If you are reading this, you already know mobile learning is a hot topic. You also know that incorporating social media into mobile learning is even more of a buzz term. With the price of an iPad 2 now dropped to just $400, the prospect of implementing a smartphone or tablet-based solution across your organization is probably looking more and more attractive. But how do you know what is actually practical, and what are some examples of how mobile learning is already being used?

While we all love using our fancy phones and tablets, let’s not forget to learn a lesson from the past. With the introduction of video in 1980s, evangelists proclaimed that “The future of learning is here!” and everyone would be learning exclusively from video. When eLearning appeared in the 1990s, it too was proclaimed the final solution to performance issues. We now know that video and eLearning are viable and useful, but not the be all, end all. We should look at mobile with the same set of eyes…it’s exciting, but we need to be pragmatic if we hope to implement successful solutions within an organization.

What’s missing?

While tablets and phones are both often called “mobile,” we cannot lump them in the same category all the time. They offer vastly different experiences. It’s true that both devices are easy to carry with you, but the small screen of the phone should cause you to ask some tough questions before using it to deliver learning. “Will this content be easily consumed and retained in this format?” “How will my design that looks good on the iPad look on the iPhone?” There is no one right answer.

Perhaps the greatest danger of all is the temptation to simply recreate our beloved “click next to continue” courses on mobile devices. In his recent blog post Mobile Learning Should Be More Than Converting Desktop eLearning to HTML5, mLearning analyst RJ Jacquez (@rjacquez) stresses the importance of creating a unique mobile learning experience, and we could not agree with him more. Think about the sales reps going through your course in the evening on their smartphone or an overworked employee grabbing 5 minutes to “do mobile learning” on a tablet in a coffee shop. How will they need that information delivered to them?

Need some examples of how mobile learning is already being used? We gathered three from the educational, consumer, and enterprise world for you to consider.

1. iPhoneography and Twitter from a Mobile Device

Infinite Thinking Machine, a YouTube series on mobile learning, is full of examples of how mobile is already being used effectively for education.  Lisa Highfill, a 5th-grade teacher in California, has her class thinking mobile and social in ways that would make most Learning and Development departments green with envy. She uses a “flipped classroom” approach with students watching video and interactive lectures at home, then coming to class to share and discuss. Most interesting of all, Highfill has created a class Twitter account (because 5th graders probably don’t need their own Twitter, do they?) and lets students “tweet their learning using the art of iPhoneography and reflective thinking in 140 characters at a time.” What’s the value? Students can bring a field trip or classroom experience to life by taking a photograph, synthesizing their thoughts, and tweeting it out for their peers to see.

While Highfill’s approach is obviously fostering engagement among her 5th graders, will your corporate crowd embrace a mobile learning solution like this? What would it be used for? Imagine a new employee orientation procedure where participants use their smartphones to explore the environment and Tweet photos and comments of things they see or questions they have. It would be easy for the L&D department to respond to what they post and fill in the gaps. This form of exploratory, conversational learning via mobile phone could certainly take many other forms as well.

2. Using Snapguide to Create How-To Guides for the Workplace.

Have you checked out Snapguide yet? If not, you should. Snapguide is an elegant app for individuals to find, create, and share how-to guides created using the iPhone. Guides can include text, photos, and video and allow users to make comments, ask questions, and share.  Once again, the possibilities of an application like this delivering on-demand performance support are endless. While Snapguide is a consumer-focused solution and guides are public, a similar type of application would have a high degree of usefulness in an enterprise setting.

3. On-demand support and retention of knowledge via quiz-style learning games on the iPad. 

Mobile learning is already being used by real companies to deliver real performance support. The trick is to make a game mechanic that feels fresh and new (yes, that means no Jeopardy). Our Knowledge Guru platform uses repetition and spaced learning to help users master content quickly.

We recently partnered with Dow Agroscience in their initiative to educate sales reps on their latest product. Dow provided sales reps with iPads preloaded with Knowledge Guru and the reps played the game at their leisure to reinforce their product knowledge. We’ve received terrific feedback thus far from Dow, citing a high level of engagement from the reps. There is no doubt that mobile learning delivered on the iPad is attractive and practical. Whether you choose to use Knowledge Guru or another quiz-style game to support learning, you can expect a high success rate.

Are you using mobile learning in your organization? If not, how do you plan to implement it in the future?