D-learning? E-learning? M-learning? The ABCs of Fast-Paced Learning

Have you ever stopped to ponder the fast-paced transition in learning methodologies? Having started with D-learning (Distanced Learning) we moved to E-learning (Electronic Learning) and now we've jumped to M-learning (Mobile Learning).It's quite intriguing how the changing dynamics of the business environment have transformed the mediums of communication and the learning methodologies. The speedy transitions are accredited to the rapid changes in information technology, which has become central to every business operation.

We all love to talk about new technologies for various business domains or functions, and how these can be used by the Training & Development (T&D) departments to foster continuous learning in the organization. However, what we often forget to ask is: are we actually ready to adopt these changes and technologies? Are our people who are responsible for carrying out these activities (HR personnel) knowledgeable, technically sound on the concepts of the new phenomenon, and will they be able to execute it to benefit both the individuals and the organizations?

The answers to these questions might turn out to be a big "maybe,"but considering the buzz surrounding M-learning, it is essential to first understand the phenomenon in order to incorporate it as part of your training, development or learning methodology.

M-learning is often confused with the concept of E-learning. Mobile Learning is, in fact, a form of E-learning that is specific to mobiles alone. Whereas the actual concept of M-learning is quite different, it deals with the aspect of "mobility"– capable of being moved or moveable, hence the learning can take place anytime, anywhere, without the time limitations and accessibility of the E-learning methodology. Moreover, M-learning is not specific to mobiles, rather it provides learning opportunities on any such devices which are portable, provide mobility and access to information "on the go,"such as: mobile phones, smart phones, PDAs, iPods, iPhones, iPads, tablets, Playstations, etc.

From the HR/T&D personnel perspective, M-learning provides an opportunity to foster a unique learning culture in the organization by making use of a method that is on-the-go and actually quite fun. It also provides the benefit of keeping the workforce aligned in the global context by providing learning prospects to all equally.

What makes M-learning different?

Unlike the other two learning approaches (D-learning and E-learning), the M-learning environment is quite different as a lot of technical aspects need to be considered for its smooth functioning. When considering adoption of the M-learning approach, it is essential to gain understanding and insight to different mobile platforms (Operating Systems), the support of the web-browsers, the graphics involved and the design of the contents using XML, HTML, JAVA or FLASH-enabled contents. If any of the features are not supported by the individual's mobile device, the frustration could result in losing their interest, hence the meaning of the approach will be lost.

Also while developing the content for M-learning, it should be kept in mind that it focuses on a "Just-in-Time"learning concept: the content should be kept short and meaningful, so as to keep the interest of the individual intact and the information useful and to-the-point.

Why adopt M-learning in my organization?

The concept of M-learning is gaining importance, however the adoption of this approach requires a lot of sensibility from the HR personnel in order to make it a beneficial learning approach in the organizational setup and improve the individual's job performance. It can serve as an improvement tool in the individual's job performance by making job related key information available and accessible at all times and when required (e.g. checklists on activities to be performed, job descriptions, workflow diagrams.)

M-learning can also help in the employee assessment in the form of quizzes and evaluations, making use of multiple choice or true/false questions. In events where a comprehensive training is required for performing a job, this training can be broken down into small chunks, making it convenient for the individuals. Rather than spending a specific time on certain training as with podcasts and webcasts, as well as considering the limitation of small screen of most mobile devices, the training material can be accessed at their convenience and the information provided is easily digested.

M-learning, if properly utilized, can help address the many challenges that the organization and the HR departments face— especially in the global context. The HR department can target the contents that are short, yet meaningful, in solving many performance-related problems. This concept, however, requires proper planning and execution along with the skills and technical aptitude of the HR and T&D personnel to successfully function in the organization. The transitions in learning from D to E to M are only meaningful when the learning objectives are clearly defined, understood, and the learning methodology is adopted with those objectives in mind.

The fact that people carry their mobile gadgets with them at all times can help in encouraging and establishing this notion that employees are in control of their learning experience. This, in turn, can be beneficial for both the organization and the employees. With more and more global expansion and increases in the remote workforce, the HR department can leverage their organization’s opportunity to keep the value of training alive, along with maintaining aligned and engaged talent.

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