A proliferation of mobile learning apps have made it easy for students and educators to create their own dynamic and personalized learning environments – in many cases extending opportunities for learning outside of classroom walls and beyond the 8-to-3 school day. But do these benefits hold true for the use of mobile technology and apps in corporate training? It seems they may. A recent AT&T-sponsored report from the Economist Intelligence Unit discusses how the app culture is changing the way companies do business, including the training of their employees.
Parallels definitely appear in the drivers behind the mobile learning initiatives exploding in children’s classrooms today and the challenges corporate training departments face in keeping an increasingly mobile workforce engaged and consistently up to date. Like traditional educators, businesses seem to be exploring a shift from location-based “time in seats” learning models to skills-based learning, allowing them to impart knowledge to employees via a variety of delivery mechanisms. This makes continuing education an integrated/ongoing part of employees’ lives, rather than a scheduled “event.”
In a recent article appearing in Chief Learning Officer magazine, Lew Walker, vice president of learning services at AT&T, highlights efforts the company has made to ensure the technology it uses to train employees is in step with the innovative solutions it delivers to customers. “We’re a technology company, and what we provide from a learning perspective needs to reflect the technology that we are taking out to our customers,” Walker said. “We can’t just be standing still and expecting that leader-led [training] is going to have the impact that it had years ago… But rather, [we use] technology to be more efficient in our training and hopefully stimulate a better learning experience.”
AT&T is also exploring the role of gaming and augmented reality in the delivery of educational content – both at a philanthropic level in support of K-12 students, and in its own course delivery models. “Imagine teaching students aerodynamics – not through mathematical equations written on a chalkboard, but by allowing students to fly their own bird through a gaming simulation where aerodynamic forces are explained as they play,” said Bill Nye, “The Science Guy,” who is on the Board of Directors for AT&T partner GameDesk.
Similar leading-edge gaming concepts may also be applied to training for technicians in the field one day. Imagine learning how to service undersea fiber optic lines or install IP television in a customer’s home – in a computer-generated environment where your feet stay dry and you only have to worry about the neighbor’s virtual barking dog. “Through these types of interactive simulations, we can turn invisible concepts into visible, hands-on experiences,” adds Nye. At the end of the day, corporate mobile devices and apps are all about improving employees’ productivity and sense of connectedness to information and to each other – with the ultimate goal of increasing efficiency and growing revenues. “While it’s great to say, ‘I’ve got gaming or I’ve got this,’ if it doesn’t impact the business and move the business forward and make our people better in terms of the jobs that they have to do, then there’s probably no reason to make that investment,” Walker said.