Solution Analysis and Discovery
So you’ve had all the correct discussions with all the right people including HR, IT and Legal. You discussed all the relevant topics including the ones in our last post, and you feel confident your company is onboard to support your mobile initiative. Congratulations! You made it through the first gate of preparedness.
So now what? Before you fire up your eLearning application of choice, there are a few more items to consider before creating your course. Like every good learning solution, it starts with Solution Analysis, or Solution Discovery to determine which of your courses are best suited for mobile.
This may sound like an easy question, and on the surface there may seem to be a number of reasons for going mobile. However, like any good step in analysis, it’s important to probe a bit more deeply to clarify. Be sure to ask why. Consider how the solution will be delivered and if it aligns with the size and resolution of the device. What is the learning expectation, and is the “anywhere” environment conducive for the type of learning your course requires? Ultimately your goal is to decide if you are targeting mobile devices for the right reasons.
Allow me to illustrate with a story. Several years ago I sat around a table with several people. Our task was to develop a course for mobile: specifically, smartphones. A group was identified and on the surface it made sense – we had a group of employees who worked in the field and leveraged their smartphones to communicate and gather documents they needed to reference. When in the office, they used a desktop for other tasks, especially to generate content, proposals and perform calculations. Since they spent so much time away from the desktop, mobile would be the obvious solution, right?
The conversation went like this:
“Mobile is perfect for this group. They are in the field frequently and all have mobile devices. Can you think of other reasons why we should move in this direction?”
…and then the ideas flowed (you can imagine the excitement as several people chime in as heads nod strongly in agreement):
- “They can maximize their time!”
- “They can take some training while they are waiting for a stoplight!”
- “They can take some training in the parking lot when they are early for a meeting!”
- “They can take some training while they are in an airport!”
- “They can take some training while eating lunch!”
See where I’m going? On the surface, this audience seemed to be the perfect candidates for mobile since they spend a considerable amount of time away from their desk. However, their time in the field is primarily spent working and focusing on other tasks.
As learning and business professionals, it may seem like we can fill “downtime” with training, but we must all consider if it’s in the learner’s best interest. By drilling down and asking more questions, we get a better idea if our solutions will meet the needs of the company and the learner.
When considering mobile as a solution, it’s important to step back and think about the reasons you and others provide and ensure it’s not the excitement that’s driving the decision, but the statements that are made.
Key Questions to Ask
The following are a few key questions to ask while performing solution analysis for a course. If you find that the answer “no” rears its head frequently, you might want to reconsider if mobile is the right solution for the course in question.
- Can the training be understood and applied if taken in short increments with frequent exits? Will learners be able return where they left off without being lost without the context surrounding the page they re-entered?
- Will distractions impact the learning outcomes you desire?
Example: If the learner’s focus is split between learning and the other tasks they are doing, like watching to see if a light will turn green.
- Does the subject require a larger screen?
Example: A simulation of a system that is built for the desktop or images that require a larger view, such as schematics.
- Will your content align with the device it will be used on?
Example: Training about a desktop application.
- Is there critical information in the course that requires undivided attention?
Example: Compliance information.
Once you have considered the key questions, use your analysis and loop back with your stakeholders. While initially you might have all thought that on the surface a mobile solution was ideal, your analysis might have indicated otherwise. When moving toward mobile solutions, it’s easy to put emphasis on technology over learning. It’s important that all parties are armed with the correct information before making a final decision.
Of course, if you are in a situation where your learners only have access to a mobile device, you might think the solution analysis does not apply. However, by asking key questions, you will be prepared before designing your content for mobile.
What is your experience when discussing mobile as a solution?
Have you been through this process? What did you learn? If mobile wasn’t the right solution, were you able to gain support from the stakeholders to move away from the idea? If you did ultimately move forward with mobile, did it solve your learning needs, and what type of content were you training?