Published on 2012/09/19

Meeting the Needs of the Professional Development Market with Mobile Learning

As use of mobile devices continues to grow, higher education institutions would do well to capitalize on this shift in the marketplace and begin developing and providing mobile continuing professional development options.

Continuing professional development (CPD) been has recognized across organizations as a means for both up-skilling and re-skilling in maintaining professional competence. Education Independent Professional Bodies such as the Institute for Learning [1] have come to establish themselves in support of Professional Development. While the idea of CPD may seem intuitively obvious, the report “Leaping the CPD Hurdle” would argue that for some the whole concept may be ambiguous. So how should we define CPD? In the report Professor Andy Friedman and Dr. Mary Phillips offer their clarification:

“The systematic maintenance, improvement and broadening of knowledge and skill and the development of personal qualities necessary for the execution of professional and technical duties throughout the practitioner’s working life.” [2]

However there are significant barriers facing CPD uptake. In her report Dr Helen King found that 84% of professionals surveyed cited lack of time [3] and findings such as this are not unusual. It becomes pertinent to pose the question that if the inclusion of Mobile Technology is expected to induce a transforming experience for academic course delivery by encouraging an anytime-anywhere learning culture, by circumnavigating the constraints of time—could CPD providers gain the same advantages?

From the perspective of a CPD provider, given that 25% of the world’s four billion mobile phones are smartphones, it would certainly seem to show that access to Internet Services and Resources would likely not be a major issue. [4]

In an article for itnewsonline.com, Ron Zamir (CEO of Communication Learning Services) points to clear signs of a tipping point for the uptake of Mobile Platforms in training for the coming year 2013. This view is broadly supported by Mark Scullard and Jeffrey Sugerman (Inscape Publishing) in their article “Mobile Apps and Training”, which finds “Some 42% of 2,793 recent training participants said they used Mobile Apps at least sometimes to very often with training”. [5]

Given the predictions for growth in the mobile workforce made by upsidelearning.com in their online presentation which states “The mobile workforce is growing and will reach 1.3 billion by 2015” [6], there seems to be some credibility behind the predictions of an anticipated shift.

By implementing Mobile Technology as either a blended option or as a replacement for traditional methods of delivery, there will inevitably be the need to understand and appreciate the workflows, information preferences and expectation in terms of both performance and function as part of an overall user experience. The eBook “The Essential Guide to Mobile App Testing” from uTest reports that 74% of users would expect a web page to load on their mobile device within 5 seconds [7]. The same report goes on to show the current boom in demand that is emerging for Mobile Apps across a diverse range that include academic test preparation, certification and licensure exam preparation and decision support.

Moving beyond requirements, can we anticipate the type and form of functionality? It’s here that Upside Learning – in their “Implementing mLearning in the Workplace” [8] report—have compiled a set of both real time and embedded features: checklists, reminders, quizzes, surveys, assessments, feedback, simulations, video, audio, note-taking, photo-sharing, discussion, comment and coaching.

Beyond technical considerations, there are equally important questions that surround new delivery strategies in the technologies deployment as we move to enhance, extend and enrich the user experience.

In the report “Making Mobile Learning Work” [9], John Traxler (University of Wolverhampton) suggests that we will realize the true benefits of mobile through leveraging of contingent, situated and authentic learning. Approaches to learning such as these often lack authenticity in the absence of context, but could readily become possible through Mobile Technologies’ location-based augmented reality [10], which is beginning to flourish and supply the enhanced benefits of an on-demand student-centered culture of learning.

Moving away from the Private Sector and toward Universities and Colleges, it would seem the combined changes to funding, widening participation, expansion in emerging foreign markets and the need to forge commercial partnerships have become principle drivers in the changing landscape currently facing colleges and universities in the delivery and access to course materials. In recent times, the increasing trend in MOOC offerings from Universities clearly demonstrate that the higher education industry is more than capable of driving its own revolution from within and does not simply respond to external forces of change.

The report “Imagining the Future” from Pew Internet revealed 60% of surveyed technical professionals agreed with the statement “there will be mass adoption of teleconferencing and distance learning to leverage expert resources…a transition to ‘hybrid’ classes that combine online learning components with less-frequent on-campus, in-person class meetings.” [12]

As options for training education become congruent with changing lifestyle, working practices and connectivity [13], it would seem that training education would be advantaged by the adoption of at least a blended mobile solution.

