02 Sep 10 Why isn’t the corporate learning community excited about the iPad?

Through much discussion and debate, the Apple iPad seems toslide13_learningtogopo_10a7 have held its own, when it came to university implementation. Whether the goal was to enhance campus communication, replace textbooks, introduce new learning approaches in the classroom, or promote informal learning, the iPad seems to have clicked with higher education, in the first quarter of its release. We’re hearing of more and more faculty/depts. experimenting with ways to leverage the technology to suit their varied learning requirements, be it at law schools, medical schools, engineering students, or business related content/app development.

So what was the reaction from the corporate learning segment? Here’s a couple of noteworthy initiatives that have reached mainstream online discussion.

1.ADP’s National Sales Leadership Conference bore witness to a coaching exercise that made use of iPads. The aim was to engage, motivate and excite sales managers into preparing for a challenging year ahead, while introducing a new sales profile. While several unique facilitation tools were used to create experiential learning, there was a definite ‘wow’ factor missing, that the company’s sales training team introduced in the form of iPads on every conference table for use during coaching exercise. Managers working in teams made use of limited apps (Pages to type in answers, Safari to take a live survey, Video for instructional e-learning tutorial), and iPad usage was small compared to the actual event (presentations, research, workshops, community, etc.).

2. This next one’s from the defense segment – the Royal School of Artillery, Wiltshire, UK are running trials on the iPad through a custom app that teaches soldiers strategy based scenarios for thinking through fire missions. Troops have reportedly picked up jargon and procedures faster, and are running healthy internal competitions to score higher. With the initial success of this programme, tablet/smartphone technology is being considered for further implementation in training.

Why aren’t we seeing sweeping iPad giveaways in large organizations, much like some universities are doing? We know that Apple is selling to enterprises, and has been fairly successful with iPad sales too. The likes of SAP, Mercedes Benz and Wells Fargo have been quick to get their hands dirty with the device, far quicker than iPhone adoption. According to Tim Cook, operating officer, during Apple’s earnings call,  just in the first quarter of its release, as much as half of the Fortune 500 companies are testing/deploying the iPad. It is more than likely that learning and development experts at these firms were itching to try their hands at the device, with the powerful didactic, collaborative,  and interactive learning potential it has to offer…so where are the deployments?

Is it the price (x no. of employees, that’s a massive learning budget in itself!), or is it the lack of confidence in the tablet’s capabilities to fit in and facilitate learning in the workplace? Or is it the breaking away from form, more specifically, from Flash – a medium that has defined much of corporate training in the last decade? There is also serious competition from iPhone 4 and upcoming devices running on alternate platforms (will cover this in my next post)…is the community playing a waiting game, while quietly experimenting on a small scale? Simply porting existing content from desktops will not do, and will, in my opinion, put to waste the advanced functionality that the iPad offers towards interactivity and ‘hands on’  experiential learning. Perhaps this is one reason that inhouse developers/ e-learning vendors are deliberating…there is an acute need to rethink, redesign and recode learning technology to suit the new capabilities.

If you are a corporate learning professional, I would like to ask you whether you think the iPad has a place in your organization’s learning function…and if you are a third party e-learning provider, are you currently experimenting with any iPad based solutions?

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