aLearning Blog

Online Learning for Trade Associations

Posts Tagged ‘m-learning’

You Built It…

Posted by Ellen on February 22, 2012

But they haven’t come.

“Recent statistics from the 2010 Tomi Ahonen Almanac estimate that there were five billion cell-phone subscriptions worldwide at the end of 2010. To me, that says the opportunities for m-learning are limitless.” — Tony Bingham, ASTD President and CEO

However… This statistic includes non-smart phones. I carry a basic TracPhone. It’s primarily (prepare to be shocked) a telephone. It does have a basic text-message feature, but I didn’t buy it for any of that.

Though I’m surely in the minority for US professionals, I’m also sure that, globally, I’m in the majority.

What am I getting at?

Statistics are helpful guides. But they are no substitute for profiling your members, for finding out how many have smart-phones and use them for anything more than a quick Web search and e-mails. If they don’t, then you could invest lots of time and money in m-learning only to discover that your members are not tuned in to that delivery mode.

Think I’m crazy?

Know history or risk repeating it, right? Here’s one example: an association I know of jumped onto the asynchronous elearning bandwagon several years ago, when it was the shiny new thing in education. They invested thousands and thousands of dollars and hours of staff time creating fabulous elearning courses.

No one showed up.

Their members didn’t have access to the Web back then, at least not the bandwidth needed at that time for a successful online learning experience. Result? Disappointment and a much harder sell when elearning and the Web evolved to the point when such an endeavor made more sense.

Moral of the story?

Don’t just listen to the experts and what they’re promoting these days. Don’t make decisions simply based on statistical trends. Instead, turn your research inward: find out if your members are prepared — with the technology and attitude — for the implementation you’re considering.

To do less is to suffer the consequences of “Fire, Ready, Aim.”

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Remote? Mobile?

Posted by Ellen on April 22, 2010

In response to a comment I made awhile back about being a “remote” member to the associations I’ve joined, someone said, “All members are remote.”

Not exactly. As an MSAE member (Michigan chapter of ASAE) in Lansing, I was local to the organization’s office. I could be on the premises to help as a volunteer within ten minutes. I watched for the events that were held in the office or in town to see if my schedule would permit me to attend. I felt connected.

But because I was outside the DC area, I didn’t feel as connected to ASAE. I volunteered on “remote” projects — helping with Associopedia’s original content, writing for the PD enewsletter, serving as a chat leader for the eLearning Conference.

Now, living on the road, I’m not only remote to those associations (and the eLearning Guild, and other associations I’m a member of), but I’m mobile as well.

I’m on the move.

So you’d think I’d be the idea target audience for mobile learning (“m-learning”).

m-Learning has been trending for awhile as a way to deliver training via cell phones. It’s a great way to get JIT (just-in-time) nuggets of information, data, and training to folks on the go.

  • Sales people can access updated training on the newest features of the products or services they sell — in the cab on the way to their next appointment.
  • Consultants can quickly learn about the latest advances in their clients’ key industry before walking down the hall and into the meeting room.

The possibilities are endless!

But don’t design your m-learning strategy with someone like me in mind.

All tech and adoption issues aside (how readable is some of that stuff on those tiny screens, anyway — especially to older eyes?), there’s a more fundamental reason I’m not your model learner:

I’m remote and I’m mobile, but I don’t use my cell phone for anything other than the occasional call.

Sounds old-fashioned, I know.

But the fact is, those maps you see floating over people’s heads in TV commercials still show a lot of white, empty reception areas.

We’ve been on the road for nearly a year and often find ourselves in places where there is no cell phone reception.

Or getting reception requires going someplace like the top of a hill:

Yes, I’m probably in the minority. My situation is probably unique.

But maybe not. How well do you know your members?

Too often we’re quick to make assumptions about what our members want and need. When you live in an environment, use your cell or iPad or Blackberry or other gadgets for certain tasks, it’s easy to assume that everyone else does the same thing. “Remote” and “mobile” might be connected, but they’re not the same thing.

So before you spend a lot of time on m-learning, and especially before you make an investment in it, find out:

  • who your mobile learners are
  • whether there are enough of them to justify m-learning
  • and if they’ll be able to access the m-learning you deliver

To do otherwise is to waste resources and create excitement or interest around something that just isn’t worth it. At least not yet.

Your time is better spent figuring out ways to keep your “remote” members feeling connected by giving them ways to contribute.

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