Will Mobile Apps Change Training Forever?

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Technology around us is evolving at a rapid pace and is in turn affecting a speedy evolution of learning technology. Work is changing and, to keep pace with it, training is changing too.

Which of these technology changes will impact training the most?

I think mobile applications are the game changer for training.
Let me explain why I think that way.

Why Mobile?

We now produce more information than ever, the shelf life of knowledge and skills is reducing, and the new generation workforce thinks about information storage and access very differently – after all they have had a whole decade of interaction with web  1.0 + 2.0. With the availability of just-in-time access to information through mobile computing devices (including tablets) the notion of knowledge (sometimes a.k.a. information) and its use gets separated. For me, it shifts the focus from ‘Training’ to ‘Performance Support’.

In my interactions with various business owners & training managers I’ve found a performance support initiative gets the management nod more easily as compared to a training initiative. Evidently, the management believes the advantage of a performance support initiative is immediate, and promises better ROI. This is where a strategy that includes mobile fits in very well. It’s a fantastic always carried on the person, and is now as powerful as a PC/Mac from just a couple of years ago. It can be adapted to become your performance support agent at work.

Why Apps?

Mobile apps are big business. It’s projected that apps will become a bigger market than CDs by 2012. It is only natural for it to exert an influence on the learning & training market as well. Mashable reports that 1 in 4 adults in US now use mobile apps. Today there are hundreds of apps for education available on the Apple Appstore – here’s a big list of iPhone apps for education.

Apps are a great medium for delivering quality learning content as they:

–  Provide a smooth consistent user experience
–  Load only data as compared to a web site or web app that loads UI too
–  Can reach targeted audience in a secure manner
–  Allow creation of a dedicated channel for access and retrieval (pull) of    information/knowledge just when needed
–  Allow networking, collaboration and user generated content easier by being available at the point of creative impulse (as Tomi Ahonen puts it)
–  Can store user specific information and act as a personal learning agent (at least to some extent)

Examples of Workplace Learning (Performance Support) Apps

Apps that help the workforce perform better or safer are already out in the market. Soon we will see more custom apps hitting the Appstore/Market. These would be tailored to suit a particular audience and will have particular objectives. Here are some examples available on the Appstore:

HVAC Toolkit Ultimate – load calculation, duct sizer, etc for onsite plumbers.

HVAC Toolkit

Foreman’s Mate
– a utility for the workers in construction industry.

Formans Mate 1

Formans Mate 2

Electrician’s Helper takes the hassle out of looking us electrical codes and doing complex calculations for installations.

Electricians Helper

Earlier I had written about healthcare industry being at the forefront of the mobile learning innovation and that post contains with some good examples too.

Where will Apps Fit in Training?

I think apps will eventually create a unique position in the training methods of corporates. Given the unique advantages, they may soon become trusted assistants of every employee in the workplace. They will eventually replace a lot of varied tools, manuals, charts, technical support, calculators, and the like, perhaps making the mobile computing and communication device the only tool one needs.

When you have apps to support almost everything your workforce does, you need to take a serious relook at your whole training strategy.

I see a whole new world of training coming around with mobile apps as the agents of change.

Do you agree?

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