The Fast-Moving World of Mobile

When people ask me about my interest in mobile learning, some common answers come to mind, such as:

  • We’re increasingly shifting to a mobile-first world.
  • Mobile technology opens up new and exciting opportunities to support learning and performance.
  • Mobile technologies are redefining the definition of social interaction, and in turn, what social learning can look like.

But when it comes to my interest in mobile learning, one word comes to mind more than any other: change.

Mobile technology continues to evolve at breakneck speeds, and each iteration brings with it new opportunities, and new challenges. As we have built the program for #mLearnCon 2015, I am reminded of how much has changed in the mobile learning space in just the last year.

.7 Inches is a HUGE difference

Last September I upgraded my iPhone from a 5S to a 6. Much was made about Apple making the jump to a larger screen size. More screen real estate is the obvious benefit, as were additional hardware advances, but within just a moments of using the phone I discovered that my world had just changed.

Photo via The DEMO Conference

Photo via The DEMO Conference

I was using an app that had the common “hamburger” menu icon in the upper-left corner. I went to access the menu and almost dropped the phone. The menu button was *just* out of the reach of my thumb. In order to reach the corner with a one-handed grip I needed to shift my grip and adjust the way I held the phone. I still have my 5S and have tested using identical apps on both devices. I’ve noticed that some apps on the 6 are more comfortable to use with two hands, while one hand works fine on the 5S.

We talk about adapting our content to different screen sizes all the time in mobile; with screen sizes that now require two-handed usage, yet another factor has been added to the user interface and experience conversation.

The Dawn of the Phablet

Speaking of Apple’s large-screen phones, the launch of the iPhone 6+ brought with it a new term: the Phablet, an amalgamation of the phone and the tablet. In truth large-screen phones have existed for quite some time, but the cultural significance of Apple put them in the spotlight.

Initially I heard negative comments about the device, most centered on it being too big.

But after an initial wave of negativity, I’ve seen more positive comments about the device. The comments talk of the computing power of the 6+, and the productivity that the larger screen enables. I hear about all of the things the device can do that just didn’t feel right on a smaller screen.

It speaks to something that we practice as consumers but have yet to fully embrace as learning professionals: these devices are powerful computers with affordances that go we beyond touch screens and phones. As large screen devices become more the norm, more robust experiences  can be created for them.

The Fall, and Rise, of Wearable Tech

There’s been a lot of talk about wearable technology in recent years. Last year saw one of the highest

Apple Watch Side View

profile devices, Google Glass, “fail” (and yes, my use of quotes speaks to my disagreement in assessing Glass as a failure).  Wearable tech is still poised for an explosion on the consumer market, with many analysts looking at the recent release of the Apple Watch as the likely device to jump start wearable tech.
Apple Watch is likely also going to be our first opportunity to explore where this new technology fits in the expanding learning and performance ecosystem. Where will it work well, and where will it fail? And how will all of that impact the future potential of wearable tech for learning? There are plenty of possibilities that will be explored in the weeks and months ahead.

The Changing Definition of mLearning

Each year more and more organizations are adding mobile components to their learning strategy. While much of current strategy has focused on making content accessible on mobile devices, and increasing number of organizations are going beyond responsive access of content and exploring the new possibilities and opportunities these devices present.

We’re seeing examples of learning that break free of traditional course models. We’re seeing collaborative social learning environments that take advantage of the rich media creation technology readily available in these devices. We’re also seeing an increased focus on these devices being used to solve problems in the moment, focusing less on “learning” in the traditional sense and more on providing real-time support to the individual in the moment.

The World is Changing; Our Practices Must Evolve

These are just a few examples of the major changes technology will force upon  the traditional approaches to training we have used for decades, and the path that we will follow tomorrow is being paved today at mLearnCon.  Change is  the primary reason I look forward to the conference each year, as I know the sessions and projects being shared are going to reflect the changes going on around us, providing both an understanding of where we are and a glimpse into where we are going.

The mobile technology space continues to rapidly change what it means to be connected while mobile. Learning continues to adapt as technology changes the way we interact with the world. It’s a fast-moving and rapidly evolving world.

And mLearnCon is the place that helps make sense of it all, and to learn how to harness the potential of mobile and put it to use in your organization. I invite you to join us in Austin this June and add your voice to the conversation.

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