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The great mobile conspiracy

Podcasts and Audio | 30.04.2018

This month the Kineo team are pleased to welcome Clive Shepherd, Learning Consultant and author of More than blended learning to the podcast, as we tackle the controversial topic of mobile learning of why it's not being used in the workplace.

Paul Westlake  0:00  

Welcome to Kineo Stream of Thought a monthly podcast that features informal chat from the team at Kineo about all things learning. So, I'm Paul Westlake, Solutions Consultant at Kineo. And today we're speaking about mobile and what's happened to mobile.

Really pleased to welcome our panel this month

Pete Smith  0:24  

Pete Smith, Learning Content Technical Team Lead here at Kineo.

James Cory-Wright  0:28  

James Cory-Wright, Head of Learning Design at Kineo.

Clive Shepherd  0:32  

And I'm Clive Shepherd and I'm a Consultant in Learning and Development.

Paul Westlake  0:35  

Welcome, Clive, thanks for being our our first and hopefully not last specialised guest on the on the Stream of Thought podcast. So this one's a bit of a, I guess, a revisit of a topic that we may have mentioned a few months ago, and we've had an awful lot of feedback about. So thanks for the comments. And thanks for your thoughts and that's all around, James, you made a comment a while back around mobile and how no one's using mobile. And I think that may have been a little misconstrued. So you want to take us through what you actually meant and where we go with that.

James Cory-Wright  1:06  

I'm not sure it was misconstrued. And if you could sort of subtitle this is, yeah, whatever happened to mobile? I think, by and large, there's perhaps an assumption that mobile learning is rumbling along in the corporate world. But I suggested that it isn't, and the statistics but appear to back me up, which I will now share some with you. I think I mean, first of all, statistically, I think we, It is well known that the smartphone is, for several years now been the most popular way of getting online, some of the stats suggests that our most successful mobile led courses or content is got usage rates running at 60 to 70%. So it's obviously very popular in those instances with particular audiences with mobile led content. By the same token, the stats for overall usage of content on mobiles on smartphones, is between 10 and 20%, which is very, very low. So there's something wrong if you ask me, there's something mysterious at the heart of all this. Now, on the one hand, the stats suggest that when when content is consumed on mobile phones, it's very popular, very successful. And yet, on the other hand, most content would appear to be being consumed on the desktop. I think, actually the stats for that around 70%. 

Paul Westlake  2:39  

And what when you say, so just just to clarify... So just just say, it's confirmed. So you said a couple of times, you were sort of interchanging that mobile, and smartphones and tablets and everything else? So when we say mobile, do we mean phones? Or are we talking about and I know we're blurring the edges there, depending on it could be a small tablet and a large phone. So what does that actually mean?

James Cory-Wright  3:03  

The statistics I was referring to was specifically smartphone. Because the figures for tablet was actually even lower. Yeah. And so suggesting that the tablet is not really very popular.

Pete Smith  3:18  

I mean, no, normally though, when we do say mobile device, we normally talk about a device, which uses a mobile operating system, right? That'd be something using Android or something using iOS.

James Cory-Wright  3:29  

But I think I think what I'm probably getting at is that the the opportunity that I think is going missing here is in fact, smartphone, what I'm suggesting, is it what a shame it is that more content isn't being consumed by people in the workplace, on their smartphones...

Paul Westlake  3:46  

What's the blocker for that? 

Clive Shepherd  3:48  

Well, there are lots of blockers from the supply side, I think from the from the employer side, I don't think it is there's any blockers from the demand side from the learner? We aren't you know, we've been using the term learning to say, you know, there's not as much evidence as we would expect to see of people learning on mobile devices. I think what we should more rightfully say, there's not much evidence of training being delivered, or if we could still use that term. being delivered through through mobile devices. There's, I think there's ample evidence in practically everybody's life at almost all age groups of people learning from mobile devices, and changing their lives, probably, you know, in in the sense that if you sit on the sofa at home, with your phone or your tablet, and every time there's something that crops up which fascinates you and is how you look it up and people I don't know, it's I'm sure it's true, practically everybody now...

