This article was written by Gerry Griffin, director of Skill Pill M-Learning and former director of the London Business School.
Increasingly organisations are looking toward mobile devices as their learning delivery channel of choice, but these preferences are hindered by budget constraints – particularly the provision of expensive technologies and devices.
That is why Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) has emerged as a cost-effective solution allowing organisations to adopt an m-learning approach without having to provide the devices. However, many companies are still wary of deploying BYOD.
With this in mind, let’s take a look at both the commonly raised concerns and the potential opportunities associated with delivering learning via employee’s personal devices.
Concern 1: Can a one-for-all system work?
Organisations and m-learning providers alike automatically get a headache at the thought of creating a system to support every possible issue that could arise on dozens of different types of devices. From supporting enterprise applications to software installation quirks, the list of potential problems is endless.
One particular challenge that is commonly cited is the lack of compatibility between different mobile operating systems. With such a wide range of innovative new devices utilising existing legacy systems, the issue of integration is a valid argument.
However, the mobile device market is already heterogeneous; employees using personal devices in the workplace won’t amplify this. Mobile learning providers have to be equipped to deal with this fragmentation. The onus is on them to create a system capable of delivering content seamlessly to multiple platforms. We predict a shift in the near future from native to HTML 5 based programming which should make one-size-fits all system easier to manage.
If the system isn’t reliable users and organisations will be immediately put off – and once their trust is lost it’s incredibly hard to regain. For this reason, key to any implementation of m-learning is a strong line of communication between an organisation’s IT department and the m-learning providers. And this is doubly important when working in a BYOD environment.
Concern 2: Data security and loss
Data security and data loss are generally ranked as the top concerns raised by corporates when looking at implementing BYOD.
There is a constant concern over how much control a company can have over its employees’ personal property. The devices used on a daily basis in the workplace contain mass amounts of confidential information from learning content to client information. What happens, for example, if an employee’s mobile or tablet device is stolen? Many personal mobile devices aren’t password protected and a large majority of employees don’t know how to remotely wipe their device’s data.
This worry is understandable, based on the long-held mind-set of security being the ultimate concern. Upcoming products such as Dell’s mobile access solution will help. However for mobile learning to succeed in a BYOD environment there needs to be a change in approach. When it comes to BYOD the clinging to security has to be supplemented with a desire to socialise the learning in the most user friendly way possible. It has to be accessible; BYOD promotes this accessibility.
Opportunity 1: Consumer devices are more advanced
In terms of technology, the consumer market tends to be leaps and bounds ahead of the corporate market.
Using high tech devices as the vehicle for delivering learning allows m-learning providers to develop advanced solutions, thus providing L&D departments with a better quality product. It also shouldn’t be underestimated just how much the user’s relationship with their device dictates their use of it. They’re far more likely to spend time accessing learning on the device they understand and are comfortable with, than the one forced upon them which they don’t have the time or the patience to navigate.
Opportunity 2: New markets for learning providers
Being a cost-effective mobile learning channel, BYOD opens the market up for m-learning providers to cater to SME’s training needs.
Traditionally, smaller organisation’s limited budgets have meant inferior access to training material in comparison with their multinational counterparts. We’re not so brash as to declare that BYOD and m-learning levels the playing field; however it certainly gives SMEs a step-up.
All SME employees will have their own smart phone or tablet; immediately the cost to supply these devices is wiped out. Then it’s just a case of populating these devices with content and tools. This can be generic skills based content, custom designed content which pays for itself by reducing the need for face-to-face training, or even providing users with the ability to upload their own smarts to share with their colleagues.
Smartly run SMEs will be looking to leverage BYOD and m-learning to stretch their budgets further – this is a great opportunity for learning providers.