After years of hype, mobile is finally the big workplace knowledge support tool we’ve all been talking about. This is especially true for sales enablement. Most field-based sales reps live or die by their phones. It’s the device they constantly have with them and reference.

But do you really understand how those reps use their phones? Do you think about what they want and need in any kind of educational app you create for them? Or do you think about what you want and need to include in that app instead. By doing so, you risk creating an app that will never be used. And an unused app is a very expensive app whether you buy or build.

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Meet Learners Where They Are

The K-12 space often teaches corporate L&D some valuable lessons. This article published by EdSurge focuses on creating educational apps for middle schoolers and high schoolers. It offers an eye-opening look at how kids use their phones during the day… and discusses how to make an educational app fit within those usage boundaries. Frankly, it’s brilliant because it doesn’t start with the arrogant assumption that kids will conform to the app the educator wants to create. Instead, it assumes that the app needs to conform to the way kids already use their phones.

We need to do the same in the corporate world. To design mobile learning (mLearning) experiences that meet their intended objectives, we need to do a whole lot of things:

  • Spend time observing how people use devices in their work settings.
  • Understand their workflows and consider how any training experience or performance support app will integrate best with those existing use cases and workflows.
  • Think about integrating our app with other apps that they use all the time (e.g. their camera, email, calendar, or CRM system).
  • Think about how skilled they are (or aren’t) with actions such as pinching, swiping, and tapping.
  • Make sure any content we want them to reference is suited for viewing on their mobile device instead of assuming they will do visual and hand gymnastics to read a PDF that was never designed to be read on anything smaller than a desktop. Think mobile first, not mobile friendly.

mLearning Design Questions to Answer

In 2016, more of our clients are seeking a mobile-first experience than ever before. mLearning design has unique challenges that are quite different from traditional, authoring tool-based eLearning. Here are a few of the questions we like to ask before starting on a project:

  1. What kinds of devices do most people have and how big are their screens?
  2. What apps do they use already and what do they like about those apps? Why do they use those apps and what features do they like about them?
  3. How much time are they likely to spend within any app?
  4. How agile are they in using their phones? Do they swipe, pinch, expand with ease? Do they use two hands or one?
  5. What makes most sense for your target—an app that is portrait or landscape?
  6. What’s too small for them to read without forcing them to reach for a pair of reading glasses?
  7. Where are they most likely to use their device? When they do pull it out, why are they accessing it and for how long?
  8. Do they typically enable notifications on apps they download or do they turn them off? (Notifications let you send them messages/reminders to revisit your app or to take an action. If they routinely turn those off, your usage of them is a waste.)

This level of detailed information about your learners’ usage habits may seem hard to come by at first. Consider conducting a task analysis to observe how learners are actually using their phones… rather than asking them to self-report.