Paul Westlake  4:46's the way my kids are learning to be honest. I mean, one of them will grab the nearest iPad or their phone and they will look it up or, in fact, it's probably gone beyond that and they'll just ask Alexa to be honest...

Clive Shepherd  4:55  

... Well, that's true. Yes. Yes. In a way people are experiencing incredible, incredibly flexible, adaptive, responsive learning, you know, under their own direction from their mobile devices, and outside work. And I would say that, you know, there is some evidence that people go a little further than that and do more formal study, I'm sure that if you were, say, studying for a postgraduate course, or something like that, and you had coursework to do, you would use your time on trains, or on airports and things like that, to, you know, to to study, formally, you may not have material from your employer, which falls in that category,

Paul Westlake  5:38  

...more research, background reading, that sort of stuff...

Clive Shepherd  5:41  

And there's quite a resurgence in the use of podcasts because which is obviously what we're doing here today. So quite a lot of people will listen to a podcast while they're at the gym, or, or they're in the car, or something like that. And so something like this, you know, 20 minutes, half an hour of material is, this is a learning event. And we shouldn't forget that, you know, that there's definitely an acceptance of these devices as having a huge learning potential.

Paul Westlake  6:09  

So so that that sounds, what you're what you're describing there, to me sounds like the age old problem of asking your employees if they've had any training, and they will say no, and what they mean is they haven't sat in a classroom for a week. Whereas, you know, we had a meeting yesterday, and I taught you this or I coached you on something or you've read something so that I think, potentially, that's the sort of thing you're getting out there, isn't it that... Go on, James.

James Cory-Wright  6:29  

...but picking up on what Clive said, there's this huge sort of, it's what people do all the time is what people are used to as an enormous appetite for it people that are totally familiar, and that's their expectation. Why isn't that reflected in the workplace? As workplace learning, workplace training?

Paul Westlake  6:45  

Well, what is that blocker? Is it that, you know, for me to... If I had to go on to YouTube to find out how to, and I know, I use this example, pretty much every time we do it, do a podcast. And that's this idea of, I had to change the filters again in the Dyson. And you know, I've no idea how to do that I've never had to do, I've never done any formal training on that. But I know where that video is. And I can watch that every six months. And I know how to do that. If I had to log in, to be able to do that, and then track it and then do a quiz at the end, I wouldn't bother, the fact I can just go on and use one app on my phone that goes directly to that. And I can watch that is the reason why I go to that...

Clive Shepherd  7:20  

... there's two quite important differences there. And I think one you've described is that there's a often a platform between you and the content, which may or may not be a fiddle to get into. I mean, if it was set up properly, there is no reason why it should be any harder to go into some learning platform than it would to go into YouTube, to be honest, no reason. But a lot of it's down to what we do, I think, you know, leave aside the problems from the employer point of view. But as designers of content, I think we can learn a lot of lessons by what sort of content is it that people in, you know, find useful? So you find the YouTube video useful? Or presumably, if it's three or four minutes and no longer but you you don't want the quiz? Which is fair enough, because you're not actually trying to learn that thing. You're just trying to find that information. So that's....

Pete Smith  8:11  

...of course, the the quiz is actually the moment when you start taking the Dyson to pieces!

Clive Shepherd  8:18  


Paul Westlake  8:19  

I have got someone who's measuring it in the background, trust me, if I don't get it, right, I I know quite quickly!

Clive Shepherd  8:26  

There's a lot of difference in the way in it from our point of view and how we design things, because I think if you go back, I mean, I always find it quite interesting people thinking about elearning is something relatively new, because it's not remotely new. And you know, there are plenty of people listening to this, for whom elearning has been present before they were born. You know, it's not it's not it's it's not that that novel. But it has a history. And it has a history of the days when things were consumed on discs. And in very large quantities, you know, and so people would sit down for, you know, for an hour or several hours in order to study in a very, very formal way. Which is not how they're using their mobile devices.

Paul Westlake  9:13  

Do you think, maybe James, I mean, it's just come back to yourself. So in terms of design, we can design for we can design content for mobile. But do we need to go further than that? Do we need to think about the sorts of things that.. or how people are going to access that and bear that in mind? Or do we just need to change our mentality when we're actually designing?

