With an increasing number of employees working remotely, many learning and development teams are looking for ways to support their employees in this new environment. While in-person training may be on pause for the time being, there are plenty of ways to continue to support employee learning. One trend that’s already been growing in recent years is a shift to mobile learning, where employees use their mobile devices to take courses and brush up on new skills.

According to eLearning Industry, the online learning market is estimated to reach $275 billion by 2022 and the market for mobile learning products and services is projected to grow to $70 billion in 2020. Over the course of the past few weeks, we’ve seen interest in online and mobile learning skyrocket. In a San Francisco Chronicle article, Udemy’s Vice President of Learning Shelley Osborne was quoted as saying, “Online learning is truly mainstream now. It’s been moving that way for a long time, but based on what we’re seeing right now, we think it’s likely that these shifts will remain even after we return to some level of normalcy.”

The rapid rise in mobile learning’s popularity makes sense: It’s convenient and accessible for almost everyone. As a Training Industry article explains, “This shift in the portability and accessibility of educational content is largely explained by the mobile learning theory, which suggests that when training is offered across locations, times and topic, students interweave learning with their everyday activities.” In this post, we’ll explore why mobile learning is beneficial, especially to employees who are working in a remote environment.

1. Mobile learning is accessible anytime, anywhere

The vast majority of people have access to a smartphone: eLearning Industry reports 80% of people have a smartphone and 90% of millennials have their smartphone on them at all times. And it’s not just the fact that people are carrying their phones with them — they’re actively engaging with these devices, touching them every two minutes or 2,617 times a day, according to Training Industry

The fact that people already have their smartphones accessible means that building a habit for learning on these devices shouldn’t be too much of a stretch. In fact, Training Industry reports that 96% of modern learners absorb new information on smartphones and 76% prefer online resources to other learning methods.

With an increasing number of people balancing their personal and professional lives while working from home, mobile devices can support learning on the go. Working parents, for example, may find that they’re not able to sit at their computer for an extended period of time — or perhaps their children are using the computer for their own learning activities. In these cases, it’s much easier to engage with a quick lecture or practice activity they can complete on their phone.

2. Mobile learning allows learners to set their preferred schedule and pace 

The fact that learners have their smartphone available at nearly every moment of the day means they can fit learning in whenever they have a few moments of downtime. Learning in small bursts can be easier to fit into a busy schedule while also promoting a sense of accomplishment with smaller, more manageable goals. Workplace productivity coach Melissa Gratias is an advocate of “microproductivity” or focusing on one small task at a time. She writes, “Breaking tasks down helps us to see large tasks as more approachable and doable, and reduces our propensity to procrastinate or defer tasks, because we simply don’t know where to begin.” 

Similarly, dividing learning into small, repeated bursts, also known as “spaced learning” has been shown to improve retention. According to an Association for Talent Development article on spaced learning, “Designing learning so that activities can be tackled in short bursts, spaced over time, may not only help learners remember over time but also reduce the need for large blocks of time away from the workplace to learn in the first place. It is likely to be particularly helpful for busy learners on the go, who can use mobile devices to access spaced learning in short bursts of ‘found time.’”

3. Mobile learning is easy to personalize

Personalization has become part of everyday life in the consumer world, and the same types of recommendation engines that suggest our favorite music, movies, or TV shows are reshaping the learning experience. Employees can now browse through topics and courses that are uniquely tailored to their interests, behaviors, and goals. In the context of L&D, personalization is driven by machine learning and algorithms to create learning journeys and offer recommendations based on learners’ past behavior. 

Personalization can be used to create a customized learning journey that’s relevant to a learner’s job, interests, and more. By surfacing more powerful and intelligent content to learners, we can better engage learners and help employees navigate the ever-evolving skills landscape. To explore this topic further, see Why Personalization is the Future of L&D.

Within the mobile learning experience, personalization can also occur in the form of curated paths from team leads, managers, and colleagues to help one another through onboarding, learning a new skill, or mental wellness. Udemy’s Learning Paths help employees and teams reach their learning goals more efficiently and effectively by enabling anyone to curate the right combination of Udemy for Business courses, external materials, or proprietary company resources.

Learning Paths help your employees have a personalized learning experience on their smartphone.

4. Mobile learning can use prompts and “nudges” 

In his book Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness, Richard Thaler — a Nobel Prize-winning economist at the University of Chicago — outlines the need for a “choice architecture” that nudges and reminds people to change their behavior. For example, recycling signs near trash cans remind people to do the right thing when it comes to the environment.

David Perring of the Fosway Group discusses how L&D can apply this nudge theory in the workplace. Perring recommends L&D should create an ecosystem of reminders to help nudge employees in the right direction post-training. The nudges or reminders could be manager observation checklists, funny videos, or posters around the office.

An HR Technologist article draws a clear connection between mobile learning and nudges: “Micro-learning and mobile learning are now increasingly popular — and in many ways, they are at the center of the argument for nudge theory in L&D. Of course, by making these tiny modules available across various devices, not only do you democratize the user’s intent and space to learn, but you also create an ‘ecosystem of nudges,’ reminding the user of the choice available to learn something new.”

In a time where there are so many distractions, scheduling learning reminders is a way to help employees remember to get back into their learning, on their own schedule. Learners who use the Udemy app for iOS can help build a habit by setting learning reminders. They can set up a notification at their desired learning time (such as every weekday evening at 8pm), creating a nudge for learning.

Choose the day, time, and frequency of your learning reminders.

The Udemy mobile app can be downloaded here. Learning reminders from the app can be especially useful in a remote work environment where employees may not be reminded by their manager or peers to engage in learning.

Learning reminders are a gentle nudge that can prompt employees to make time to learn.

Mobile learning takes advantage of the fact that most people already have their smartphones available and can quickly engage in short bursts of learning or practice. Learners can engage with content in a time and place that’s convenient and personal and set reminders to make sure they meet their goals. This is especially valuable when employees are working remotely and away from the typical office environment, but it’s safe to say the benefits of mobile learning are here to stay.

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