In the world of L&D we talk a lot about mobile learning and it’s pretty much accepted that from shaky beginnings around 2007 (when we tried to squeeze training courses onto a two inch black and white LED screen) things have leapt forward. Think of everything that you can now do with a smart phone, tablet, phablet and any other smart device format.
Drill down a little, however, and the reality of L&D’s involvement with mobile devices is slightly more complex, and reveals a great deal about how we view technology.
And it’s not all good.
Training Magazine’s annual survey of US L&D professionals shows that just 1.5% of training was delivered via mobile devices. That’s right, after about 7 years of hype and discussion we’ve reached 1.5%. That’s not leaping. That’s trench warfare.
And yet of course we use smart devices for learning all the time.
Every time we Google something, check a map for our location, quiz friends and colleagues for the answer to a question we are operating exactly in the sweet spot of L&D: we are learning something, or using a performance aid.
Of course we don’t call it that.
We call it ‘finding something out’, or ‘doing our job’. The learning is almost invisible because it is embedded in our daily lives; it didn’t require us to go somewhere special, to do anything special. It happened at the best possible time – when we had a need for it, and were attuned to be receptive to new information.
The implications for those of us involved in Learning Technologies are profound.
There will certainly be some courses and resources that can be usefully deployed over mobile devices, but don’t let’s kid ourselves that that should be the future, or the limit, of our ambitions here. Rather than concentrating on writing courses, we should be establishing good practice in our organisations for finding information and experts and for sharing information. Where necessary we should be setting up the systems and then letting people get on with using them. We need to use this opportunity to move from being the gatekeepers of knowledge to the facilitators of conversations and learning
Mobile devices do not just set us free as consumers, they have liberated us as professionals to take on the role that L&D should always have had – to help others learn, when they need to, where they need to, from each other.
This was originally published as the introduction to Inside Learning Technology Magazine #44, October 2013.