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The two main obstacles against m-learning in the workplace

The future of work is already here. We are living it. Fixed schedules become more flexible, remote positions see growing numbers, geographical barriers become obsolete, AR and VR technology creep into the average workplace. And mobile devices play a huge role in all of this.

Smartphones and tablets are not just mere communication tools for the modern employee, who is now more mobile than ever. They are one of the most efficient learning tools at work. Whenever employees hit a roadblock while performing a task, more often than not, they turn to the devices in their pockets to find solutions.

Mobile learning in the workplace comes with great advantages that boost employee productivity and lead to company success. Just-in-time learning, bite-sized learning, online collaboration, instant feedback, anytime, anywhere learning — all these concepts float around m-learning, as it a either a prerequisite of, or it supports each and every one of them.

But even with all this learning and improved performance potential, some companies still have trouble with reaping the benefits of m-learning. The reasons for this are various, but they all seem to spring from the same two big sources: budgetary constraints, and a gap between what training programs offer and what employees really need in terms of workplace learning.

Money, money, money...

Successful companies strive to make more with less. That’s a sure-fire way to increase profits.

General costs

Making more with less often comes down to numbers and spreadsheets. But employees are individual human beings that interact with others organically, have good days and bad days, and certainly all this can’t fit into the cells of someone’s spreadsheets.

Learning at work is affected by so many variables, that L&D professionals often have a hard time proving the ROI of any training program to the higher-ups. Therefore, it’s easy for L&D departments to suffer budgetary cuts in a struggling company. And if entire training programs get to suffer, the mobile part of these gets to suffer too.

Specific costs

M-learning comes with specific costs on its own. L&D professionals needs to design mobile courses that respond to the constraints mobile devices impose: responsive layout, vertical scroll, less clutter, etc., etc.

This translates to an increased amount of resources — financial and more — no matter if we’re talking about PC-designed courses to mobile ones, or creating new mobile courses from scratch.

For example, old training courses with a lot of Flash elements are an often source of headache for the people in charge of adapting them to m-learning. New mobile courses need to be created, or at least overseen, by someone who knows the technicalities of mobile design, and not all instructional designers know these by default.

Costs of devices

And if the above general training and specific m-learning costs can be reasonably dealt with, what about the actual mobile devices and their corresponding costs?

Will the company provide a device for each and every one of their employees? All of them need to keep up with external changes and get better at their jobs, so all employees need mobile devices to learn and improve.

This will ensure a certain level of standardization and control. However, the bigger the organization, the bigger the costs.

There is also the alternative of BYOD. Employees could bring their own devices at work and use them to access training courses and learning materials at their convenience.

But BYOD brings along more questions and possible costs. Handling so many different devices can certainly become a great challenge for companies and their tech support teams. And what if some employees don’t have devices with some required specifications to access the company LMS? Will they benefit from some sort of financing from the company to get appropriate devices?

Generally, companies that allow BYOD at work see more advantages than disadvantages to it. But this doesn't mean that the reverse can’t possibly happen.

Keeping up with the ever-changing business environment

An organization is like a living organism that grows and adapts to its environment. The business environment of today is different from that of 10 years ago, and in five years time, it will change even more. Technological developments are the main driver here.

The problem is, some organizations change at a slower pace than the outside world, an they find it hard to keep up with external expectations.

External expectations can come from clients, potential clients, service providers, and other business partners, and also from possible employees. Considering an organization is always eager to develop, attracting and retaining the best talent should always be a top priority.

Millennials and their younger followers are already the biggest group of employees in the workforce. And mobile devices seem like a natural extension to their hands. They know their power, and they expect mobile devices to be part of their work life.

What’s more, younger employees share a thirst for knowledge and a desire to be successful in their careers, which makes them place a high value on training and professional development — higher than any of their predecessor generations. Deloitte says so. PwC also says so.

So why don’t all companies respond to this? Why don’t they adopt new technologies fast enough? Why don’t they listen to the people that can move the needle in the right direction and meet their learning needs at work? Ask these questions to any 10 management teams, and you’ll get at least 10 different answers. But no matter the exact reasons, they are a barrier to the successful implementation of m-learning in the workplace.

These two main obstacles against m-learning in the workplace — various budgetary constraints and the gap between what employees need in terms of learning and what company training programs offer them — don’t have to be insurmountable. Some companies do manage to overcome them.