You have been hearing all the noise about Mobile Learning for some years now. We all have! Since mLearning made an entry in the learn-tech space in the early 2000s (source: The evolution of Mobile Learning), it has been touted as the next big thing, the silver bullet for learning and training, the panacea for L&D challenges, and what not. And oftentimes for the right reasons too! On one hand, mLearning was welcomed with open arms, and on the other, it was met with skepticism and technical constraints.
Cut to 2018.
The global mobile population amounted to 3.7 billion unique users in January this year (source: Statista) with the mobile phone penetration forecasted to continue to grow, rounding up to 67 percent by 2019 (source: Statista). While the global mobile data traffic is projected to increase nearly sevenfold between 2016 and 2021.
And this is just the beginning.
If you dig deep, you will uncover layers of mobile and mobility embedded seamlessly into our lives as we transition from personal to professional spaces every day. And learning is no exception! As we have accepted mobile phones as a primary device of choice in showing us directions (GPS), buying and selling online (eCommerce), communicating and networking (Social Media, Messengers, etc.), conducting money transactions (bill payments, etc.), amongst other things, we have come to rely on these pocket-sized devices to provide us learning, training and performance support. And why not? Mobile phones are always on, always with us and their affordances render them for just well for all things ‘learning’.
For Mobile Learning, in particular, there are a number of catalysts driving the adoption and usage today. But five, in particular, will dominate the business landscape in the time to come; pointing to mLearning as a major player and the very reason you cannot escape it in 2018.
1. From ‘Millennials are coming’ to ‘Millennials have come’
With 56 million labor force participants aged between 21 to 36 working or looking for work, America has the largest pool of millennials compared to Gen Xers and Baby Boomers, as of 2017 (source: Pew Research Center). The stats around the world paint a similar picture. Millennials are ruling the workplaces of 2018 and how!
But what’s the fuss about Millennials alone? What about the other generations (Baby Boomers, Gen Xers) that happily co-exist and thrive in today’s workplaces? A recent rhetoric by Brandon Carson, Director of Learning at Delta Air Lines, poses the same question (and has some interesting points of view from learning leaders around the world).
So, it’s imperative to understand Millennials first. This generation of people, born between 1980 and 1995, have come of age during a time of technological change, globalization and economic disruption, which has given them a different set of behaviors and experiences than the previous generations. They are also the first generation of digital natives, and their natural affinity for technology helps shape how they do or don’t do things. Sample one – Young Millennials, age 18-24 (25.1%), and older Millennials, age 25-34 (29.2%), are more than twice as likely to get company emails on their mobile device compared to Baby Boomers, age 65+ (12.2%) (source: Samanage). Add the dynamic of the training to this and you have got a serious case for mLearning. 52% of millennials say opportunities for career progression is the most desirable quality in a workplace, competitive wages and financial incentives (44%), good training and development programs (35%) (source: PWC). Need I say more?
2. Rise of the Gig Economy, Flexi Work Schedules and the Mobile Workforce
The working world is undergoing a massive shift. Internet and mobile computing have made mobiles truly ubiquitous and have removed the limitations on time, place and device. While the traditional 9-5 work hour culture has not been obliterated, the number of people opting for flexi work schedules and freelance jobs is on the rise. Add to it the fact that, employees are not at their desk roughly 50 to 60 percent of the scheduled workday (source: Global Workplace Analytics). This is above and beyond the global mobile workforce, which is set to increase to 1.87 billion people or 42.5% of the global workforce in 2022, up from 38.8% in 2016.
The gig economy, in particular, has seen a growth from 9.3% in 1995 to 15.8% by 2015. According to the 2017 Freelancing in America study, by the Freelancers Union and Upwork, nearly 57.3 million Americans – or 36 percent of the nation’s workforce – were freelancing, most of whom were doing so by choice. On a side note, the rise of the gig economy also makes talent retention a major factor for businesses.
One reason or another, it’s critical now than ever to create (mobile) learning experiences that complement this workforce and make learning accessible wherever and whenever needed.
3. Internet Explosion
The global digital landscape has been changing rapidly, more so in the past couple of years with the influx of 3G and 4G networks. There are now 4.1 billion Internet users, which is 52% of the world’s population. And the Internet penetration rate is 51.7%, as compared to 35% in 2013 (source: Website Hosting Rating). Out of the 5 billion people that own a mobile device, over half of these devices (57%) are ‘smart’ devices allowing for a rich Internet experience, which render perfectly for Mobile Learning interventions.
4. Mobile Everything!
Anything and everything that could be done earlier by being tethered to machines can now be done on mobile phones. Rather, there’s so much more that these portable, smart devices enable us to do in our personal and professional lives that there is no alternative but to rely on them for, well, everything! Sample this – 80% of social media time is spent on a mobile device (Source: comScore), 48% of millennials view video solely on their mobile device (Source: Source), 79% of people use their smartphone for reading email — a higher percentage than those who use it for making calls (Source: Email Monday). So, it’s almost a no brainer that the workforce of 2018 (and beyond!) demands learning/ training/ performance support interventions on their mobile devices too. And that mobiles and performance support are a great duo help!
5. Growth of BYOD
The Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) movement, which began a couple of years back, is finally starting to gain strength worldwide. A survey of BYOD trends by MarketsandMarkets found that North American adoption rates were at 36 percent at the start of 2017 and project to almost 50 percent by the start of 2018. As of now, the BYOD market is on target to reach nearly $367 billion by 2022, up from just $30 billion in 2014 (BetaNews). Any rightly so. A Frost & Sullivan study, sponsored by Samsung, quantified the time savings, unveiling that using personal devices for work activities saves employees 58 minutes each day, providing a 34% increase in productivity. While according to a Cisco report, companies with a BYOD policy in place save on average $350 per year, per employee. Mobile Learning, in the form of a Mobile LMS or as a Multi-device Responsive LMS with mobile compatible videos/courses/documents etc., can be easily delivered on employees’ personal smartphones and tablets. Here’s what research says about Mobile LMSs and their application in BYOD.
Mobility in the workplace, while being a buzzword for years, is a relatively new tech trend. As mobile devices become more powerful and the learning/training applications in L&D continue to gain a strong foothold, the adoption and usage rate of Mobile Learning in workplaces will improve exponentially.
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