05.10.2022 11:30

What Are The Limitations of M-learning?

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This is not a true story. Although Ashton is fictional, the mobile learning challenges faced Kathryn (CLO of AshCom) and her team is real.

They are shared by many learning teams from corporations, non-profits, and associations as well as education. We hope you’ll be able to relate to the characters and their problems, as well as the solutions they find. We also invite you to read the first eBook in the series.

The Friday Morning Meet-Up

Kathryn turned on the lights in the large conference room. She heard the chairs scraping against the ground as they moved in and out of the conference table behind her. As people settled into their seats, cheerful voices mixed with the sound of coffee mugs and laptops clinking on the tabletop. Kathryn looked up at the clock.

The team had been assembled at exactly 10 AM on Friday morning. It was time for the team to start.

Two days prior, she asked them to spend 45 minutes discussing the benefits of mobile learning. Today’s meeting was “the negative meeting” which Kathryn used to occasionally for large subjects. Kathryn decided to hold two shorter meetings so that team members could not focus on both the negative and the positive at the same time.

The first meeting was a success. Everybody is negative in the second. No one is defensive. Although she didn’t do it often, she did so for important ideas like how to create mobile learning for sales teams.

Major Changes After The Merger

Since Globex was acquired by AshCom, much had changed within the AshCom learning team. The team had grown to eight from five people. They were more productive and were learning to work together. Kathryn knew they would need time to gel and could see the benefits after six months of being together.

Ronda, the Vice-President for Sales, presented a problem to Kathryn. Ronda, an engineer and a skilled sales leader at one of the biggest medical device manufacturers in the globe before joining AshCom eight months earlier, was under tremendous pressure to perform.

She managed a combined sales team of 286 people in different territories throughout the United States and Canada.

Ronda wanted to create a new sales system for both AshCom and Globex as if bringing together salespeople from Globex and AshCom was not difficult enough. The goal was to increase sales by four percent and not lose any of the $3.6billion in the previous year.

New learning opportunities were created by a new system. Ronda wanted to make sure that the salespeople had all the information they needed. Kathryn asked Ronda if she could ask her team to build the entire sales learning system mobile-friendly.

Negative Day: The Limitations Of Mobile Learning

Kathryn started the Friday meeting on time, as usual. She was able to get straight to the point without much of what she called “happy talking” at the beginning. She said that Michael is his favorite day, and she agreed. Today is a negative day.

The group laughed. Michael, a former college professor, spent his time building curriculum and administration. Kathryn was his trusted advisor and he helped her to think strategically.

He was a brilliant academic and used the phrase “Only …,” followed by “Only ….” Michael. Michael loved to consider both sides of an argument and Kathryn’s method fit perfectly into his thinking.

Instead of using sticky notes as they had done on Wednesday in the “positive” meeting, Kathryn stood at the conference room whiteboard and asked them to list the negatives of mobile learning.

They were aware that she had warned them.

The Team Speaks Up

Michael was the first speaker. “I did some reading and found this topic fascinating. Several years ago, when I was at university, we considered mobile delivery. However, we decided against it. We were concerned that not enough students would have smartphones at the time and would leave some out.

However, I have read that the percentage of students with smartphones has increased over the past few years. Although it could still be a problem, I believe it is much less than it was in the past.

Perhaps a survey might be in order. One interesting fact is that people with smartphones use their phones on average 200 times per day. So maybe this can be categorized as a positive?

Kathryn said, “Ok.” Kathryn said, “Not completely a negative, but worthy of the List.”

Maggie, who has been with AshCom for over 20 years, spoke the next. “I have some concerns about connectivity. The sales team is scattered across the US and Canada. Are all 286 account executives able to access reliable internet service, even though they may not have a smartphone?

Kathryn wrote on the whiteboard, “Duly noted.”

Amy quickly responded, “What about hearing?”

Others looked at her, uncertain of what she meant.

Amy said, “I worry about whether people will be in a position to hear the voiceover if their eyes are on the screen.”

Kathryn wrote, “I hadn’t thought of that one.” “That’s definitely something we should consider.”

Alishia said, “I need to piggyback off that.” “Will learners be capable of seeing what we want them to see on the screen?” “What are the limitations of that?” It was up on the list.

Distractions And Risks

Next, Adeena spoke. “I have two concerns after doing some reading. These are not necessarily negatives, but they should be on the list. First, should we be concerned about distractions when people learn on their smartphones?

Pop-ups and texts that appear during a learning session are what I was referring to. What if they receive a call? How does this affect their retention?

Kathryn wrote “Distractions”, on the whiteboard, “And the second?”

“The second is one I read. I don’t know the answer because I am not IT-savvy, but I wonder if we will have privacy or security concerns with mobile learning.”

