With the penetration of mobile subscribers in India having crossed the 900 million mark and the number of telephone connections having risen from 13% in 2006 for every hundred individuals to close to 80% in recent times, entrepreneurs and businesses are coming forward with innovative solutions that create new value to the customers. The penetration of mobile handsets has been growing year-on-year in the rural markets and lately due to local manufacturing, competition amongst 50 odd players and lowering of the costs, rural customers are no longer satisfied with handsets with basic features and are shifting to smartphones as the devices are becoming affordable.
Smartphones penetration has risen from 2.5 million handsets in 2009 to about 30 million in 2014 and today account for close to 12% of the total handset market. This share is expected to rise to half of the market’s total expected sales of 156 million units by 2017. The promise of better connectivity and increasing number of smartphone devices are making a compelling case for new value propositions that could be delivered using the digital platforms. Learning through the mobile platform is one such proposition that has been attempted in the past but lack of critical volumes, limitations of technology and poor connectivity have come in the way of m-learning taking off. However with e-commerce zooming in the country and people getting comfortable with the digital interfaces for their services and transactions, this is the right time to examine if m-learning will also follow suit.
Let us take a look at the key trends that are in support of adoption of m-learning. It is important to note that today there are more people accessing the Internet via mobile as compared to PCs. According to Cisco, mobile network connection speeds will increase two-fold by 2018 and mobile cloud traffic will grow 12 fold from 2013 to 2018 at a CAGR of 64%. This trend clearly indicates that with more and more of waking up hours being spent with mobile devices, gradually several tasks that are performed in the traditional format will be switching over to the digital platforms as has been experienced with shopping habits lately in the Indian context. M-learning is therefore being considered as one of the game changers in the learning landscape.
Increasingly organisations are willing to encourage BYOD (bring-your-own-device) phenomenon with respect to their employees. Schools and colleges are encouraging the use of tablets to aid the traditional classroom learning. With the generation that has been born in the digital era, accessing or verifying information through their devices as the first and immediate source has become a common phenomenon and for them m-learning seems like a natural extension of communication channel. With m-learning, training departments now have a handle for enhanced engagement with the employees leading to better motivation by providing just in time learning and on the move learning support to them.
Sales teams and after sales teams have access to valuable inputs to address the customer requirement through ready reckoners and experts for addressing queries without time gaps and for product designers as well as training teams it is an opportunity to capture real time data to get better insights about the actual scenario on the field.
Not everyone is connected all the time and hence even though online content has been available for a while, without connectivity it has not been possible to complete the course. With the synchronisation of mobile and online learning and easy hop-on, hop-off mechanisms between the two modes, SCORM compliant content enables the learners to complete the courses offline at their own pace. In the context of organisations and learning, the term “ephermeralisation” coined by Fuller referring to technological advancement that has the ability to do more and more with less and less despite finite resources assumes significance.
M-learning could be the channel for providing these upgrades with little investment and thus enhance the productivity of the employees. When extended to schools and remote locations, virtual classroom based learning could be facilitated and the power of collaboration and interaction lead to enhanced learning outcomes.
The showstoppers for m-learning starts with the mindset of the folks belonging to the generation being used to learn only in the traditional classroom format. With this generation also getting on to the digital platform atleast for communication, by implementing smart user interfaces and short attention span seeking content, they could be drawn into the fold of m-learning. For m-learning to succeed, the choice of content, the learning architecture and device friendly formats are essential ingredients to be considered while coming up with the design of the programme.
In order to make m-learning a habit and a normal way of learning, it would be good to make it a part of the overall learning plan that training managers draw up. In addition to custom made m-learning content, for each group of learners content could be curated through a combination of already available online content created by the organisation as well as third party content available from other sources.
E-learning has had a very long gestation period of three to our decades as learning design, access and flexibility parameters transformed over this period in tune with technological evolution. As compared to other e-enabled services, it has taken a much longer time to reach the stage of acceptance by wide audience. The coming together of adoption of smartphones, lowering of costs, access to the digital platform including availability of effective tools for content packaging and delivery has the potential to herald a new phase in technology led learning in the country and this opportunity should not be missed.
The writer is CEO, Global Talent Track, a corporate training solutions company