Mobile learning pulse is still a little weak

The Masie Center recently released its Mobile Learning Pulse Survey. Taken in the Fall of 2012, It’s a worthy read, taken from responses from 823 organizations.

The headline finding is that implementation is at its very beginning.

Approximately 80% of organizations reported at least a moderate interest in mobile learning. So far that interest has primarily translated into projects to explore and test mobile learning and developing some content designed for mobile devices. At the same time, less than 30% of organizations have an enterprise strategy for mobile learning.

Without a plan, it’s sort of unsurprising that thoughts about WHAT to put on mobile devices are all over the place…

While there was no single stand out element, 5 had the highest percentage of “strong interest”: access to eLearning modules, access to corporate internet content, access to video and audio content, and access to checklists. Second to those areas, organizational aspirations for mobile learning include making greater use of social media.

Masie suggests:

Overall, these responses demonstrate the interest in many responding organizations to be more effective in providing on-the-job performance support and shorter, more focused learning activities.

I wonder what’s driving what, here.  “Micro-learning” is a trend (my exploration of it is here)  – are we looking for tools on which to implement micro-learning because we think it’s good pedagogy? Or trying to figure out how to squeeze stuff onto these new platforms we think look cool?

It’s a little tricky, because “mobile”  appears to mean both tablets and phones in this context, but often refers to very different use environments.  The needs of the phone user on the bus pose more constraints than those of the tablet user on his/her couch.  The small form factor of the phone demands the reformatting of text-based information into shorter pages with fewer words.  The gaps in connectivity which phones face on-the-go means that any streaming content needs to be short in order not to be entirely annoying.

Masie points to the lack of a proven mobile pedagogy as an inhibitor, alongside the usual cost and security issues.  I doubt we’ll have that proven pedagogy until there are some experiments which are great successes, and others which are colossal failures, and it’s not surprising that enterprises are not lining up to create those case studies!

It seems to me that the modality most likely to pass into the “proven” realm soonest is performance support. We’re already seeing printed references in airline cockpits and sales vehicles being replaced by tablets which can access the up-to-the minute version of procedure manuals and catalogs.

I wonder, as tablets become more affordable, whether the demand for access via smartphone will fade.    How many of our workers will need to use something they can carry in their pockets, vs something they carry in small case? What’s it worth in terms of usability to have a larger screen, with more information?