Employee learning is going mobile – are small businesses ready?

Matt Pierce of TechSmith discusses the rise of conducting staff training operations through mobile devices.


Fuelled by the rise of trends such as bring your own device (BYOD) and the proliferation of smartphone devices, momentum, over the last few years, has been growing for mobile learning. Employees are using their own internet-enabled phones, laptops and tablets to connect to corporate networks and access work files directly from their device of choice. In fact, analyst house Gartner predicts that by 2017 at least 50 per cent of employees will bring their own devices to work. As a result, businesses have an opportunity to turn their training material into digital learning content that is accessible on these devices, to provide employees with anytime, anywhere learning. 

The benefit of conducting business operations through mobile devices has has been widely discussed and include factors such as convenience and flexibility, the ability to repeat specific parts of any training until a topic is understood, knowledge sharing and retention, engaging employees on familiar platforms and empowering employees to take ownership of their own learning. 

For small businesses, which often only have one person to train all employees due to limited resources, shared and centralised mobile learning or m-learning resources can be used to reduce the burden of trying to train staff individually on all learning material and the onboarding of new staff members.

As businesses start to build up a body of learning content for mobile devices, it is important to ensure the content is optimised for multiple and new mobile platforms to ensure maximum employee engagement and learning success.

The next wave of mobile learning content

The iPad and various other tablet and smartphone devices has made it possible for businesses to offer employees an increasing number of materials for consumption wherever and whenever.  Most businesses taking advantage of m-learning and creating content for the first time, are likely to focus on enabling access to material via the desktop computer. However, mobile platforms have facilitated increased usage by simply making materials available to employees to use in more situations, whether at a desk in the office or on a train.

However, as m-learning experience increases, there is a real opportunity for all businesses, both large and small, to optimise learning content for mobile delivery. That means considering learning content in terms of its physical aspects, for example, shorter length material and interactivity designed for quick reinforcement and validation of user understanding; and topic selection, for example, more granular topics that break down a subject into easy-to-consume bite size pieces.

The power of video

While m-learning can involve surfing websites, looking at diagrams and even reading documents on a device, video content has become the ideal medium. There is a plethora of video content currently available on the internet as it provides a richness of experience that audio-only content or static text and graphics lack. Consumers are increasingly using online video as a key means to satisfy their information and entertainment needs. It is predicted by 2016 that 1.6 billion people will watch video online. In fact, the increase of video traffic on the web will rise from 57 per cent to 69 per cent in 2017 according to Cisco. This means that a million minutes of video content will cross the network every second in 2017. In UK, one in three Britons view at least one online video a week, according to content marketing provider ReelContent.

Making these videos available on mobile will increase the availability and access options to the learning material. However, trainers within SMEs will also need to understand and consider how they will be able to deliver a single piece of content to numerous users with an array of different devices, all with their own screen sizes and format requirements.  

Bringing learning tutorials to life: screencasting

One way to create videos for mobile devices, is by using screencast software. Screencasting, also referred to as screen recording, is a video recording of all on-screen computer activity alongside an audio commentary from the presenter. It can be considered a useful method of creating video-learning content, especially for use on mobile devices. The trainer can click ‘record’ and start capturing their screen’s content – anything from training practices and software demonstrations to recording a presentation, and tutorial videos.

Using the screencasting software, trainers can narrate throughout their video to help explain what is happening on screen as the video is played back. Additionally, these screencasts can contain a number of interactive features to keep employees engaged from quizzes that assess employee understanding, to interactive hotspot technology that ensures employees can skip to the content that is most pertinent to their personal learning.

By recording live presentations and tutorials, SMEs can effectively offer their employees a chance to ‘rewind’ key training sessions, helping them learn at their own pace or catch up if they missed a session.

Once a video is completed, businesses can allow employees to access the content via an online platform, virtual learning environment (VLE), learning management system (LMS), and through their mobile or tablet device. 

Output options

Before selecting an output for a recorded screencast, it’s important for businesses to consider its audience. The device employees’ use will have the highest impact on output choice, so a video file that doesn’t work on Apple devices, if most employees use iPhones, won’t work.

There are a few other considerations before deciding on a format. If the device of choice for an employee is unknown, trainers may need to consider a file format that is widely compatible. MP4 is a good choice, and means any video created can also be uploaded to YouTube or other video hosting sites. In this case, users should be able to access the video, providing their device has an Internet connection. More recently, the vast majority of devices come with a YouTube application pre-installed.

Trainers should also consider how employees will access the video as this will impact their choice of video length. For example, an HD file, which has a typically larger file size but offers better quality viewing for the audience, will take longer to download if it is a lengthy. Therefore, if the video is to be downloaded by users, trainers should consider ‘chunking’ content, creating a series of shorter videos that can be downloaded one at a time and stored to a device. This means that users can delete the short video to make space for the next one, when necessary.

As devices become more sophisticated, the use cases in training will continue to develop. Keeping up to date on the latest devices and capabilities will ensure training programs are able to fully engage with the training audience.

By optimising learning content for mobile devices, businesses both small and large can really capitalise  on the opportunity m-learning and BYOD presents, providing employees with new and engaging ways to learn that maximise learning effectiveness. 

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