James Cory-Wright  9:37  

I suspect we do. I'm going to suspect you have to break free from the platform. It's really interesting that Clive said platforms get in the way they're supposed to launch things, but they actually obstruct things. Yeah, no I think...

Paul Westlake  9:49  

... we'll pick up on that one. Why is that is that because those platforms were put in place, and it could be a legacy LMS for example?...

James Cory-Wright  9:57  

... it just takes time doesn't it to log on and all that kind of stuff. they'd become a barrier in that sense. But they're but they're in lies, you know, maybe that's one of the problems that they're also about control. And, you know, corporate control and about sort of the idea that learning has to be controlled, it has to be served up hence the LMS. And then monitored as to whether you've done it or not, and notions of completion and all this kind of stuff still pertain. I think that when it comes to compliance training, I gotta admit, I think it's quite still quite problematic to expect that to be done on smartphones, for example, because there are often issues, technical issues around that. But when it comes to all the rest of this stuff, there's no need to really sort of track it, as far as I can see. So if you let go, first of all, and just accept that, perhaps if the sort of whole mentality changes from being a provider to being an enabler, I'm talking about L&D people, essentially, then their let go. And then that can free up the design, if you like, of  that of the content, because you can do anything.

Paul Westlake  11:02  

And even even if it does need to be tracked, maybe we should be looking at how we can, that's not something that the learner needs to get involved with. That's something that can happen in the background, or we can hide from those people.

Pete Smith  11:14  

I was going to challenge the notion that tracking gets in the way, because every single time you look at something on YouTube that's being tracked, it's not quite the same style of tracking that you have in a learning management system. But you know that Google is recording a whole lot of data about everything that you're doing. 

James Cory-Wright  11:32  

Yeah, it's worse. You're being more tracked.

Paul Westlake  11:35  

That's a good point. Because then you can go in and look at those analytics, if you wanted to, much in the same way as the, you know, the, the, the HRD, or whoever it may be, can go in and look at those completion records, or, you know, and see who's been doing what on the LMS. But learner, what my point is, the learner doesn't have to see that...

Pete Smith  11:50  

they don't and actually I'm going to stick up for the learning management system companies, I very rarely do this. But they they are addressing this because it is a challenge. It can be a barrier getting on some old system on a mobile device. And so a lot of them are actually producing apps, which allow you to download your content for offline use. And those actually use traditional learning technologies, they use SCORM in the background to actually track. And that should still be quite a seamless experience for the user.

Paul Westlake  12:20  

And even someone who's got a legacy LMS system, though, what my clients are asking for now, is we've got this system, we don't want to throw it away, we spent an awful lot of money on it. So we look at: Okay, well, let's build a front end portal and let's use a learning record store. Maybe, you know, again, take away that that sort of pain, if you like...

James Cory-Wright  12:37  

There's still that element of formality about it, though, isn't it? I think that you talked about the, you asked me about design and that sort of thing and changing the way we design content. Yeah, I do think we need to sort of go and are starting to go to a curation sort of led approach on the grounds that most of the content basically, that we need in the world already exists in one form or another. And yeah, does, you know, does the does things like LMS' get in the way of the curation? ...

Paul Westlake  13:07  

What are other people doing, Clive?

Clive Shepherd  13:09  

Well, I think most people are actually doing the same thing, they are essentially keeping a very clear mental separation between what the LMS does and and the way people might learn more informally. And they know that they want to be doing more informal learning, they know they want to be learning from the way people are learning outside work, but they find it quite hard to conceive it. And I think obviously, it's up to us to help them to do that. It is quite an it is quite a quite a tricky change. As James says, There are concepts which people are buying into like curation, which is a very valuable concept, particularly, you know, if you're a novice, and you don't want to just throw yourself at the mercy of a search engine, then there's no reason why curation shouldn't actually be quite a help here, because in other words, somebody says, you know, if you're new in this job, maybe you're electrician who has now got to install charging points for cars, or whatever. If you you know, if you're new to this, these are the three videos I would watch, these are the three websites that I would go to, and it can take you to a learning management system. And hopefully, there's no login issues. But you know that that is one way of breaking, the crossing the boundary with one thing that does worry me about platforms of any sort, or even apps is that people who are not, who haven't got access to some sort of curated search service, which meets their needs. nearly always start with a search in in, you know, Google or Bing or something. And typically, you can't search within your learning management system, if you could, or even if even if we were inside the firewall and we were looking at an intranet search engine that's in can the intranet searching look inside the LMS. I think that's a big gap. Because I think that's really how most people find content. They're much more likely to go to Google and find there is a video than they are to go directly to a video platform. Yeah, they do do both obviously.

