Landing a great job is no longer the end point of education. Today, education has already transcended its boundaries of traditional institutions and extended to mid-sized businesses and large corporations in the form of professional training. According to the ILX Group studies, 3 most popular reasons for enabling corporate learning are to improve business capability (63%), improve employee satisfaction (51%) and increase productivity (43%).
Corporate training is also considered to be a part of the ‘shaping perfect employees’ technique as opposed to the ‘searching for a perfect-match’ approach. Perfect candidates, HR experts claim, do not exist, and when choosing between deep knowledge and valuable personal traits it makes sense to go for the latter option and close the skill gap with professional training. An outgoing person with little technology knowledge can gain it, yet a very tech-savvy, but withdrawn and close-lipped candidate will be unlikely to change.
From Workshops to eLearning
Khan Academy, Coursera, edX and hundreds of other online corporate learning portals have paved the way to making knowledge easily accessible to everyone, everywhere. Today the eLearning market has over 500 Learning Management Systems (LMSs) to offer to companies that want but a static knowledge base.
In contrast to instructor-led workshops, eLearning portals offer more freedom and allow employees to accumulate knowledge at their own pace. Algorithms in eLearning are also effective by their very nature: as the computer tracks progress and unmistakably detects error-patterns, it challenges employees to what should yet be understood and memorized.
From eLearning to mLearning
According to the IDC study, US companies were able to reduce their costs on training by half after they had shifted to eLearning. But with analysts predicting that by 2018 70% of experts will do a significant part of their jobs on personal mobile devices, a new destination has come up on the corporate training horizon, and the term mobile learning (mLearning) started to catch on.
The mLearning industry is already worth 5.3 billion dollars and believed to double in value by 2017. The reasoning behind large investments is clear: mobile devices make corporate learning even more individual, more accessible and thus more engaging. Those who already have their learning portals now want to make them available on smartphones, and those who haven’t shifted to eLearning yet wonder whether they can skip it and go for mLearning right away.
eLearning Portal on Mobile vs. an mLearning App
The dilemma of ‘a mobile website vs. a mobile app‘ is by now a dime a dozen. Yet despite many controversies, these alternatives are far from being equal. Wrapping an eLearning portal with responsive design means adjusting it to mobile screens, but this adjustment alone isn’t enough for training. To make corporate learning successful, you need engagement, which can be achieved only through a great user experience that rather belongs to a mobile app.
The nature of any educational process is quite tricky and fragile. New knowledge requires an open and thus vulnerable mind. At this state, even a minor inconvenience may become a serious distraction that would demotivate a student.
Listed below are not only technical challenges that mobile-enabled websites can face, but also the contrast between mLearning and eLearning on the whole.
Planning and Session Duration
Rather than systematically, employees reach out for mobile devices incidentally and mainly during short periods of time.
So to stay effective, mobile corporate learning sessions should be structured differently from those on your portal: they should be divided into smaller portions and last no more than 15 minutes, as opposed to some bulky 30-40 minute eLearning sessions.
Tied to using their company’s eLearning portal in the mobile browser, employees are tempted to open another tab or peek at their social network app notifications in the top status bar.
Compared to a website, a mobile app can be programmed to function offline, thus letting employees concentrate better.
In order not to intervene with employees’ primary tasks, mobile corporate learning sessions should be easy to restart from the point they were left off.
No one likes losing a half of their answers to a quiz due to taking a call from a customer or replying to an email (and such losses are highly possible while using a browser). Implementing an auto-save feature in a mobile app would solve this problem.
Confined to browsers, mobile websites are limited in terms of information processing, graphics quality and even functionality.
For instance, voice input/output can be promptly used in any eLearning portal, but it will be hard and expensive to make this feature available for a mobile view.
At the same time, mobile apps – both native and cross-platform – can have a direct access to the mobile device hardware, exploit it smarter and support any feature that may be useful in training.
Even a high-quality responsive design can’t capture all features of mobile operating systems. Website navigation is still carried out through a mobile browser, with all the inconvenience it causes.
Unlike a website, a mobile app can take advantage of native buttons, gestures and UI capabilities on the devices, fitting like a glove.
Although designing a mobile version of an eLearning portal can cost-effectively and quickly enable mobile training, this alternative has a number of apparent downsides: limited functionality, risks of losing entered information, grounds for the lapse of concentration, and inconvenient navigation.
Development of a mobile app will take you time and money, but it may be the best investment you could do for your company’s corporate learning capacity. By helping employees truly enjoy their learning experience, you foster their professional growth, and with their talents flourishing, so does your company business.