In today's world, learners are interested in taking online courses from their phones and tablets more than ever. Mobile learning, or m-learning, should be an increasingly important part of your online training program. There are a number of reasons driving the m-learning trend:
- As corporate security options improve, an increasing number of enterprises are enabling Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) programs. This enables trainees to access the company Internet with personal tablets and smartphones.
- For consumers, mobile device usage now exceeds desktop usage (source). Trainees are accustomed to using mobile devices both for business and personal purposes. Providing mobile access to your course means that your trainees have maximum flexibility over where, when, and how to view training.
- Even if your trainees don't often use mobile devices today, consider future-proofing your technology choice by selecting an LMS with mobile device support.
- Companies like Google are beginning to incorporate mobile readiness into search results, which can materially affect the rankings for your public training courses. See our analysis of mobile friendly learning management systems here.
There are three levels of mobile capabilities to look for when considering an LMS. Let's take a look at the differences between each level.
#1. Functional Capability
This capability includes the bare minimum needed for mobile device support. Can your training course be launched on tablets and smartphones? Will analytics be tracked properly if the course is accessed from a mobile device? Today, many LMS solutions don't support even this basic functionality. A likely indicator of basic mobile functional support is if the solution supports HTML5. The best way to verify mobile support? Try out your course on multiple devices so that you can test the experience yourself.
#2. Mobile Responsive Capability
A huge improvement from the first level of functional capability is mobile responsive course access. A mobile responsive system will automatically detect the screen size used (smartphone, tablet, computer) and optimize the content layout accordingly. This avoids the frustrating experience of viewing shrinking, small websites on smartphones, for example.
Several LMS solutions, including Skilljar, are mobile responsive. However, it is not yet a standard feature for an LMS by any means.
#3. Native Apps
Native apps refer to downloadable mobile apps, usually iPhone and Android. The key benefit of native apps, over mobile-responsive browser based access, is enabling offline course viewing. The trainee can download the course while connected to the Internet and view it offline at their leisure. It is a rare for an LMS solution to offer native apps, but for those that do, look for a system that can sync online and offline course activity.
In general, native apps also have the potential to integrate with a phone's unique capabilities, such as QR codes, texting, and GPS. Most courses do not use this functionality today, but interesting applications could arise in the future.
Ready for Mobile Learning?
There are some technology providers that focus on m-learning exclusively. However, unless your target audience has access to mobile devices only, a system that offers both web and mobile functionality better serves trainees learning on both computers and mobile devices.
As you think about your training solution, it's helpful to consider these 3 things:
1) How your learning audience is currently accessing training?
2) How will might that access change in the future?
3) How could your learning audience change in the future?
Chances are your trainees will be using mobile devices soon for training, if they aren't already. Is your training program ready for the mobile revolution? Keeping these three levels of mobile capability in mind will help you choose the right technology to support your training.