19 May 10 Will m-learning cater to the changing demands

The universe in which corporates work has transformed over the last decade. Starting with the ever improving technology, fast-paced globalization, the last couple of years of recession and evolving markets have had impact on even the most basic functions of organizations. One of these is learning and development – earlier a sleepy HR function – it has now acquired new found importance and urgency, all being driven by the demands of the new-age corporate world.

What is the big hurry?
Companies are looking at optimizing resources and need them to deliver at their full potential always. Employees today are required to stay ahead of the curve in the market, be equipped with the latest knowledge at any given time and receive real time updates about all changes. Long drawn training programs to help gain knowledge are passé. Employees must possess a good understanding of trends – not just local and national, but global. Adopting global best practices is considered the key to keeping with demands from customers. The ability to predict changes in the market, and make plans accordingly, is a skill that is sought by everyone. As a result companies and employees alike have moved from ‘survive and compete’ to ‘compete and excel’ in all the tasks and offerings.

In all of these, the speed of gathering, sharing, disseminating and using knowledge is paramount. To achieve better employee competencies and equip them with best skills and knowledge, constant reinforcement in the form of training is provided. To ensure that companies receive the best possible training, experts are increasingly relied upon. e-learning companies are delivering to the new standards of training by employing technology.

Riding on the m-learning wave

m-learning, a term associated with myriad definitions, but keeping to the most simple one of ‘learning using mobile phones or other hand held devices’, is one of the fastest growing segments within training and development. These devices are usually the smarter versions of the commonly used cell phones. m-learning seems to cater to user demands of anytime anywhere learning, fast delivery, real time updates, learning on the move, easy accessibility not hampered by number of learners and many others. m-learning usually comes with the promise of flexible learning modules. Some examples of m-learning:

  • Merrill Lynch achieved 100% course completion rate on moving their online courses to this format. Employees earlier left these courses mid-way because of time constraints
  • Accenture, a company that attaches a lot of importance to employee training,  uses m-learning for executives who cannot manage to get time at a stretch to attend and complete training programs

More and more e-learning companies are now developing platforms that will make the move to m-learning easier. Issues abound, especially when it comes to the comfort level of employees in using the hand held devices, connectivity issues, costs involved and also the complete absence of instructors. Also many companies are wary of the return on investment (RoI) that these training modules can offer. There need to be many more experiments, especially when the volumes are low to convince the users of the potential and returns.

Yet when it comes to delivering immediate and real time training, there is hardly anything that can match up to the options that m-learning can offer. For team members who are constantly on the move, such as sales, services, etc. discontinuing work to be able to attend a training program, is not always the best option. While there will definitely be many more innovative tools to achieve and improve the delivery and returns of training, mobile learning is here to stay.

Taking education to a new level
Another very important aspect that m-learning is contributing to is spread of education. Targets set for inclusive education seem more achievable with the use of m-learning. In a completely different scenario of learning, where mobiles are more likely a possession than access to schools for students, this is being used to impart education as well. While it is still at an experimental stage in most places, there are many that are enabling the use of mobile learning as an addition to the regular courses. Problems do exist, but till the time a better solution to increasing access to education is found, m-learning will have delivered what is needed.

ValueNotes Research
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