Social and Mobile: It’s About the Learning Experience, Not the Tools

It’s safe to say that mobile and social technology are quickly becoming standard pieces of an organization’s learning strategy, so as the new year starts heating up, I want to explore what’s next for social and mobile.

As for mobile, I see a full embrace of the BYOD environment where organizations leverage responsive web design to make sure the mobile learning experience is device- and platform agnostic. Workplaces will free up their Wi-Fi access so connecting with a tablet or smartphone is as simple as connecting with your laptop. Another big step forward will be an increased adoption of downloadable content for offline use, complete with automatic synchronization.

However, these things are actually less about mobile learning and more about a seamless learning experience. For too long we’ve been talking about mobile learning as this separate, oddball thing that needs to be addressed in some sort of vacuum. What mobile learning will really become is simply another facet of the overall learning experience, where the learner can move from place to place and device to device and never feel disconnected from their development path, their peers or their coaches.

The story is similar for social learning. We have been looking at this from a tools and technology perspective when instead it is really a cultural issue. Organizations need to develop and maintain a culture of collaboration, especially around learning. The social learning technologies available are simply tools to help make that happen. They don’t have the inherent power to make an organization collaborative.

To that end, I foresee a move away from the development of individual tools and into the creation of overall social experiences. We already see it in the public social network space. Take all of the things people like to do on social networks: connect with friends, family, etc., share photos, share videos, and send messages, and so on. While a couple years ago that would require four or five different platforms, now you can do all of that on Facebook. It’s about the entire experience.

There is a confluence of mobile and social that most organizations have failed to recognize yet, and they treat the two as completely separate concepts. In reality the two are inextricably linked, and will serve as the glue that holds together all the pieces of this new learning experience.

Our own research shows us that people are expecting more from their learning platforms, whether it is social technologies, mobile features or integration with other systems. All of this points to a desire for an all-encompassing learning environment.

David Wentworth, Senior Learning Analyst, Brandon Hall Group.  [email protected]

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