Connecting dots for digital learning and teaching

Mobile Learning or Performance Support ? (#mlearning)


Although organizations desire to leverage mobile technologies to train employees, and education institutes want to engage learners and improve learning outcomes through the devices in their pockets. Some expectations for mobile learning (mlearning) might not be realistic. According to Mobile Learning Decision Path(MLDP, published by Advanced Distributed Learning), when reflecting on whether mobile learning is the right solution, there are some principles for us.

To mobile or not to mobile

Situations where the priorities for learning include speed (ability to access information quickly), availability (ability to access anytime), mobility (ability to access anywhere), collaboration (social learning), and immediate feedback may benefit most from mLearning and leveraging the capabilities of mobile devices (Stayton, 2011). For instance, prompting users with feedback on a mobile device, such as texts, at spaced intervals may help reinforce learning over time, prevent skill decay, and lead to better transfer of knowledge, similar to the idea proposed by Thalheimer (2012) in his work on eLearning.

Conversely, situations that require (1) comprehensive information to be conveyed which cannot easily be chunked into smaller, meaningful components, (2) carefully sequenced content, or (3) the end user to be completely immersed in learning are less appropriate for mLearning solutions.

The suitability of mLearning is contextual, yet research has suggested that there are specific moments in an individual’s life that are conducive for mLearning solutions (Stayton, 2011). Mosher and Gottfredson’s Five Moments of Need model (read more in this article) contributes to the decision about whether mobile is suitable to deliver certain types of learning (see Gottfredson, 2011).

Furthermore, if you answer yes to one of the following questions, that means you need a performance support solution, not normal mobile learning or training solution.

Will target users need help recalling or remembering information they have previously learned?

Will target users need quick access to it to perform everyday tasks or at the time of need?

Will the target users require this solution when they encounter an error or a failure during performance?

What’s performance support(PS)?

From Wikipedia : “Electronic performance support systems can help an organization to reduce the cost of training staff while increasing productivity and performance. It can empower employees to perform tasks with a minimum amount of external intervention or training. By using this type of system an employee, especially a new employee, will not only be able to complete his or her work more quickly and accurately, but, as a secondary benefit, will also learn more about the job and the employer’s business.”

English: iPhone using the Wikitude application...

English: iPhone using the Wikitude application, demonstrating an example of Augmented Reality (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Since the popularity of mobile devices, performance support has been implemented leveraging its ubiquity and versatility. Common types of PS includes job aids, How-to tutorials, FAQ’s, reference materials, and simulations. Some real examples can be found in these articles :

Can Performance Support be a form of Mobile Learning? (Yes!)

eLearning Guild Research: Mobile Learning for Supporting Workers’ Performance

Does performance support only need to address shortcomings of our memory? Jason Haag,  research analyst and mobile learning lead at the Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL) , extended the concept in this article :

Have you ever heard of the Augmented Reality for Maintenance and Repair (ARMAR) project? It explores the use of augmented reality to aid in the execution of procedural tasks relating to maintenance and repair. In terms of Bloom’s Taxonomy this primarily falls in the cognitive domain, but could also reveal physical performance improvement in the psychomotor domain. For good reasons, the instructional design practices for eLearning have been largely limited to the cognitive domain. Everyone who’s been involved in the eLearning space in the past ten years knows that SCORM is useful for recording cognitive or knowledge-based learning outcomes. Are there now opportunities to look more deeply at the connections between the cognitive and the psychomotor domain? I think so. And I also think it also opens up our perceptions about how we think about performance support. Does performance support only need to address shortcomings of our memory? What about if we forget how to physically perform a task? When you hear the term “performance support”, it often referred to in this context as it was historically shortened (for good reason) from the acronym, Electronic Performance Support System (EPSS).

Designers now have opportunities to create learning experiences that can provide both significant instructional value and performance support value. This focus on improving performance and augmenting skills—rather than on just knowledge transfer—can also result in new opportunities to generate learning objectives that can be satisfied in both the cognitive and psychomotor domains. While some human intervention by an instructor, mentor, or facilitator may be required for accurate psychomotor measurement, the opportunity is there nonetheless.

When thinking about training and performance support, it should not be an “either / or” proposition. The most effective mobile learning solutions should provide ways to support both!

As Jason Haag puts it, “Mobile learning should NOT be merely viewed as a replacement, an alternative, or as a new addition to existing training delivery methods. It should be thought of as a complimentary way to augment or enhance all types of learning.

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“Tell me and I will forget, show me and I may remember, involve me and I will understand.” -------- Chinese Wisdom "Games are the most elevated form of investigation." -------- Albert Einstein
"I'm calling for investments in educational technology that will help create digital tutors that are as effective as personal tutors, educational software as compelling as the best video game," President Barack Obama said while touring a tech-focused Boston school (year 2011).
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