• Worldwide there are five times as many mobile phones as there are PCs.  

  • 70% of learners feel more motivated accessing training on a mobile device, as opposed to a PC. 

  • By 2020, Gartner predicts that almost 85% of businesses will have some Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) program in place.  *

Few doubt that mobile is the future and will fundamentally impact our way of life across many areas - but what does it mean for you as a business leader, what does it mean for the future of corporate learning and what exactly are the options? 

"Mobile-responsive" versus "mobile-first" 

Mobile-responsive and mobile-first are buzz words in the software, e-learning and many other industries. What’s the difference and – above all – as a business or HR manager, do you need to care? Is one mobile version to be preferred over the other? Let us have a closer look.

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Graceful degradation versus progressive enhancement   

Mobile-responsive design is based on the "graceful degradation" approach, where the original experience is designed for the desktop. The content is rich and the user gets all the bells and whistles. For smaller screens, the experience then adapts and degrades. For example, a high-resolution image may appear beautiful on a desktop. But for smaller screens, the transparency may be affected. If you consider designing for mobile as an afterthought, the end user experience on mobile devices will be diluted.    

Mobile-first design starts on the opposite end and follows the "progressive enhancement" philosophy. The starting point is the small screen. which leads to a very different approach on how to deal with content. There is no (mind)space for appearance and effects, the focus is 100% on content. All content must be relevant and concise and presented in the most rational way. If there is a need for a thrilling web appearance, all the eye candy will be added later. 

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Top 3 watch outs when selecting a mobile-first learning solution

So yes, there is a significant difference between mobile-responsive and mobile-first design, and you should care when selecting a learning solution. Mobile-first is the preferred design model, delivering a superior user experience not only on mobile phones but actually across devices in principle.  

Mobile-first is not just a new design mode but a disruptive innovation in the learning space. The smartphone is a very different device compared to the desktop, and its unique functionality enables a much more active, social and ‘in-the-moment’ learning experience.  

Here are the top three criteria to look for while selecting a mobile-first learning solution.  

#1: Active learning   

Gone are the times where the learner passively sits in front of the desktop, only clicking the ‘Next’ button and fighting not to fall asleep. Mobile-first learning empowers the learner to be an active participant in their own, personal learning journey. For example, you can ask your learner to take pictures on the spot or and shoot videos. If you ask your learners to record their sales pitch, for sure they will practice a few times before they are happy to upload and share the video! Their peers can then comment and 'like' in real-time. Also, you can send your learners regular reminders to keep them going. Look for a solution that truly understands and leverages the unique functionalities of the smartphone for active user engagement. 

#2: Bite-sized content   

Today’s learners are overwhelmed by the volume of information and suffer from a short attention span. You cannot expect your learners to go through a 60-minute video, especially not on their smartphones. If you want their dedicated attention, create bite-sized modules suitable for the mobile learner. Short bursts of learning are convenient and effective: Short videos, multiple choice questions or reflections are easy to fit into a busy schedule, easy to digest and much better to remember than a few, long sessions, no matter which device you use. This is backed up by neuroscience research which has shown that small pieces of content drip fed over time helps employees learn faster and retain knowledge better than traditional learning methods. Embrace the concept of micro-learning and choose a mobile learning solution that leverages succinct and engaging content for learning impact.

#3: Agile content creation   

Mobile-first offers the opportunity to learn anytime and from anywhere. Now imagine: you can not only learn, but also create and publish content on your mobile! You can develop content and train your employees almost in real-time. There is no delay between creating your content and making it available to the organization. Few tools can do this yet (Gnowbe is one of them!) but this feature will be very valuable in the near future and in a VUCA world where agile leadership, innovation, staff engagement and effective partnerships are paramount to survival and success. **  

As mobile-first continues to gain momentum, instructional designers need to catch up with the change and truly put the learner experience at the heart of all design. Business leaders should push for solutions that may be seen as disruptive in the training departments but benefit learners and organizations with better learning success and business results. 

* Search Statistics, Mobile Learning Statistics, BYOD
** Greg Allnutt