Mobile Learning: Past, Present and Future (Part 2)

Excerpts from the NetDimensions White Paper by Gary Woodill Ed.D

Mobile learning, in the sense that we use the term today, had to wait for the development of miniaturized electronic devices before it became a real possibility. Early examples of the development of mobile communications include radiophones for the military in World War I, police cars equipped with two-way radios in the 1920s, ham radios in cars that could be patched into the telephone system in the 1950s and 1960s, and the first clunky cell phones developed by Motorola as early as 1973. But, it was only with the development of smaller “flip phones” in the late 1980s and early 1990s that the hardware became small enough to be used as a portable learning technology.

Professor Mike Sharples of the University of Nottingham was one of the first people to develop the concept of mobile learning with an active research program that started in the late 1990s. In 2000, computer learning consultant Clark Quinn provided one of the first definitions of “mobile learning” which he described as “…the intersection of mobile computing and eLearning: accessible resources wherever you are, strong search capabilities, rich interaction, powerful support for effective learning, and performance-based assessment… e-learning independent of location, time and space.”

Over the past decade, the focus on what is important in mobile learning has shifted. Ten years ago mobile learning was about displaying e-learning on a small screen. Then, mobile learning shifted to any learning that happened while using a mobile device. This was followed by a view that mobile learning is what happens outside a classroom. Finally, we have come to an understanding that the important fact in mobile learning is that the learner is mobile.

The sources of information can be in any form, from signage to mobile phones, to interactive billboards, or to computers embedded in our clothing. It is the fact that the learner is mobilized while connected to information that is critical. This is in contrast to the classroom model of learning, where the learner, for the most part, is immobilized.


Mobile Learning: Past, Present and Future (Part 1)

Excerpts from the NetDimensions White Paper by Gary Woodill Ed.D

In order for learning to take place, several components must be in place. First, we need a learner with the motivation to learn something. This learner is always in a specific context, located in a particular culture, point in history, and place, which must be taken into account. As well, we need a source of knowledge or the opportunity for experience and discovery in order for learning to happen. As we shall see, all these components are important in understanding how learning and development has the potential to radically shift with the advent of mobile learning.

From “nomadic learning” to the “immobilization of learning”
Since the development of the human species, people have learned throughout their daily lives. In prehistoric times, before the invention of writing, learning took place in the course of everyday life through observation and imitation of the actions of other people. Formal schooling came with the invention of writing, allowing knowledge to be recorded and passed along from one generation to another. However, school was unknown to the vast majority of people who learned from members of their family or as apprentices to masters of various trades. The first “mobile learning” would have to be examples of learning while wandering from one place to another – what we might call “nomadic learning”. Of course, in those days there is no electronic technology to assist a learner on the move.

The invention of the printing press by Johannes Gutenberg in the 1430s changed everything. The ability to produce books in large quantities meant that curriculum could be standardized, allowing the state to impose “norms” of behavior and knowledge throughout its jurisdiction. In fact, the first institutions for training teachers were called “normal schools.” Along with a standardized curriculum came new learning technologies in the form of the modern classroom.

The modern classroom was invented in the 1770s in Prussia by a religious group called the Pietists. The modern classroom is a learning technology that includes sitting in rows, raising hands, recess, periods, and detentions.

But, while classrooms were, and are, a ubiquitous feature of modern schools, the same cannot be said for corporate training. By the beginning of the 20th century, American companies such as Westinghouse and General Electric provided schooling to many of their workers, and in 1913 the National Association of Corporation Schools was founded. But, schools attached to workplaces were rare. Instead, training was usually “on the job” or, in some cases, took place in the hallways adjacent to the shop floor where people worked. This practice was known as “vestibule training,” and was common before World War II.

The American Society for Training and Development was founded in 1944 and marked the beginning of the professionalization of corporate training. The “corporate university” movement was boosted by the founding of McDonald’s Hamburger University in 1961. The 1970s and 1980s saw a strong growth in the number of corporate universities with their own training facilities in many large companies throughout the world.

