Learning across devices

23rd April 2014

The lines between working and learning have always been blurred, but the adoption of powerful mobile devices and the mostly ubiquitous availability of internet access has radically changed the way we work, learn and play.

The personal tools that we use are available everywhere as long as we have a connected device with us; and who doesn’t these days? Whether it’s keeping in touch with friends on social networks or placing a grocery order, we expect to be able to do it no matter where we are, or whether we’re on a desktop PC, laptop, tablet or smartphone.

So we shouldn’t be surprised that our staff expect the same level of access to work and learning. That expectation isn’t just limited to being able to use devices provided or sanctioned by our employers either. The trend to ‘bring your own device’ (BYOD) shows no signs of slowing down.

A recent report from Reuters quoted some astonishing figures:

According to research firm Ovum, 57 percent of all employees use a personal smartphone or tablet to access corporate data, while 70 percent of tablet owners use their personal tablets at work at some point.

Although I’m sure a few CTO’s are treating this as a headache, I believe that we in L&D should see this as an opportunity. The mobile internet has empowered people to take much greater control over many aspects of their lives and that includes taking control and ownership for their personal development.

That doesn’t necessarily mean they expect (or want to) access formal training activities across devices. What it does mean is they are getting the support they need at the point of need. They are using these devices to access materials that can help them with their work. Some of this will be materials provided by their employers, and some will be their own documents and notes. They’re also connecting with peers, both inside and outside the organisation.

Workers no longer act in isolation even if they are geographically remote from their colleagues, and being more connected changes the roles that they play:

  • They are collaborators. They are using blogs, wikis, forums, social networks and instant messaging to discuss work and learning. They are building multiple networks that can support them in achieving results in the workplace.
  • They are curators. They are collecting, organising and sharing useful materials. Tools like Evernote, Google Keep and Pinterest make it easy to build a library of reference materials.

So assuming that we do see this as an opportunity, what can we do to help and encourage this?

Learning itself has always been close to the work, whereas training is often something separate and distinct. When we are designing training activities we need to look for ways to connect training, learning and work - and that means making the right things available across all devices.

If we’re designing a course with formal taught elements such as elearning content, we are probably ok to target that at the desktop rather than mobile devices. However, everything around that - forums, blogs, support materials, etc. - should be available everywhere.

If the LMS is made easily accessible across devices it can extend beyond being a repository for training materials and become a platform for directly supporting performance in the workplace.

About the author
Barry Samson

Barry Sampson is a consultant focusing on the use of technology to improve workplace performance. In 2009 he co-founded Onlignment, a consultancy specialising in organisational communication and learning. Previously he worked in a range of delivery and management roles in HR and Learning & Development before becoming Learning Technology Manager at B&Q where he led a number of award-winning elearning and blended learning programmes.

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