Is the latest flurry of mobile research and benchmarking telling L&D what we need to know?

by WorkLearnMobile

Mobile Learning is hitting the mainstream, fast. In the past six months there have been several great benchmarking reports offering an industry analysis and snapshot of enterprise mobile learning. We get a bird’s eye view of several vital stats and facts about Adoption, Learning trends, Technology underpinnings, Strategic choices, Case studies, Challenges and best practices of High Performing Organizations towards Mobile Learning.

This information is a useful baseline when looking at the road ahead, but it isn’t really enough. WorkLearnMobile wants to know what to DO with this research. How should it change our thinking and our actions? What are the NEW questions we should be asking of research?

In an attempt to answer these questions, we spoke to a Learning Leader, Nigel Paine to gain some of his perspectives on current research, and where the gaps are, here’s his take:

User Experience and Design

Nigel Paine strongly advocates the need to understand Smartphone usage dynamics before starting to design for them. Awareness about Learners and their smartphone habits will dispel most of our design assumptions and help craft holistic designs without focusing on a single use-case.

Questions to consider:

  • How do people use smartphones for work?
  • How is a smartphone trumping tablets and laptops? Is there an awareness about which device is good for what purpose?
  • How is this usage affecting concentration/attention?
  • Have we actually got the learning solution right for mobile screens and layouts?

Trends in App Development

Nigel shares WorkLearnMobile’s enthusiasm for the benefits of internal, employee app stores, and sees great opportunities for L&D in shaping, and taking ownership of them. “I am interested to find what and how are L&D teams handling Employee Appstores”

In support of this, he shared an instance from his career in BBC where his Learning and Development team were able to keep control of all the web masters, and content creation –resisting pressure to hand directorial responsibility over to the IT team. He often sees uncomfortable partnerships between L&D and IT, but recommends continued investment in making it work. His advice: “L&D should set and control the direction of the Appstore while building stronger relationships with IT to manage the Appstore”.

Between Work based Apps and Non-work based Apps, there is a constant fight for space on the screen or the battery. He hinted if this distinction should determine the next generation of BYOD and  says “I often meet people carrying 2 devices and they mix up things. Is there a smarter way to turn a single device with two virtual sides to it and that can flip itself into personal or business phone depending on user routine/behavior? “  It’s a good sign that benchmarking studies of L&D have started reporting Appstores and it will be more useful to draw some relevant insights from mobile industry in general. For instance, “I will be interested to read how to merge Public vs Private Appstores and use the advice in my implementations to make my employees’ life easy.”

Few questions to consider:

  • Appification – what does it mean to L&D and how does it help with overarching goal of Employee Engagement?
  • Organizations are offering employees to build their own Portfolio of Mobile Apps, where they can pick and choose to make their custom portfolio. What are the downsides of this approach?


Another gap is that there is no clear information on how to achieve interoperability among multiple devices. If there was, it would help organizations create a far more effective device ecosystem. Learners should be able to start a session in one device and seamlessly resume in another, – that’s the way it should be in a multi-device ecology! He quotes the example of Apple and their iCloud mechanism to allow users to connect all their devices and stay assured to return to the same point in a different device.

Question to consider: What are organizations doing to achieve interoperability and support their multi-device strategy?


This is an interesting area. Nigel challenges the L&D community to stretch its imagination. For instance, is there a way to repurpose the potential of wearables like Fitbits towards Leadership development? A leaderbit perhaps – a way to track and analyze leaders’ conversations and then advise them to make a tiny change in their behavior in order to foster business relationships.

Googleglass seems useful in few, but not all situations. “I would be interested to find what are the possibilities, impact and downsides of Googleglass/smart watches to Learning?”

Tired of reading…

Nigel opines that Analysts must take the findings to another level and translate the data into meaningful insights that help mobile adoption faster. “ I have come across several reports that touch upon basic sociological factors like how many texts people send per day or what kind of Apps people use. These numbers don’t really mean anything to me and I would want to move beyond such factors and find meaningful information that can better inform user experience design.” In addition, he expressed an interest in unearthing smartphone usage differences across various dimensions like Generational, Vocational, Geographical, Gender and Cultural – across various workplaces.

Nigel summarizes his aspiration for mobile learning as “Move beyond old version of new world” and for this to happen, Research analysts must think laterally to report back non-conventional insights and best practices that can make a difference to rationale and adoption.

WorkLearnMobile is striving to do exactly this. If you know of interesting case studies, or though provoking mobile initiatives that are helping reshape the future of mobile learning at work, please let us know. If you’ve found good research answering Nigel’s questions, post in the comments.Our mission, as always, is to move beyond the hype, to discover, and share what REALLY makes the difference in mobile learning at work. Thanks, Nigel, for your contribution to it!

 About Nigel:

Nigel Paine is a coach, mentor, writer, broadcaster and keynote speaker who focuses on learning technologies, organizational development, leadership and creativity to maximize human potential and performance in the workplace. Find out more on

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