In summary, I do feel that we should be mindful of the fact that mobile information is borne out of two-way communication, whereas print and to a large extent even web content are borne out of a very much one-way communication.

Given the trends and the opportunities presenting themselves following the development and deployment of Mobile Technology in the delivery of Continuing Professional Development, mobile learning will find both a market niche and willing partners from within in the higher education sector who themselves are already embarked upon this journey toward a new and rich stream of markets, engagement and collaboration.

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References

[1] The Institute for Learning. “The Institute for Learning,” accessed September 1, 2012. http://www.ifl.ac.uk/

[2] Friedman, Andy and Phillips, Mary. “Leaping the CPD hurdle: a study of the barriers and drivers to participation in Continuing Professional Development. “ Paper presented at the British Educational Research Association Annual Conference, University of Leeds September 13-15 2001. http://www.leeds.ac.uk/educol/documents/00001892.htm

[3] King, Helen. “Continuing Professional Development in Higher Education: what do academics do?” Planet, December 2004 , number 14. http://www.gees.ac.uk/planet/p13/p13_8.pdf

[4] “Infographic: Mobile Statistics, Stats & Facts 2011.” Last modified April 4, 2011. http://www.digitalbuzzblog.com/2011-mobile-statistics-stats-facts-marketing-infographic/

[5] Scullard, Mark and Sugerman, Jeffrey. “Mobile Apps and Training.” Training Magazine, October 28, 2011. http://www.trainingmag.com/article/mobile-apps-and-training

[6] Upside Learning. “Presentations: Implementing mLearning in the Workplace”. Accessed September 1, 2012. http://www.upsidelearning.com/presentation-implementing-mLearning-in-workplace.asp

[7] uTest. The Essential Guide to Mobile App Testing eBook. uTest Inc: Southborough, MA. http://c0954852.cdn.cloudfiles.rackspacecloud.com/uTest_eBook_Mobile_Testing.pdf

[8] Upside Learning. “Presentations: Implementing mLearning in the Workplace”. Accessed September 1, 2012. http://www.upsidelearning.com/presentation-implementing-mLearning-in-workplace.asp

[9] The Higher Education Academy Subject Centre for Education. Making Mobile Learning Work: Case Studies of Practice. Edited by John Traxler and Jocelyn Wishart. ESCalate: Bristol. http://escalate.ac.uk/8250

[10] Adkins, Sam. “The State of the Mobile Learning Industry: Key Findings from Ambient Insight Research ‘The US Market for Mobile Learning Products and Services: 2009-2014 Forecast and Analysis.” Presentation available at http://www.ambientinsight.com/Resources/Documents/Ambient-Insight-Mobile-Learning-Market-2009-2014.pdf

[12] Anderson, Janna Quitney, Boyles, Jan Lauren and Rainie, Lee. “The future impact of the Internet on higher education: Experts expect more-efficient collaborative environments and grading schemes; they worry about massive online courses, the shift away from on-campus life,” Pew Research Center The Future of the Internet. Published July 27, 2012 at https://www.elon.edu/docs/e-web/predictions/expertsurveys/2012survey/PIP_Future_Internet_Higher_Education_7-27-12.pdf

[13] International Telecommunications Union. “Key Global Telecom Indicators for the World Telecommunication Service Sector” Last modified November 16, 2011. http://www.itu.int/ITU-D/ict/statistics/at_glance/KeyTelecom.html

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Readers Comments

Paul Maurice 2012/09/19 at 10:34 am

Here’s what I constantly fail to understand about the mobile learning market, and perhaps you can fill me in here. Laptops are becoming increasingly prevalent, both in the workplace and in terms of people’s personal computing machines.

Yes, people may use their phones for daily transactions and for immediate fact-checking or information gathering, but can we not count on the huge spread of laptops to say “let’s design really strong distance learning programs suited for computers” rather than “let’s split our resources to provide mobile learning solutions as well”?

Barry Spencer 2012/09/23 at 12:05 pm

Hi Paul, I think you have identified a crucially important point here, and that is in order for laptops or any other mobile device to fulfil the learning role effectively, will requires a mobile delivery strategy and expectation. Simply making materials available for mobile distribution is likely to fall way short of the potential.

regards Barry

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