Whether it’s shopping, socializing, or searching for information, chances are you have an app for that. The average consumer spends more time using their mobile phone than their desktop computer or laptop. A growing number of industries have begun to reap the benefits of catering to mobile users. But corporate learning has been slow to get with the program.

Despite the slow start, our 2018 Learning Trends Report revealed that mobile learning is finally on the rise. Last year, only 21% of our clients and other learning professionals reported that their organization would use mobile learning in 2017. By the following year, the number had nearly doubled. Almost 40% of respondents reported that their organization planned to use mobile learning in 2018.

But before you rush off and start designing your organization’s new mobile training platform, it’s crucial to have a solid game plan in place. Here are five questions to consider in your mobile learning strategy.

1. Who are our target learners, and what do they need to be successful?

mobile learning strategy

As with any learning development plan, the best mobile learning strategies are created with the target learner in mind at every stage of the process. But developing an effective learning strategy in the corporate world can sometimes feel like juggling fire as you struggle to please key stakeholders, meet business needs, and choose the most viable technology. All too often, the learner experience is an afterthought rather than the foundation of the learning process.

That’s where Design Thinking comes in. Mobile learning, in particular, must be created with the target user in mind. Design Thinking tools help you map out your learner needs, preferences, challenges, and potential roadblocks. This process will help you more effectively find the balance between technology, learner needs, and business needs.

2. Does our digital learning need to be mobile-friendly or mobile-first?

There isn’t a universal answer to this question. The unique work environment and training needs of your organization will inform your decision between a mobile-friendly or mobile-first digital learning design.

At a bare minimum, modern digital learning strategies should be mobile-friendly. In essence, mobile-friendly digital learning is functional—but not optimal—on a mobile device. A mobile-friendly learning design prioritizes the desktop version but takes mobile use into account. Mobile-friendly learning is most appropriate when employees don’t necessarily have access to mobile phones or in a stationary environment where workers are expected to use the same desktop computer throughout the day.

A mobile-first digital learning design prioritizes mobile users from the get-go. Considering the fact that a mobile phone is accessible to most employees at all times, this is an extremely effective approach to digital learning. Mobile-first learning may give a lower priority to desktop and other devices or may not even support desktop use at all. Mobile-first designs are appropriate for many environments. They’re particularly relevant for employees who are mobile themselves and may have limited access to a desktop computer during the day.

3. What tools and technologies will we use to create mobile learning?

The top authoring tools for mobile learning all have different strengths and weaknesses. Choosing the wrong tool for your mobile learning can create a major setback in your design process. Whether you are creating mobile learning in-house or working with an external partner, it’s extremely important to spend time up-front identifying the right authoring tool for your unique needs. This can help you avoid a crisis later on when you realize the authoring tool you selected doesn’t fully support your desired learning experience. Take a look at our comparison chart of top authoring tools for an overview of the strengths and weaknesses of each for both mobile-first and mobile-friendly development.

If your learning solution is highly specialized or requires advanced functionality, you may find that the top authoring tools don’t provide the right support for your needs. In this scenario, you may want to consider designing a custom web app or a native mobile app. This frees you from the limitations of authoring tools and allows you to fully customize your mobile learning experience.

Another option is a hybrid app like our Knowledge Guru smartphone app. Hybrid apps are essentially custom web apps that are housed in a native app shell. This enables you to take advantage of mobile app features like push notifications and offline access without the added time and expense of developing a fully native app.

4. How will we deploy mobile learning to our learners?

Though LMSs sometimes get a bad rap when it comes to compatibility, many modern LMSs can now seamlessly deliver mobile learning. An ideal LMS for mobile learning must use responsive design. Users are unlikely to have the patience for long loading times. It should also be flexible enough to support a wide range of device formats. Each type of mobile device has unique dimensions, orientations, and rendering settings. So be sure to check which mobile devices are supported by the LMS you choose. You should also consider whether your LMS supports HTML5 format.

Another option is to use a custom web app to create a mobile learning portal that links to various learning assets, including resources hosted on an LMS. Learning portals offer a great deal of flexibility that is not always possible with an LMS alone. After your mobile learning portal is set up, it will be simple to update as your needs change. Mobile learning portals can also allow you to personalize the learning experience for different users. We wrote another article about learning portals here.

5. How will we track learner progress when they access learning on mobile devices?

Gathering information on the progress of your learners is an important step in any learning strategy. This information provides you with valuable feedback on your learners’ real experience. Tracking learner data also allows you to provide crucial updates to key stakeholders.

It’s best to consider what data you want to track about learner progress early on in the development process to ensure mobile and cross-device functionality. There are many different methods that you may want to consider depending on your specific needs.

The Experience API (xAPI) is an open source software specification that allows your design to track different kinds of learning experiences across different platforms and devices, including mobile devices. Custom web apps can also be designed with any number of analytics built in. Even something as simple as adding Google Analytics to a web app can provide basic usage data.

Conclusion

A mobile learning platform that is practical, user-friendly, and engaging is likely to improve learners’ retention of information and increase usage rates. This, in turn, will make it easier for you to demonstrate to key stakeholders how your learning plan is meeting business needs. It’s a win-win. If you start with a solid mobile learning strategy, versus trying to build the boat while floating in the water, your efforts are more likely to succeed.