A Match Made in Heaven: The Modern Learner and Mobile Learning

Kaleb Hodkiewicz
July 19, 2021

Learning and Development (L&D) leaders can no longer ignore mobile learning’s (mLearning) potential for corporate learning.

Over 3.5 billion people around the world now own a smartphone, and statistics show that they spend approximately 4 hours on their devices per day, checking their smartphones a whopping 150x daily. Mobile technology is dominating our personal lives, driving not only how we live and work but also transforming the way we learn.

“Technology is enabling our need to be mobile. We want to ensure that learning matches our lifestyles.”
- Tony Bingham

The changing face of the modern day workforce

We are living through a fundamental transformation in today’s workplace. The ubiquity of technology, accelerated pace of work and escalated rate of change has resulted in the evolution of how people learn. These new types of employees are busy, savvy and thirsty to learn. They care about different things than previous generations, which means employers will need to find new ways to attract and retain top talent – such as training and development. According to Gallup:  

“The modern learner ranks opportunities to learn and grow in a job above all other considerations.”

“Modern” has nothing to do with age, and is not a euphemism for “young”, but rather depicts individuals who are tech-savvy, distracted, pressed for time and demanding consumers of learning… who are also unhealthily addicted to their smartphones. Moreover, when it comes to professional development, their need for short bursts of impactful, relevant and just-in-time learning is primary.

Does this come as a surprise? Not really, especially when you consider that only 1% of the working week on average is spent on training. To put that into perspective, that’s a mere 24 minutes of a 40-hour workweek for professional development! Without a doubt, there is little time for traditional classroom learning. Organizations need to re-engineer their L&D training models in order to adapt to the modern learner’s needs and preferences.

the modern learner

What does this mean for L&D?

It means:

  • Instructional designers and training providers must have a sound understanding of the modern learner’s needs and preferences when determining modes of training and designing learning experiences.
  • These learning experiences have to be flexible in design, allowing learners to access the content and learning resources anytime and anywhere, enabling them to squeeze their learning into stolen moments in their day. This enables learners to continually grow their knowledge and skills over time, mitigating the feeling of being overwhelmed.
  • Consciously incorporating multi-modal elements into training programs in order to cater for different learning styles, and combining both instructor-led training with effective digital resources to deliver optimal learning.

Ultimately, learning opportunities should be designed for pervasiveness, so that it can stand a decent chance of engaging the modern learner. Learning happens everywhere, and Learning and Development teams need to design training programs which offer this flexibility to today’s tech-savvy professionals.

I bet you’re now thinking “easy for her to say… but it sure sounds hard to do”. Fret not, I won’t leave you hanging! Read on to discover more about strategies you can adopt to help your company better engage with its employees and create a continuous learning culture.

Mobile Learning – Are You Part of the Revolution?

Enter mobile learning (mLearning) – situated at the intersection of mobile computing and e-learning, it includes anytime anywhere resources; rich social interaction; powerful support for effective learning through access to educational tools and material, as well as performance-based assessment. In all, it enlarges access to education through leveraging the portability of mobile devices.

mLearning is supported by the principles of Andragogy, essentially motivating adults to learn more effectively by giving them a sense of agency and by connecting learning to practical application.

mobile learning

Mobile Learning and the Modern Learner

If we had to describe the modern learner in 3 characteristics, they would be restless, time-starved and easily distracted. This often equates to learners disengaging when they are presented with traditional classroom training. Here is how mLearning can tackle this issue, ultimately improving the ROI of training:

1. The best fit for the Modern learner

Over the past few years, mobile website traffic has surpassed desktop traffic worldwide. Furthermore, millennials now comprise around 75% of the workforce, making the urgency for trainers to shift gears to engage them not only real, but overdue. Given that they spend a significant amount of time on their mobile devices and are more or less attached to them, mobile learning is what resonates with them most.

2. Learning becomes more dynamic

A big gripe against traditional learning is that it doesn’t accommodate different learning styles, whilst modern learners and modern learning demand much more than a classroom session with a PowerPoint presentation.

Mobile learning addresses this issue, for it lends itself to incorporating elements of all key learning styles. Visual and auditory learners can access videos, infographics, pictures and podcasts at their fingertips. Kinesthetically, touch screen mobile technology facilitates the incorporation of movement by allowing learners to drag, drop and tap. By supporting the way people naturally prefer to learn – through a blend of learning styles, mLearning gives learners the opportunity to flex all of their learning muscles. This also provides our brains with what it craves – stimulating learning experiences that are easy to process, thus keeping learners engaged.

3. The learning experience is personalized

If you restrict an individual to learning at an appointmented place and time, you may be losing out. Andragogical principles suggest that adults resent and resist situations where they feel they are being told what to do; they want agency to make their own decisions. mLearning allows learners this privilege for it supports flexibility. By removing time and location restraints, mobile sets learning free, as learners are able to access learning content whenever and wherever they want. Furthermore, this addresses the modern learners’ constant shortage of time.

This also means that learners can choose the pace of their learning. Not only does this appeal to their sense of agency, it also provides them with ample opportunities to review and reflect on their own learning. On-demand access also encourages learning retention as learners can recycle and review key concepts at any time and place.

Finally, on-the-go accessibility means on-demand learning can occur. This means that learners can refer to training content when they face problems at work and immediately apply their learning to the job. This not only saves time, but also increases job productivity.

“Timeliness, proximity, versatility – these are among the key measures of today’s high-impact learning organization, mLearning plays a critical role in helping organizations meet the demands of these measures.”

- David Mallon

4. A stepping stone to better learning

Mobile learning is the delivery platform for an array of other technologies and strategies that can elevate workplace learning. Of noteworthy mention is microlearning, which enables people to learn in a manner which our brain enjoys: through small, easily processable components. Studies have shown that breaking down training content into bite-sized chunks, including impactful activities and making them available on mobile devices, can lead to an increase in productivity and engagement by up to 40%.

A case in point would be Merrill Lynch. When the company employed mobile microlearning to speed up compliance training, their employees spent 45-80% less time in training whilst displaying no loss of comprehension, and even averaged 12% higher engagement rates – certainly a case of “study smarter, not harder”!

Mobile learning infrastructure also supports many of the same features that keeps social media users coming back for more, such as push notifications and the ability to communicate with others. This establishes the foundation for a collaborative, knowledge-sharing and continuous learning culture.

modern learner and mobile learning

Mobile Learning – A Game Changer

Engaged learning. Sticky learning. Compelling learning. Multimodal learning. The affordances of mobile learning are many, and more importantly, they pander to the demands of the modern learner. When employees are given control over their learning experience, determining when, where, how and for how long they complete training, the result is that they actually want to do it. This equips the modern employee with the knowledge and skills to perform beyond their role and consistently at their best. Furthermore, with new technologies, compatible with mobile devices, being seamlessly woven into the fabric of training programs, it is even more important for companies to have a mobile learning strategy.

Revolutionize your learning and development strategy and help your modern employees learn faster and perform better. If your organization is ready to take the next step, we are more than ready to help you create training programs and learning experiences that are well placed to nurture a continuous learning culture in your company. You may reach out to us here.

Related Posts

Join our Community Newletter
Stay in the "Gnow" with upcoming events, feature updates, best practices and tips and tricks from experts in the industry.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.