Kathryn wrote “Security/Privacy” on the whiteboard and then wrote “Check with AshComIT” as a note to her.

Kathryn noticed that some of the younger members of the team hadn’t yet spoken. These things were very important to Kathryn.

Kathryn said, “Martina and Darryl,” “you’ve been quiet.” We are grateful for your ID skills and artistic abilities. What are you thinking?

They looked at one another, wondering which would speak first. Martina decided that she would dive in. “Darryl, I spent our lunch hour yesterday discussing this. First, I’d like to say that the thoughts we are having aren’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s more of a limitation. It’s not just mobile.

Everyone was intrigued and turned to them.

Daryl takes over the whiteboard

Darryl asked, “Mind if you use the whiteboard?” “I believe I can show you more than I can tell.”

Kathryn replied, “Of course!”

Martina and Darryl both stood. Martina stated, “We did some thought about the creative process.” We both love instructional design, but we also love visual arts. We get excited when an instructional designer has a big idea. It’s not just visually appealing, but it will provide a unique learning experience for learners.

Darryl wrote on the left side of a whiteboard “BIG IDEA” then drew a box to go around it.

Darryl continued, “But, every step forward limits the great idea.” Martina used the marker to write “Authoring tools” and then she drew a box. However, the box was 25% smaller than the one around “BIG IDEA”.

Darryl said, “I’m certainly not saying that we don’t value the authoring tools available to us. These tools are amazing compared to what we had five years ago. They are still as good as bumper bowling bumpers. So we limit what we can do immediately and the big idea becomes smaller.”

Going Through The Motions

Martina said, “What happens is that the products kind of look the same at the end, and the experience remains much the same.” Too often, learners just click the “next” button. The authoring tools can be used to rotate and resize materials. However, without any instructional thought, it’s still an eLearning module, but playing on a mobile device em>

Darryl said that the next limitation is the learning management system. It is essential because it tracks metrics. We will not be able to see if we have met our learning objectives without them. It is essential that we are able to offer learning opportunities and allow learners to access the information they need.

Our LMS has additional limitations to the BIG IDEA that was so thrilling when we started.” Martina wrote the word “LMS” on a whiteboard and reduced the box size by 25%.

Michael spoke up. Michael spoke up.

The Big Idea

Martina said, “So glad that you asked.” Martina said, “We are concerned that we might lose a great learning concept due to the limitations of our author tools. The LMS will also limit the delivery if it is via mobile devices. To access the course they are interested in, learners must first navigate to a website to log in.

Navigation is difficult and can be a barrier. Imagine yourself on the subway, trying to locate the login block for your phone on your way to work.

Martina continued, “Our concern is that.” Martina continued, “With all the limitations in our system and our tools will it be a loss of instructional strength and creativity?” Will it limit our ability to design learning experiences in line with Kathryn’s vision?

There was some tension in the room. Although the others were aware that there were limitations to their tools, the boxes made these limitations visible.

The tension was made worse by the fact that no one seemed to have a solution. This was evident because no one challenged the way they thought or what they had written on the whiteboard. The silence lasted several seconds.

Solid Learning Science, Creative Design, And Tech-Savvy Delivery

Kathryn was the first to speak. “For great learning experiences, we need strong learning science, creative design, and technical savvy delivery.

Mobile, I understand you are saying that it is difficult to use because of its limitations. It is up to us to find ways to preserve our Big Ideas. The whole thing is on the “Negative List.” However, they all pose problems that must be addressed.

Amy spoke out. She was a consultant to Kathryn AshCom but she had also served as a consultant to many large companies and non-profits across the country. “I would like to remind you of something Kathryn mentioned at our last meeting.

Ronda is our Vice President of Sales. Her task is to unite the Globex and AshCom sales teams, while also introducing her sales system and getting them to accept it.

Amy said, “I can tell ya,” and added that sales learning is one of the most important learning opportunities available to companies. Kathryn said that sales are “the lifeblood” and that this is what companies view their sales staff.

Although I cannot predict the reaction of AshCom owners, my guess is that they will support what Ronda and I think is best. We will have to address every challenge that we’ve identified and provide answers as to how we will overcome them.

Kathryn touched her watch and said “Time.” There are other meetings today, and we all have other things to do. We have identified important issues and need to find solutions. I believe we did. Spend more time considering both the benefits and drawbacks of mobile. I will get us back together in a few weeks and let you know where we are.

Everyone stood up and left to go. Kathryn sat alone for several minutes, staring at the whiteboard, and taking notes in her notebook.


You can read the remainder of this series on Mobile Learning, and see Kathryn and her team solving their problems. Download the eBook How L&D Leaders Use Custom Mobile Apps to Increase Performance and Revenue. This eBook will help you decide if custom mobile education is right for your company and provide proven methods.

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