Challenges and Barriers to Mobile Learning in the Enterprise

I discussed one of the major challenges to bringing mobile learning to the enterprise in last weeks introductory post, the content barrier. There aren’t many rapid development tools trying to solve this yet, but our voice is being heard by them.

This week I will begin trying to solve the mobile enterprise puzzle, we have to begin by asking ourselves what things we can control now. Not all learning content requires a rapid development tool.

We need to look at other learning objects first, such as the following: Performance support, PDF documents, audio, short videos, etc.

All of these are content we probably already have. They don’t need a LMS nor do they need tracking.

These are all great candidates for the first level of implementation of mobile learning in the enterprise.

Thinking everything needs to go into a LMS and tracked is the first barrier to get past before reaching the true mobile enterprise.

Don’t separate learning content from other enterprise content.

It’s not necessary to track all learning.

Where does this leave us?

With much content that’s perfect for the mobile learning enterprise; with one less barrier to get there.

Now that I got that out of the way, I’ll start with some of the small challenges that might be a problem in your enterprise. Some of these may not seem like a huge problem, and they might not be for small web sites, but an enterprise intranet may have a huge amount of content which can make them a huge challenge.

Mobile Enterprise Learning Challenges and Barriers

The above model depicts a traditional enterprise network which does not provide a good user experience. There are several barriers along the way to the final destination. To achieve a mobile enterprise, barriers must be removed.

Internal Domain

If an enterprise intranet is available only by an internal domain (eg. http://intranet), that becomes a problem translating to the outside world where mobile employees will be accessing content from.

All of a sudden http://intranet becomes a big issue when you have to convert all resource links to http://intranet.domain.com.

Documents and web pages may link to an internal domain. Internal web pages may point to a full internal domain and not a relative path (eg. http://intranet/folder/file.html instead of /folder/file.html).

Think of all the content needing to be converted and sifted through. It could be an undertaking most companies aren’t willing to do. A true mobile enterprise will never happen unless the work to get there is done.

Network Access

Barriers for an employee are also barriers for the enterprise. When an employee is made to sign a personal device over to the company, this can raise flags in their head. The chances an employee will do this are not very good.

Company resources can always be removed from the enterprise whether it’s from a desktop computer or a mobile device so it’s not a security issue if done right as with all things.

There are also barriers for accessing the network beyond signing agreements and various forms.

Here’s a scenario you may have all experienced or heard of:

Tess just got hired, she signs the agreement forms and goes through the necessary setup from technical support (a difficult process in itself). She goes to use the network for the first time which requires reading and deciphering industry jargon.

She opens her VPN connection, requiring her to go through several menus and entering her login credentials. She must then open a web browser and navigate to an odd address that is not easy to remember. She’s asked for her login credentials once again to sign into the enterprise intranet website.

If you have to go through all these steps every time you’d like to use an enterprise resource, are you motivated to use them?

My answer would be no, way too many barriers.

Device Compatibility

Think about Tess who went through all the steps above to use her HR department’s intranet site. She goes through all those steps and is greeted with a web page that presents the information she needs in Flash.

In case you haven’t stayed apprised of current tech happenings, Flash isn’t compatible with any mobile device, with very few exceptions.

All that wasted time accessing the HR department and she can’t even see what she needs, frustrating.

To make it even more frustrating, let’s look at a scenario where Tess knows where to use the information. This time it’s not on a page with Flash but on a page with fixed dimensions that’s designed for a desktop computer.

Tess has to pinch, zoom, move around, and hope she can get the small amount of information she needs to display in the small 3.5 inch screen on her smart phone.

That’s a frustrating experience that will guarantee Tess never tries to use enterprise intranet resources again, I don’t blame her.

Will Employees Be Coming Back?

After all these negative experiences, Tess didn’t really enjoy having to use her enterprise intranet. She probably won’t be back, and I can’t blame her.

All these challenges and barriers are making it impossible for employees to use the information they want, and need.

By giving employees what they need in a user-friendly format that’s device agnostic, the enterprise can empower employees like never before no matter where they are. Employees are accustomed to a thoughtful user experience from their consumer goods, they now expect it from companies also.

If basic resources are as difficult to use as my stories (believe me they are), learning resources won’t be any easier. It’s important to the modern enterprise that all resources are available to employees wherever they are, on any device.

Let’s Solve These Problems

Next week, I will present a few solutions to these problems which will in turn allow the modern mobile enterprise to flourish. I hope you will also comment on other possible problems or solutions you have encountered.

To cater to the modern employee, the modern enterprise must take shape.

Mobile is the next step in truly enabling employees to do what they need, where they need to do it.

The next, and last, post I present some solutions I’ve come up with to make the mobile enterprise. They seem straight forward, but they are not simple or straight forward in a large enterprise with a huge network of web pages and documents.

I hope you have some information to add, and join the discussion on helping me unravel some of the challenges and barriers out there which I haven’t yet experienced.

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