The company I work for is open to new technology, but technology spending often focuses on our primary business goals – and we are unlikely to base those goals on the latest smartphone. In order to introduce mobile learning, we require champions; we also need to ensure the business has confidence that our focus is on learning and not on cool gadgets. Ironically, in order to introduce concepts around mobile learning, we have some people using cool gadgets, like tablets, during some of their day-to-day work activities – such as note taking during meetings.

Look for opportunities to partner

This is an effective strategy because, usually, someone asks you about whatever tablet you are using. It's a free opening to discuss how you’re testing it and to share some of your plans for mobile learning. Responses have included:

  • We have a problem that learning might solve in our area of the business.
  • Tablets are toys and aren't a viable business tool yet (sometimes with a softer tone and sometimes not).

If someone suggests there is a learning problem mobile devices might solve, you likely have the makings of a project that connects to the business. This is your opportunity to partner with someone who may be able to help you get the budget you need to integrate mobility into your learning strategy.

Engage, even if the response is negative

You can manage dealing with this response like almost any perceived learning need: book some time to get together and perform a needs analysis. If there truly is a business need best solved through mobility, then you may have the project you've been waiting for to get started. The primary message here is you must still do a needs assessment in order to verify that mobility is the right solution, or you’ll risk creating a negative experience for your business partner.

If the reaction you receive is negative, you still have an opportunity. It’s a hard lesson to remember, but a negative reaction is still a sign of engagement – at least the person has an opinion. For the person who presents a negative reaction to the concept of mobile learning, you may need a tangible training example.

Give them a working example

We used money from the learning team budget to ‘port a common Web-based course to an iPad. Seeing a working example of mobile learning may not open the flood gates of requirements, but it will open minds. Another reason we adapted an existing course was price and access to expertise. The project budget was relatively small, since the content and learning objectives already existed and we already paid much of the cost related to instructional design and project management during the sourcing of the original WBT. The only money we spent related to the technical ability to run the course and quality assurance. 

Because the industry is still developing best practices in mobile learning, it’s easier to find access to good instructional design standards related to traditional Web-based training than to someone with expertise in mobile learning standards.

Start with what they know and need

Although the possibilities of mobile learning differ from those of traditional Web-based training, not everyone is aware of those opportunities yet. We heard The Green Hornet and The Lone Ranger on the radio before they were on TV or the movie screen. One reason they were adapted for other media is because of the built-in audience for the content. The familiarity the public had with the stories gave the programs a better chance of success. Creating familiarity with mobile devices and content is a key to introducing mobile learning to an organization.

Our first tablet-enabled training is a required health and safety course. It solves an issue for employees working in the field who are out of compliance but at a site where access to the Web-based training is difficult without a mobile version of the course. We can improve compliance, provide training to workers, and easily demonstrate a familiar course to managers. Success will increase demand for mobile solutions.

It takes more than talk

Talking about the potential of mobile learning may not be enough to get the ball rolling if the goal is to integrate mobile learning into your current learning strategy. Actual tablets in the hands of people are great symbols of progress. This also helps when having pragmatic discussions about how mobile learning might fit a real learning need. Additionally, starting with something familiar from a current Web-based training library may not showcase the full possibilities around mobile learning, but it might be easier to get the approval needed to build a more sophisticated product if you first build support with something recognizable.