Paul Westlake  15:17  

I mean, the guys at Filtered with Magpie are trying to do that sort of thing, aren't they? Where they're trying to let people almost search across a range of different... range of different content in different places. Is that pretty much what that what those guys do?

Pete Smith  15:32  

Exactly. There's a whole next generation of platforms which are coming in which are very much like the the magpie system, where they're using either very, very good search engine algorithms to actually get you to the content, or you have the ones which are using AI so which, hook into something like IBM / Watson, at the back end. And they're really focused on giving you focus nuggets of learning rather than the more traditional one hour long digital learning assets, which we know and love.

Paul Westlake  16:03  

And is that the sort of thing when I said earlier about is their specific content that is more suited to mobile. And I used this example earlier, when you know, when I'm traveling down on the train, you got someone with a Kindle, and you think, okay, they're reading a book, and there'll be on that book for two hours or whatever, but someone on their phone, you can see them just skimming through things, it's watching a two second video reading a two second article, liking 15 things on Instagram to keep this there, what's it called, to keep checking in every day, don't they, get the stream going?

Clive Shepherd  16:32  

I don't think things have to be incredibly short, they have to be, you know, clearly, they have to bear in mind the context in which they're going to be used, which is that somebody is maybe got a 15 minute journey, or a half hour journey or something like that. So something that lasts an hour, and is not modular within within that hour is going to not probably be something you pick up. But we also have to think about the not just time, but the screen size, and what's comfortable for people. And so there's absolutely no doubt that video is everybody's favourite medium for, you know, for learning on a mobile device, for obvious reasons, if you know, the aspect ratio of the screen is designed to be exactly you know, 16 to nine, widescreen video, it looks great on there. And even then, if you're designing videos, you know, for use on mobiles, you wouldn't have huge amount of detail. If you're going to do slide base material is going to have to have be really big and bold and things like that. And so podcasts again, absolutely perfect for the mobile devices. So yeah, What you don't want is incredibly complex interfaces, if someone's not going to engage in a really, really sophisticated engineering simulation or something on a mobile device. And that's fine, because that's, that's not the norm anyway. But that's something you do on your, on a big screen. But yeah, I think we've got to acknowledge that the on the whole people are more likely to watch something visual on or something, listen to something that they are to read...

James Cory-Wright  18:04  

Well actually, no, I disagree with that. I'd say i would i would i would have added reading into it actually said that text on its own is another works well on mobile. I think what doesn't work well on mobile is what we've been producing for the last 25 years elearning you know, with all the hot spots and things that you click on to reveal things, and all that kind of stuff. And even MCQs, which do work but think the days are numbered for that kind of old fashion. You know, that doesn't work. But everything else you said does. 

Clive Shepherd  18:36  

It's the slide metaphor, it's the problem. It's all it's all based on the idea of moving, you've got a fixed frame, which moves sideways, if you like, yes, whereas mobile device is all about scrolling up and down, which is why the more recent platforms for creating content, tend to stress the long page.

Paul Westlake  18:58  

At least let people flick rather than clicking next as well. At least got that advantage on an iPad surely!

James Cory-Wright  19:04  

But I think that's one of the things that trade off is kind of, you know, my you know, my point about sort of let's embrace the smartphone more. What's frustrating is actually is quite alot of the content we produce in in Adapt, which is, you know, responsive sort of framework looks great actually, on the phone. Looks really good on the tablet, doesn't look so good on the desktop.