The Right Mix

E-learning, blended learning or a little bit of both?

Nearly 900,000 – that was the number of audience Cisco’s reseller certification program needed to reach thus it came out with a major, Web-based program. Siemens, meanwhile, had to serve about 10,000 financial professionals who needed to cope with the global change in accounting practices thus a simulation-based solution was created. Kinko’s, on the other hand, combined conference call and series of job aids to roll out its new product to their field sales offices.

Such companies found the good mix of media to address their business problems relating to technology, change management or business processes. They were able to leverage learning among adults who want and need to further their skills through training or going back to school for further studies.

So if you or your company is gearing for additional learning, consider the competences at hand, the audience’s nature and location, and the resources available.

Each learning environment has its strengths and weaknesses. The offers will work only if you truly identified what you need as an employee or professional or as an organization. The study of Bersin & Associates (involving Siemens, British Telecom, Cisco, and from industries like distribution, manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, telecom, among others) points the pros and cons of e-learning and blended learning.

Blended learning is dubbed as the “in” thing, as it is said to be the natural evolution of e-learning. “… As companies focus on understanding the processes of blended media, they will find that elearning is more powerful than they ever thought,” Bersin & Associates conclude. Indeed, it is all about finding the right mix of learning and what is relevant to your needs. Regardless of the media, maximize every learning opportunity for your personal or professional growth or for your organization’s success.


Top 10 Reasons for Learning Outsourcing

With the corporate world slowly coming out of recession, there has been an increase in the investment on trainings and people development.  However, we also see a difference in the attitude of Training Managers and HR Executives. Rather than managing organizational development internally, there has been a shift in approach towards outsourcing learning initiatives.

 Let us look at the Top 10 reasons for Learning Outsourcing from Mr. Doug Haward (internationally recognized as one of the leading strategists for training and outsourcing business models):

 10. Leveraging Technology Costs – Investments in a LMS/LCMS is one of the 1st expenditures undertaken by organizations instead of building their own.

9.  Training is Not Core to the Business – For many companies, training is a necessity. But the development, management and delivery of training is a distraction. For companies that manage training everyday, it IS core to their business.

8. Revenue Generation –More and more companies are now recognizing that training is a source of revenue, and they have intellectual property that is valued in the market. So they use another company that knows how to market, sell and deliver training to a mass or targeted audience to create new revenues streams.  Case in Point – Microsoft, Cisco, and RedHat

 7. Mitigate Risk – Training helps prevent failures.  If we don’t provide the training our employees or customers need, and when they need it, we’re vulnerable to being sued if an injury or catastrophic failure occurs. So training reduces our risk.

6. Improving Scalability of Resources – People of various levels of skills and talent are required for managing a training successfully. Full-time internal staffs are a fixed resource. But training is a variable activity. Using an external supplier allows you to flex the number of resources to deliver the training you need – when you need them. It allows your company to scale up and down based on the demand of training you need.

5. Leveraging Channel Relationships – Partnering with a firm which specializes in training and has access to a large number of professionals for a particular sector, to market and deliver your trainings is a good idea.

4. Speed to Market – Using a training outsourcing company may allow you to get your product into a lot of customers’ hands much faster, without scaling up internal resources.

3. Geographic Reach – When a firm expands to new geographies it makes sense for them to outsource training to a company who have resources in Country and who understood the local culture.

2. Access to Talent – No company has all the knowledge they need internally to be successful. Sometimes it’s necessary to hire an expert to teach internal employees how to do something that is new to their company. Hiring an outside consultant to deliver a training course is considered outsourcing.

1. Cost Reduction – The number 1 reason why companies outsource training is to save money. It’s the bottom line. It’s the common denominator and culminating reason for all the other reasons mentioned above. We should never forget that how you manage training is always about how we manage costs.