*This article is written by Dennis Lamberti who is the Development Director and co-founder of Media Works, the largest Private Adult Basic Education and Training provider in South Africa.
Online learning (e-learning), a popular and well implemented method of educating, has disrupted the traditional pen and paper learning in a classroom teaching environment, particularly when it comes to adult education.
The benefits of online learning are numerous. It is a more efficient, and often cost-effective, way to teach, and learners can enjoy multi-faceted lessons through infographics, presentations and videos, as well as peer support and the ability to learn at their own pace.
E-learning, however, is typically one-way communication, and you need to be at a computer or work station to access the learning material via the internet.
Mobile learning takes online learning to the next level; it is not simply e-learning on a mobile device, it is a new way of creating, formatting and delivering information that engages and communicates with the learner in exciting and innovative ways.
The content is more mobile-specific and is characterised by on-demand, self-paced learning across multiple contexts. Instead of long-form notes and modules, the learners can digest short, bite-sized micro lessons, a technique that has been seen to improve knowledge retention and lead to better engagement with the training materials.
READ: SA schools falling off the e-learning deep end
Anywhere, anytime and offline
Possibly the best justification for mobile learning is that learners are able to access information and gain knowledge immediately and on the go, rather than having to sit down in a fixed location.
Through m-learning, you no longer require a desktop computer or cumbersome laptop. The mobile device allows learning to happen at any time and at any place. Whether you are travelling on a taxi, bus or train, waiting at the airport or for a meeting, the mobile device gives you instant access to your learning content.
Adding to this, when m-learning is done right, learners will be able to access information even when the mobile device is not connected to the internet. This could be done through a mobile app that has the capability to function offline.
If a learner is travelling to an area with no internet connection, the app should be able to download the lessons and store them for use at a later stage. All activity will be stored locally, until connection has been re-established and the data is then uploaded back to the server.
The offline capability is imperative part of mobile education in South Africa as mobile data is expensive and WiFi is not always available. There are vast areas of our country without any signal at all. So, whether you are 37 000 feet in a plane or studying at home in a rural village, you will always have access to your course material.
Educate your workforce to keep up
You may have hired individuals who are perfectly skilled for their job roles, but with constantly changing technology and business innovation moving at rapid rates, you might not realise that your competent employees are becoming “under-qualified” at a rapid rate.
READ: SA needs 'urgent' digital teacher training
Through m-learning, you can distribute ongoing training, to keep your staff on top of the latest industry trends and ensure that they have the knowledge needed to stay a cut above the rest.
By assisting your employees in dealing with change, they will be better equipped to solve unexpected problems when they arise. It’s estimated that one-fifth of work time is spent searching and gathering information, rather than performing work for an organisation.
If your employees are ahead of the trends and have the new information at their fingertips, your organisation will be far more productive and proactive.
Attract and retain Millennials
Millennials, born between 1983 and 2000, make up about 30% of the current workforce. This tech-savvy group is comfortable in the use of smartphones and tablets, and are said to value training over many other work perks.
In their 2015 Internet Trends Report, KPCB found 22% of millennials chose to receive training over flexible hours, cash bonuses and even a company car. If your employees are demanding training (and if they aren’t now, the next generation of employees will be), it needs to be accessible, when and where they need to access it. It needs to be mobile.
Millennials are also environmentally aware, so will not take kindly to reams of paper and unnecessary electricity being used. Traditional work hours and office environments continue to shift, as more and more people work flexi-hours, travel often and work remotely. Using tablets and other devices for learning will be an important way of engaging, and teaching, your employees.
READ: E-learning not a silver bullet, expert warns
Just-in-time not just-in-case training
Rather than expecting learners to memorise what they have learned, and hope that they can recall it when it is needed, m-learning enables you to find and access the knowledge ‘just-in-time’ in the moment that you need it.
Whether you are on an oil rig in the ocean, a remote construction site, or just wanting to refresh your memory while you’re on a flight, you will be able to access your training in an instant. This super-relevant learning can be instantly accessed to fill in knowledge gaps. This just-in-time accessibility is the true power of mobile learning.
A company’s internal app stores can provide scalable and cost-effective digital gateways to easy-to-find and digest resources. In providing rapid responses to emerging employee work needs, you are enabling employees to work smarter.
All businesses are vulnerable to disruptions, and they need to be agile and able to rise to the challenge of changes that arise. Companies need to start planning and developing mobile learning for their employees, or face the risk of being left behind.