Paul Westlake  19:26  

So can I can I take us back to our I think our original question was what's happened to mobile? So I've got, we've got clients that are you at 70%. They certainly have more than 70% of their users are accessing some content on a mobile phone. So clearly, there are companies that are doing a great job of this. And they're given to users what they want the we've already said that their users want to access this learning on their mobile. So what was getting in the way? What what's stopping them? Is it is it the company? is it a lack of control is it that they...

James Cory-Wright  19:57  

...I think it's personally, I think it's just a bit of a problem. I think it's about sort of letting go. It's about the the status quo. I think it's if I'm honest, I think it's from both sides. I think it's a client side, I think there's a reticence from L&D teams to embrace sort of, the smartphone because it's a kind of letting go. They're worried about some of the issues around, you know, people's attitudes towards privacy of the data and the fact that mobile phone is a very personal thing. So maybe they're a bit nervous as well. But if I'm honest, I think it's more a kind of fuddy duddy-ism really, not wanting to change the way things do. I'm really sorry to say I also think it's supplier side, I think that there's a slight reticence to push or to make the argument for doing mobile content. So when I do hear and pick up sometimes under a sense of relief, when it's like said, it's okay, they don't want it mobile. And I find that very perplexing. And I'll be honest, that's what I do hear sometimes. And so I think it's working on both sides of the fence. And I think what you've got is a kind of... accidental resistance to change. 

Paul Westlake  21:15  

And just just a quick point on that before we move to Pete. And that's those same people who say they don't want it on mobile. It's not uncommon for them to come back in a few weeks times, we have an app! Because that's different!  Allegedly, yeah, sorry Pete...

Pete Smith  21:28  

I kind of agree. But we're, I think we're talking about a cultural change in the industry. But framing it's through the through a mobile phone screen. Because what we all seem to be agreeing on is that the more traditional more compliance elearning stuff that's been our meat and drink for the last 20 years or so, that is the sort of stuff that isn't being consumed on mobile devices, the kind of things that people are looking at the the more soft skills, more bite sized things. And actually the kind of work that most more traditional organisations maybe would never dream of giving to an elearning agency to go off and develop. Yeah, and that's why we're talking about curation and things like that, I think that people don't, still don't really see and most organisations at least don't see their LMS as a place to go for learning, it's a place they're sent to, to do compliance pieces. And so again, that's probably a bigger barrier to using it on their mobile phone, when maybe not at their desks, they do elearning on the LMS, when they have to do it, they do learning outside the LMS when they need to do it. And that's normally the time they reach for their phones.

Paul Westlake  22:37  

So but talking from a suppliers perspective, then just kind of paraphrasing what you're saying a little bit there. But that's traditional elearning that we've written for, however long doesn't really suit mobile. A lot of the content is already out there just needs to be curated. So where does that leave us?

Pete Smith  22:55  

Um, I'm not... Very good question. ... First of all to change that. I'm not saying that the compliance pieces won't work on the mobile, I'm saying that people don't access them. So a great example is a GDPR Course, which I've just done this week, it was a very excellent course built by Kineo, the essentials plus course, for anyone listening out there. And I did it on our learning management system, which happens to be a totora. And I did it my desk, didn't even cross my mind still on my mobile phone, because I'd had an email from our HR team telling me that I had to do this. And so I did it on the device that I happen to be using at the time. And it's great. It worked well in the laptop. But it's not the sort of learning that I'm likely to do... say, at home, when I've got a spare hour, and I want to learn a bit more about a subject which is close to my heart, like say agile development.

James Cory-Wright  23:47  

You just don't want to admit it, Pete!

