Archive for January 2013



Mobile learning pulse is still a little weak

The Masie Center recently released its Mobile Learning Pulse Survey. Taken in the Fall of 2012, It’s a worthy read, taken from responses from 823 organizations.

The headline finding is that implementation is at its very beginning.

Approximately 80% of organizations reported at least a moderate interest in mobile learning. So far that interest has primarily translated into projects to explore and test mobile learning and developing some content designed for mobile devices. At the same time, less than 30% of organizations have an enterprise strategy for mobile learning.

Without a plan, it’s sort of unsurprising that thoughts about WHAT to put on mobile devices are all over the place…

While there was no single stand out element, 5 had the highest percentage of “strong interest”: access to eLearning modules, access to corporate internet content, access to video and audio content, and access to checklists. Second to those areas, organizational aspirations for mobile learning include making greater use of social media.

Masie suggests:

Overall, these responses demonstrate the interest in many responding organizations to be more effective in providing on-the-job performance support and shorter, more focused learning activities.

I wonder what’s driving what, here.  “Micro-learning” is a trend (my exploration of it is here)  – are we looking for tools on which to implement micro-learning because we think it’s good pedagogy? Or trying to figure out how to squeeze stuff onto these new platforms we think look cool?

It’s a little tricky, because “mobile”  appears to mean both tablets and phones in this context, but often refers to very different use environments.  The needs of the phone user on the bus pose more constraints than those of the tablet user on his/her couch.  The small form factor of the phone demands the reformatting of text-based information into shorter pages with fewer words.  The gaps in connectivity which phones face on-the-go means that any streaming content needs to be short in order not to be entirely annoying.

Masie points to the lack of a proven mobile pedagogy as an inhibitor, alongside the usual cost and security issues.  I doubt we’ll have that proven pedagogy until there are some experiments which are great successes, and others which are colossal failures, and it’s not surprising that enterprises are not lining up to create those case studies!

It seems to me that the modality most likely to pass into the “proven” realm soonest is performance support. We’re already seeing printed references in airline cockpits and sales vehicles being replaced by tablets which can access the up-to-the minute version of procedure manuals and catalogs.

I wonder, as tablets become more affordable, whether the demand for access via smartphone will fade.    How many of our workers will need to use something they can carry in their pockets, vs something they carry in small case? What’s it worth in terms of usability to have a larger screen, with more information?

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Trust in the Collaboration Economy

The Kellogg School of Management devoted its Fall 2012 alumni magazine issue to “The Collaboration Economy” and the school’s commitment to thought leadership within it.

Kellogg has LONG been identified with a collaborative approach to the teaching and learning of management skills, so this is an obvious fit. As a loyal alumna who has been part of that economy for the last decade or so, I am pleased to see this focus. I’ve met Sally Blount, Kellogg’s new dean, and think highly of her – she’s very sharp, a dynamic speaker, and seems to have her mind around an extremely dynamic environment. So I was disappointed to see that in her article describing Kellogg’s focus on aligning with and driving the collaboration economy, that she repeats the notion popularized by our least critical technology enthusiasts — that trust is something that is somehow embedded within collaborative technology. As a professional in this field, I have sad experience with the powerlessness of collaborative technology to build trust where trust is not already part of the culture of the humans using it to work together.

She writes:

The Collaboration Economy is also rooted in an emerging human culture of access, openness and trust. When people enter the digital world through their computers, smartphones and other devices, they ask questions, share information, and reach agreements with a fluidity seldom seen before in human history

A new global culture is emerging that transcends national, ethnic, and organizational boundaries – the old institutions that used to develop and regulate our shared, taken-for-ranted rules for interaction. It is a culture that assumes 24/7 electronic access—for emailing tweeting, posting, and texting.

This new culture is particularly powerful in the norms of trust that it engenders. Markets require trust to operate effectively, and the old rules of building trust over long periods of time have softened. Over the Internet, parties with limited histories of personal interaction readily connect, communicate, and take risks together.

Perhaps one of the earliest and best examples of this phenomenon is the “open source movement,” founded in 1998 by a group of free software advocates. Through that movement, the Linux operating system was created and is now widely adopted by corporate computing managers as a hig-performance, lower-cost alternative to propriety software from Microsoft, Sun, and others.

Kellogg is where I learned about how fundamental trust is to the efficient functioning of markets – it’s where we explored what happens in the Real World when the “perfect information” assumed by economists isn’t available, and people have to make leaps of faith.

I would argue that what the technology can do in the facilitation of building trusting relationship is not much in its role in facilitating the meeting of people who might find something they can do together. It’s that it makes transparent the reputations of these people. It’s nice to be able to ask questions and share information – what’s even better is that if the information is incorrect, or incomplete, it’s possible to find out quickly and adjust one’s level of trust. What made, and makes Linux such a success is the alignment of the contributors (everyone is in it to make better-working software) and the transparency inherent in software – if your code isn’t very good, people find out right away, and maybe fix what didn’t work so well, and possibly avoid your contributions in the future.

It seems to me that technology can indeed quicken the pace of our experiments with trust, teaching us faster who can be relied upon to follow through and who cannot. It makes it possible, in some situations, to take smaller risks to begin with – when I break a project up into phases, I can judge my collaborators’ performance on phase I before committing to phase II. It is also driving a cultural change in which we have started to expect a higher level of accountability when things go wrong—when the project plan for our joint venture is readable to the entire team, it’s quite clear who it is who is missing their dates!

In the end, though, the path to success in the collaborative economy for any organization is the development of a track record of excellent performance. Technology gives our markets many new windows for observing us, so we need to shine more brightly than before.

Valerie Bock
KGSM ‘82

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