driving directions, or the location of the nearest coffee shop, mechanic, or emergency dentist.

Managers increasingly exploit that constant connection to provide employees with what they need to know when they need to know it. “Mobile learning is great for everyone, assuming they have a mobile device and could benefit from having information and guidance on-demand. This typically tends to be individuals that have to perform a task away from desktop computers, such as sales associates, field technicians, and factory workers,” Gilbert said.

Even among these groups of employees, some learners are more tuned in to the possibilities of mobile eLearning. Termed “guerrilla learners,” these employees are digitally savvy as well as being highly motivated to learn new things and improve their skills. Never without a fully charged mobile device, they’ll turn any free moment into a learning opportunity and excel at finding the app, video, or resource they need.

Other employees might be a tougher sell on mobile eLearning. For these learners, designers have to make mobile learning easy and appealing. Design is key here: Think about providing content within a single dedicated app—and teaching them how to find and use the app. Or consider a chatbot that calls on the same skills as texting.

Is mobile the right approach?

Gilbert’s advice for companies that are considering converting existing eLearning to mobile: “Re-think what your audience really needs, as well as how and when they will be accessing the information.” 

Many companies combine mobile learning with more traditional eLearning or instructor-led training elements. For example, if you’ve taught a group of technicians how to complete a process, you can send them tips via text messaging or a chatbot. When they are out in the field, they can use a mobile job aid to look up a detail they have forgotten or review a photo or video that shows a dicey part of the process.

If the goals and needs of learners, as well as their digital habits and work conditions, line up, mobile might be the best choice. “With an increase in telecommuting, the expectation to multitask on mobile devices, and a variety of other use cases, a mobile-first strategy can benefit any organization,” Gilbert said. 

Learn more!

Do you want to learn more about implementing a mobile learning program?

Sarah Gilbert is presenting two sessions at FocusOn Learning 2017 Conference & Expo in San Diego, California, June 20 – 22: Understanding the Terminology and Scope of Mobile Learning and Getting Started with Mobile Learning.

She is also leading a Pre-Conference Certificate Workshop, BYOL: Building Interactive eBooks for Mobile Learning, on June 19.

Dozens of additional sessions at FocusOn Learning 2017 allow you to take a deep dive into mobile eLearning strategies and best practices.