Why app-like learning?
E-learning has been fairly slow to migrate to mobile devices, even though users in the U.S. have spent several years consuming more digital media on mobile applications than on laptops or desktops.
One push-back I’ve heard regarding mobile-friendly e-learning is that learners typically use laptops or desktops during the workday, and this is true. Research shows that daytime audiences more heavily utilize desktops and laptops, while tablets and smartphones dominate the scene before work and in the evening.
Mobile media consumption, though, is on the rise, as are flexible work arrangements and the numbers of telecommuters, day-shifters, and job-sharers. All of these changes suggest learners will increasingly rely on multiple devices, including phones and tablets. (Some sources even estimate that by 2030, most professionals will work from home using super-fast connections.)
App-like learning is a great way to reach learners on all of these devices and in these blended work environments.
What is app-like learning?
Some of the key features that make apps such as Facebook, Nike+ Training Club, and ESPN so appealing are:
- Anytime, anywhere access
- Open navigation
- Search efficiency
- Intuitive user interfaces
- The ability to customize every experience
- The ease of social sharing.
In addition, apps are typically not one-time use items, but rather ongoing tools that offer fresh content and access new functionality with every update. Wouldn’t it be great if your organization’s learning solutions had these enticing features?
Today’s technologies make this possible. App-like learning solutions do not have to be native, device-specific apps. They may be web apps or a hybrid of the two, and you can create them using HTML5 or some of today’s rapid e-learning development tools.
Juliette Denny, in her recent article, “Traditional eLearning is Dead”, shares that the learning solution of the future should be fun, bite-sized, mobile, campaign-driven, and social.
Great apps are ones that you come back to every day. Apps that can’t compete in today’s attention economy quickly wither and die. Successful apps are fast, beautiful, and make your life better. They wow you. App-like learning should do the same. Each interactive element should be compelling—from the opening screen to the exit experience. The content and experience should pull you in as a great advertisement would. Well-designed e-learning should compel the learner to want to read more, click deeper, and voluntarily spend time with it.
Who’s using app-like learning?
Many of the learning solutions we produce fall under the category of app-like learning. Here are two examples:
Luxury jewelry brand
A client recognized around the world wanted to provide sales training to its many retail representatives. This training needed to reflect the company’s brand, be accessible by a variety of mobile devices, and quickly convey key learning points. PT designed a responsive, app-like curriculum that addressed all their concerns.
Large healthcare system
Our work for a national organization dedicated to increasing the availability of quality care for people facing serious illness recently won a Brandon Hall Silver Award in Mobile Learning Excellence. We created an extensive collection of micro courses on clinical topics ranging from pain management; care and case management; and specific symptoms and illnesses, to operational processes. The audience for this program included doctors, nurses, hospital administrators, social workers, and a variety of other service providers. To meet their diverse needs and limited availability for training, we broke the content into dozens of short, HTML5 interactive modules that worked seamlessly on mobile devices as well as on desktops and laptops. We also integrated video case studies into the modules to provide compelling, real-world examples that spoke to their specific needs and expectations. Intuitive touch controls and swiping commands provide a true mobile-first experience.
A lot to consider
The process of designing and developing app-like learning may take a slightly larger effort than a traditional e-learning project, but don’t underestimate the results. After all, the most effective apps take time to design, develop, and test. And, like them, great app-like learning is worth the extra effort. Your team on projects like the ones I describe are likely to include a project manager, writer, instructional or interactive designer, graphic designer, motion artist, videographer, sound engineer, developer, and quality assurance testers. The people in these roles, often working in parallel, contribute expertise and perspectives from a variety of areas, all of which combine to create a better product.
Before beginning a new project, we make time to consider which key messages will compel the learner. Our team meets to discuss how the experience can make learner’s lives easier. We determine the best way to chunk everything into bite-sized pieces. And we put serious thought into how video or interactive content can enhance the experience and tell a compelling story. We even plan how we can add additional value over time. When complete, your app-like learning module will likely have a considerably longer life-span than traditional e-learning.
The demand for learning apps and app-like learning will continue to grow. As content providers of all types compete for attention, it’s important to engage your learners with solutions that are so compelling and so entertaining that the learners might not even recognize them as training.