Clive Shepherd  23:50  

I can definitely understand the and luckily, from the outside, it doesn't seem so threatening, but I can understand the problem looking at it from the point of view of an elearning developer , it's almost a traditional. Well, I mean, you can really say that can't you, traditionally. Because what really is probably required in the in the in the new world. And I would say even for compliance, I don't actually see why it should be any different is that what people want is the content disaggregated from this, everything, everything lumped together in a sort of fully integrated piece which you navigate. They'd rather have a... break that apart and say, I'd love I love that exercise. I love that, you know, quiz or whatever scenario. I love that video, I like you know, they want it in pieces. And then you know, it might well be that it's that either people just make it / are adaptive for themselves. They personalise their own learning by choosing what they want, or use some intelligent system to help you do it for you. But actually, you're more likely to be making 20 small pieces than one, you know, one integrated piece and even the compliance course, the actual quiz can still be on it, can still be tracked. If that's if it has a quiz, if that's the bit, you need to prove that someone's done it. And so it is slightly threatening, because it's a very different way of organising yourself. And it's harder, I think, from Kineo and other elearning developers point of view, to say why you should be making the videos, as well as X creating the PDF or, I mean, everyone will understand why you would do the scenarios and things like that. So I think that in a way, what you're, when you at the front end of going and meeting clients, what you're really doing is designing solutions and experiences, which happened to be largely probably largely online, they might be blended in other ways. But let's, you know, let's imagine they're largely online, but actually, could be quite a lot of different tools and techniques used to, you'd have to put it all together. So what you're what you are, as is the one stop shop for preparing that solution. But actually, it might be that you're preparing a bundle of videos, a bundle of scenarios...

Paul Westlake  26:09  

...which to be fair, we've been, you're absolutely right, whether it be an animation, whether it be a video, whether it be you know, a scenario we've written, we've done that, traditionally, we built that together into one piece, what we're doing now is breaking up, and I would go, I would argue that, to sort of back you up and say, I think people used to working that way now as well. So for example, back in the day, as an analogy, I'd have outlook on my, my desktop, and outlook was a calendar, and it was my contacts, and it was my email. And who knows, whatever else it did, I used to book Skype meetings through it. Now on my phone, I have a Contacts app, I have a calendar app, I have an email app, and they are all very good. But they're very good at doing one thing and doing it well. And I think people are used to that idea of: No, I can do that bit. And now we're gonna do that bit. Now. It doesn't have to be all nicely packaged for them... Curated together for them, but they can kind of dip around I think users are used to doing that.

James Cory-Wright  26:57  

Yeah, I think in order, weirdly, in order to help people to learn, we have to actually stop obsessing with them with creating learning, weirdly, and that one actually sort of get us to the new new place we need to be. Because as soon as we start thinking we are, we are a supplier of learning content, we become bogged down in, in how long that should be the duration of things, the formality of things, the the whole methodology, and everything. And indeed, even on a bigger scale, our entire production process is actually sort of dictated to a certain extent by this obsession with delivering learning content. So we have to change and we we kind of are, but it's not happening fast enough for my liking. To the point where we become basically sort of agnostic, we are... producers of digital content.

Clive Shepherd  27:50  

It would come, it would happen faster if your clients were demanding it. But I think we have to acknowledge that it's a fairly conservative supply chain, if you like, for right from the customer right down through there, the only people who probably would be expecting something slightly different are the learners. But they still sort of... but they're not in a very powerful position to know.... But actually, it's quite possible that many of your corporate clients are reasonably comfortable with having, having got everything going, a nice process, a nice way of doing things, and a platform to support it and everything else. And it's actually quite, it's very, very disruptive for them to make this change even more than it is for you.

Paul Westlake  28:39  

If you'd like to carry on this conversation, you can find us on twitter where we're @Kineo

Your speakers are

In a career spanning more than 35 years, Clive has headed up a corporate training function, co-founded a leading multimedia development business and operated as an independent consultant operating worldwide. He is a regular speaker at international conferences, has been recognised with two lifetime achievement awards, has written five books, more than 200 articles and nearly 1000 posts to his blog, Clive on Learning. His most recent book, More Than Blended Learning, was launched in January 2015. His current venture is Skills Journey, a curriculum of online CPD courses for L&D professionals.
James has over 25 years' experience of instructional design and video scriptwriting. He previously headed up our team of learning designers and consultants, overseeing learning content design across all client projects.
Paul was previously a Solutions Consultant at Kineo.
As a Technical Team Lead, Pete manages our team of Senior Technical Consultants and Front End Developers as well as taking accountability for the technical robustness and suitability of Kineo’s elearning and learning content. Pete also helps drive forward technical innovation working with our Technical Director and Head of Innovation to identify new opportunities for Kineo to branch into. Pete has a key role in the development of our Adapt framework and technical roadmaps for our proprietary tools and development.