Almost a year ago I wrote about emerging Trends in Learning and Development, but one trend that’s really taken off is the rapid growth in mobile learning. Recent studies show that nearly 50 percent of all Americans use smart phones, and while that may not be surprising the fact that so many use them for learning, is.
Statistics show that investments in m-Learning – defined here as learning delivered to smart phones, PDAs and tablet computers – is estimated to grow to almost $247 million by the end of 2011, according to Ambient Insight, LLC, an international market research firm. Ambient Insight predicts that the largest demand will come from custom development and content conversion of existing training. Moreover, they believe the healthcare sector will account for 20 percent of the total U.S. market for m-Learning.
Bringing health care education into the home
That certainly mirrors what we see in our region. For example, Penn State College of Medicine has a long history of providing elearning to its staff, students and patients, but more recently they’ve moved into the m-Learning arena for patient care. As a case in point, physical therapy is key to restoring health among patients recovering from surgery or serious injury. But therapy typically demands two to three visits each week for three months or more, placing a severe hardship on many patients who find travel difficult because of age or injury.
To combat this problem the College of Medicine plans to deliver education to homebound patients using tablet computers. The application is designed to remind patients when and how to exercise using videos, ask questions about the patient’s level of pain, and submit results to a database for review by therapists and physicians. As patients recover mobility therapists can assign additional exercise regimens. A byproduct of this approach is that it should save both time and money by reducing repetitive treatments by therapists, and free up time to treat those patients who need individualized attention.
Diagnosing dietary problems
Another medical oriented mobile app targets people with food allergies. Soon to be available on the iPhone, this app tracks allergic reactions to food groups, identifies specific triggers in the diet, and then – based on the user’s geographic location – recommends local practitioners who can treat the illness.
Office workers maintain training while on the road
In the financial industry workers spend a significant amount of time out of the office, so Merrill Lynch has turned to m-Learning to continue critical training. Implementing their GoLearn initiative over two months, Merrill Lynch delivered three courses via Blackberry to more than 2,000 investment bankers and support staff. According to Merrill Lynch, the results exceeded expectations. Compared to a control group enrolled in conventional elearning, mobile learners achieved a 12 percent higher course completion rate, scored higher on tests, and required about 30 percent less time to complete the course work.
In a post training survey, users praised the convenience of m-Learning (75%) and said they would like to complete more training in this format (100%). Merrill Lynch now plans to expand m-Learning to target orientation programs for new employees, and issues in ethical decision-making, performance management, market abuse, and sexual harassment.
Merrill Lynch is not alone in getting high marks for mobile learning. Accenture, a global management consulting firm, uses m-Learning to augment its in-house elearning compliance training program. Overall, their employees report a higher level of satisfaction with mobile learning compared to conventional elearning.
Fast food industry serves up m-Learning
McDonald’s was thinking outside the box when it chose m-Learning for its employees in Japan. Instead of using more common platforms like smart phones or iPad, McDonald’s turned to the Nintendo DS game system and eSmart software to teach new hires how to prepare food. Each store is equipped with two game consoles at a cost of over $2 million, but McDonald’s predicts that this approach will cut training time in half for new employees.
The ubiquitous nature of smart phones, tablet computers and Internet access makes m-Learning a logical choice when you need to reach a dispersed audience. Work schedules, locations, and time zones disappear as learning is delivered to workers when and where they need it.