Why Contextual Information is important for Mobile Learning

Mobile devices were initially deployed as job aids and delivered through proprietary mobile platforms. Let’s take the case of UPS. Every UPS driver carries a mobile device that is used to gather confirmation from customers once the package is delivered. The information is relayed instantly to UPS and allows the sender to track the status of the package in near real-time. This type of application is essentially a job aid and there are no issues involved in ensuring its usage.

The phenomenal growth in Smartphone adoption has given rise to new challenges. Large enterprises are distributing iPads and Smartphones to their employees on the field en-mass and so are schools. Such initiatives are driven by the need to leverage the Smartphone platforms to deliver pertinent information relevant for the job or to deliver training. Such a strategy is indeed a good first step. But if the hardware is not accompanied by relevant content, such initiatives can fall flat and end-up padding up sales for Angry Birds.

There are two types of mobile content in an enterprise. Content designed to deliver training, i.e mobile learning, and content designed to help the employee do the job better, i.e job performance management. I am leaving our all types of other content such as customer facing apps. When building content for mobile devices, a key factor to consider is context. Mobile devices cannot be treated like a Laptop or a Desktop. Usage of mobile devices is typically outside office where there could be several other distractions that the content designer has to contend with. Sometimes accessibility to mobile content could also be intermittent due to connectivity issues (AT&T customers in San Francisco or New York City will know what I am talking about).

Irrespective of the nature of content, information should be parceled out into easily digestible chunks that can be consumed without requiring a “stable consumption environment” as you might have in an office. In addition, mobile content should be directly relevant to the job being done and should be meaningful to the user at the “point of job execution”. Does it mean larger chunks of content have no place in mobile devices? The answer is yes and no. Larger chunks of information or content cannot be the only content in a mobile device. But let’s say an entire classroom lecture or a product demo is available as a podcast, it will be a good reference material for an employee to listen to when commuting to the office or to a customer meeting.

To summarize, the success of a mobile learning or mobile performance management app can be determined by its usage. The best way to ensure usage of mobile content is by making it contextual and pertinent to the job. Sify’s Anywhere Learner Mobile Application is a case in point.

Srinivas Krishnaswamy

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I love to read and share thoughts on technology, enterprise learning, mobile and any thing cool that impacts enterprises.

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Posted in Mobile Learning, Smartphones

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