7 Tips for Mobile Learning That Works

Hi Everyone,

Here are 7 of our tips for Designing Mobile Learning That works. Now, I don’t want to preach that these “are THE tips” and that there aren’t other tips. These are definitely tips that I’ve used, and my colleagues have used to approach our mobile learning projects.

Let’s get straight into it.

Tip #1 Ask the right questions to validate whether a mobile learning experience is applicable

Maybe we are starting to see a clear segmentation of the type of content and topics that are suited for mobile-based learning experiences.

We are quite used to “finding things out” on the fly using our phone, there’s a youtube video for most things. In fact, there was a woman who built a house using YouTube how-to videos.

With the internet as our one big knowledge base and users becoming more and more comfortable with looking stuff up when they need to know something, are we becoming more and more reactive with our learning? By the way, I hear millennials are now able to search with their eyes closed.

  • “I’ll learn that when I need to know it, and just enough to get the task done.”
  • Do we have remote workers who need to learn on the road?
  • Can those workers come back to a desktop or laptop for a more immersive learning experience?
  • Maybe we need easy to access knowledge bases as well as “training” and LMSs?
  • Do we really want our users to have to log into an LMS, go into a Learning module, every time they want to remind themselves about a product feature, or a company policy or process?

I wanted to take a slight detour, without darkening the mood too much. There is the dark side of mobile usage.

As developers and designers and influencers using the space, we need to become responsible advocates of mobile use. Not necessary a tip, but to provoke extra thought on the topic.

Smartphones can be a double-edged sword….

Making us “smarter”, but at the same time, the obsessive behaviour of apps, games, social media, and gambling can cause psychological harm, as well as wider relationships problems with friends, family and colleagues.

Clinically speaking, you can’t become addicted to the device, but behavioural addictions to phone functions can occur. 

Seriously, in Amsterdam, they have installed red lights projected onto the pavement to stop people going on to the road!

I guess my point here is that we are starting to see some social and societal ramifications of the overuse of mobile phones. They’re now even banning phones at concerts, even though we don’t expect our employees to be doing their online induction at an Adele concert.

People are using their phones enough, so maybe we should be encouraging learning away from the phone, instead of trying to find any reason to put our learning on a phone. Not to say I’m against using mobiles for delivering learning, but it comes back to asking the questions to validate whether or not mobile learning is worth the mix.

Ok, I’ve had my rant. I’m not against technology. I love the “saving the world” kind, but have you seen the Boston Dynamics dogs? They’re opening doors now!

As learning professionals maybe we need to resist the temptation to make everything digital and mobile just to say “we have mobile learning”.

Think about it, would you really want an employee at a bank to go through compliance training on their phone?

This brings me to my next tip;

Tip #2 Only design for mobile if you think it’s going add real value or be a worthy supplement to a larger blended learning experience.

For something like compliance training, work closely with the legal team to get a sense of the importance of the learning experience. We all know what they will say to that!

So in a work environment, communicate the importance of the learning experience, and as such, explain that this learning is only available via a desktop computer and that you require the learner’s full attention. There could be some real opportunities to incorporate a mobile experience as part of say, a larger health and safety module. Get the employees to walk around the office and take pictures of potential Health & Safety hazards for rewards.

There is some opportunity to include a mobile component as part of a larger learning piece, especially also if the platform allows for discussion. 

If mobile has been requested as part of the brief;

Tip #3 Don’t make the mobile experience too long

When designing for mobile, create short pieces that can progress at a faster rate than say a desktop version, if you need to have a longer piece, then have a desktop version as well, and if possible, a print version. Print out?

What I hear you ask, printed paper…? Who uses paper these days?

I’ll let you in a little secret, it’s a resurgence, like Vinyl, and Betamax videotape.

In fact, all learning should provide multiple delivery mechanisms, for example, podcasts and even videos should also provide transcripts. Everyone learns differently, so this should be taken into consideration in the delivery method. 

Tip #4 Storyboard and Plan

I was the bright spark in the office who decided to release a game as our Christmas card last year. In the past, before my time, a video card had been uploaded to youtube, then a link sent out via the end of year newsletter. New kid on the block (me) thought it was time to give our clients and subscribers something different, and also showcase our talents.

So I came up with a “choose your own adventure” style game. Simple really. Text-based, with imagery. I got inspired by a couple of similar experiences.  A glorified branching module that would navigate specifically based on the choice that the user made.

Now, I knew the general outline of the experience and I was quite excited about jumping in and developing. I very soon got lost in the slides and the buttons and the jump to slides.

Take a step back and map it all out, plan and storyboard.  This could apply to all learning, but given our mobile learning projects will probably be a lot more interactive, it’s best we take the time to plan and storyboard.

Tip #5 Use Storytelling

How many times have we heard this over the years?  Storytelling for learning.

Great, then I don’t need to harp on about it. All I want to say is that it’s more important when delivering content via a mobile device. Users can get there dopamine hit instantly by switching from your learning module to their social media, games, or gambling!

We need to work extra hard to ensure we can keep their engagement for the duration of the experience. 

Also, Try to make the Storytelling relatable.

Stories are great, but if you are talking about wizards and goblins to a group of doctors, you won’t know if any of them played Dungeons and Dragons in their youth!

Making stories relatable to the industry, even your target audience’s roles can help immerse the learner in the experience. Familiarity allows quicker and longer engagement. The previous example I mentioned about the Christmas game was actually about a Learning and Development consultant, and a lot of our clients and subscribers are L&D people. We did get feedback that they could easily relate to the story. And a bit of humour. 

Tip #6 Utilise familiar mobile gestures

We are currently working on a project where the target audience is a younger generation. That’s not to say that older generations don’t use certain apps for say, dating. But given the brief, we realised that we would need to work extra hard to ensure that we hooked them in straight away, and maintained the momentum as we took them on their learning journey.

We are exploring the use of certain interactions such as using lots of imagery within a vertical scrolling page (Instagram), vertical video (Snapchat) and even going as far as working on swipe like interactions (Tinder).

Tip #7 Get straight into it

Gone are the days where we provide instructions on how to navigate through a learning module, especially on mobile. Needing to tell people to click on the next arrow to continue is akin to telling someone how to breathe.  Let’s give our learners more credit where credit is due. Most of us have been using smartphones for 5+ years now, so needing to provide instructions at the beginning is not only wasting everyone’s time but insulting our intelligence. If instructions are needed, try and mesh the instructions into the module when needed, not all at the beginning, or make the instructions more like an opt-in tour, so learners can choose to find out more if they so desire. Maybe use a question mark icon for that! Just saying.

I also wanted to add here that you may not even need to include things like learning objectives as they could be communicated as part of a campaign, or could have been communicated as a lead in on the platform. 

Hope you’ve found these 7 tips thought-provoking and helpful! I’ll be posting more next month 🙂


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