Don’t follow Plato…

There is little doubt that the ‘chatter’ surrounding m-learning is increasing in volume. Learning and development people are intrigued (and a little frightened) by the thought, business managers love the idea of training taking place during ‘dead’ time and learners see the undoubted value of training that can be accessed whenever they need it. Some of the chatter is hype but businesses ignore the potential value of m-learning at their peril.

The key to making m-learning successful, however, is not to repeat the mistakes of the past. Since the time of Plato, we’ve used the classroom model to teach. When e-learning came along, we took the classroom approach, removed the trainer and put the material online. At this point, I’m not sure why the industry was surprised that learners hated e-learning but it was. We’d taken the best bit, the experienced trainer, out and added very little to the bit we all hate – the dreaded PowerPoint deck.

The scary thing for me is that I’m starting to see mobile learning that looks very much like the worst examples of e-learning that I have seen. Building animated PowerPoint slides on small screens and trying to teach subjects like health and safety is just a recipe for disaster – with this model m-learning will never take off.

m-Learning should be about easily accessible, bite sized chunks of learning that I want to do – note WANT not HAVE to do. It should not try to replicate the hour long course that Plato may have run for his students.

One way to achieve success with m-learning is to look at how you can use video. Video provides a good medium for m-learning because:

  1. Video is easy to distribute – Most organisations have an array of mobile devices which use a variety of technologies. Most of these devices, however, support video. This makes the content hassle free for the learner and makes it possible for the learner to easily share the content.
  2. Video is compelling – As proven by YouTube, people like to watch videos and today’s technology allows even amateurs to create high-quality, highly engaging content.
  3. Video is the right medium for m-learning – Often, learning is about persuasion – you are trying to get people to behave differently. The impact of this persuasion is diluted when presented as series of animated slides. Video on the other had can be used to convey passion and emotion. It can show fear or excitement. Today’s technology also means that video does not have to passive, it can be interactive with all the assessment tools and engaging interventions that we all love!