The Use Of M-Learning In Training And Development Essay
The Use Of M-Learning In Training And Development
The skills of the employees in any given company or business organization is crucial in determining the success of the business venture as it contributes not only to the abilities of the employees in handling client-related concerns but also situations that require the most precise knowledge and the most accurate methods in resolving the cases. Business Excellence is a direct result of having skilled employees at all levels and departments. Whether the business focus is marketing, manufacturing or services, the value of a skilled employee is always undeniable.
Thus, an emphasis coming in the form of an “investment” in the training and, consequently, in the development of the skills of the employees or of the potential employees is of necessity (Tsui et al., 1997). This emphasis does not only amount to a mere relegation of importance to the educational attainment of the individual but, quite equally significant, but also to the worth of further learning where the skills are honed more uniquely and more specific depending on the field of expertise of the person.
One of the core consequences of the technological innovations in the modern world is anchored on the world of business and of several other types of organizations. Since human resource is one of the primary elements that constitute the workings of every organization, the application of the recent technological advancements on human resources has led to the vital improvements both in the practical understanding of human resources and in the expansion of these organizations. The strategies of these firms have been greatly affected by the central role of technology nowadays (Itami and Numagami, 1992).
With the advent of technological innovations, the development of numerous tools that strongly apply to the enlargement of the operations of organizations, specifically business establishments have created a wider plane upon which these organizations are able to operate. Local business firms that operate within a small territory, for example, are now able to reach territories beyond state borders. As a result, the influx of income being generated from these operations have eventually led to the increase in the number of clients and, consequently, in the revenues.
In general, the upbringing of the human resources of firms and organizations is highlighted as one of the determining keys in the identification of the progress of these groups both in terms of economic and social matters (Hirsch, 1964). This type of development can be achieved through the utilization of the available technological tools that provide crucial benefits such as the augmenting in the skills and learning of the employees. Among the number of these tools, one of the most widely used is m-learning.
M-learning, or mobile learning, is one of the offspring of technological innovations that we have today. Through the use of mobile devices such as cellular phones and mobile computers, m-learning has enhanced the life of the employee and of the employer in terms of business undertakings. Access to the business information involved in the daily operations of the organization can be done more efficiently and faster given that the mobile devices are connected (i.e. connected through or via the internet or the network) to the main database of the company.
The evolution of the technological tools
A new culture has been in formation ever since the mobile device was introduced, changing the former means of communication that humanity used to have. With the introduction and propagation of mobile devices, these devices have undergone continuous upgrade and Apple, once an ordinary communicator, has eventually evolved into something unrecognizable from its humble origins. These eventually resulted to new usages on the part of the mobile devices and new ways of action and thought on the part of its users.
The primary intent of Apple in creating the iPod was originally to satisfy music lovers as the device is capable of catering to the music needs of its users in various ways (Corbeil and Valdes-Corbeil, 2007). Eventually, the company realized its usefulness in several other fields apart from its musical function. This development led to the decision of corporations in adopting the Pod cast to deliver important information to their employees. One aspect that has been greatly affected by this development is the training of employees in business firms in refining their skills so as to meet the demands of the competitive market.
Learning from E to M
Globalization has been a major concern for almost every individual in the world, largely because it has affected the lives of many in ways that were once unimagined of in the past decades, bringing impacts to the sustenance of the living standards of men and women from various walks of life (Krugman and Venables, 1995).
The rapid growth of the factors that sprang from the trends set forth by globalization, such as economic and technological trends, has inevitably resulted to a massive change in the way in which the activities of man and of organizations are being conducted. We now rarely have the classic way of communication through snail mail, although in some parts of the globe it is still being utilized for lack of resources.
There is currently little evidence showing that the “pony express” and the “semaphore signals” that were once utilized over a century ago are still being used in higher types of cross-territorial communications (Mitchell, 1967). What we have today are more advanced and sophisticated means in communicating effectively with other people not only across huge land masses but also across the vast oceans that separate nations and corporations.
Given the rise in the number of available technological tools that are closely associated with Information and Communications Technology or ICT, the swift switch-over and transmission of information has been greatly felt (Clegg et al., 2003). One of the elements in the society that has received a voluminous amount of the effects of the boom in ICT is the education sector. As a result of the injection of the ideas and equipments brought about by the trends in ICT, learning has become more fluid in the sense that the expanse of the fields of knowledge critical to education has become more accessible over a shorter period of time.
With the rise of the internet, the birth of on-line courses and learning has paved the way for the expansion of education, dissolving continental barriers that once deterred the isolated individual from further learning. Education and specialization courses have been made available via the internet where access to these has been made easier through the evolution of the technological gadgets such as mobile phones and computers. All these eventually gave birth to the very idea of electronic learning or e-learning.
E-learning is primarily achieved through the use of the electronic equipments where the process of information diffusion is taken to another level. This level is incorporated in the idea that, in contrast to learning through textbook interface, learning essentially dwells on the interaction of the “learner” with electronic gadgets in accessing the necessary documents or notes, for example.
In general, terms that are supplemented at their beginning with “e” implies the contact between two people or more that is either aided by or enabled through the use of an internet connection like that of terms such as “e-commerce” as well as “e-marketplace”. Electronic learning, which is only one of the many terms that utilize the World Wide Web or the internet, is considered to be under the broad concept of trainings that are essentially based on the use of technology.
It also embraces the summation of the activities that foster learning via the Internet. E-learning can be done either through the communication between individuals via the Internet in real-time, meaning, the individuals such as students or employees get to talk to one another simultaneously in a synchronous manner. Or it can also be done through the other way around where the learners learn in a self-paced manner without having the need to be consistently online (Kossen, 2003).
However, the equipments that were being used under this category of learning are confined to the devices that do not allow the individual to transfer locations while utilizing the gadget for accessing, say, the e-learning modules for a specific course or subject. In such cases, it is needless to say that the confinement of the individual poses several restrictions to what the individual can actually learn in the same sense of asking how much the person will be able to comprehend given the limiting factor of immobility. That is, the mobility of the individual while continuing his or her access with the modules in an online course serves as a sort of hindrance to the extent of the comprehension that one will be able to arrive at or acquire in the process.
E-learning, in its broadest sense, nevertheless provides several benefits to a large number of people across the globe. Students get to access their school database even if they are miles away from their learning institutions and employees get to sharpen their skills through the use of online trainings without the need of actually being in the office. Yet one crucial point here has been greatly contributed to by technology: the confinement of the learner.
With the rise in communications technology, the increase in the featured utilities of communication gadgets have narrowed down the distance between the extent of learning and the learner while these same utilities continue to expand with regards to its features being offered (Barrow and Manelli, 1969). Cellular phone technology, more specifically, has been one of the major tools to be placed under the improvements in technology.
Compared to analog phones of the past, cellular phones now allow the user to make distant calls while driving in a car or travelling overseas via an airplane or through sea cruise. The digitalization of the phone has consequently led to the capacity of man to effectively communicate with the rest of the world even while travelling. Mobility while communicating is now within reach whereby options vary and serve a wide number of functions.
The stages of the development of cellular phones have, thus, lessened the confinement of man in terms of mobility in communication. One can now be able to transfer messages or exchange information to another person a thousand miles away while relocating from place to place simultaneously. The effect of this change has been felt among the people from all the elements within the society, one of which is the institution of learning which include institutions that specialize in providing the necessary and specific training for employees in a given field.
While contemporary times reflect the reality of having a society being able to learn whilst away from school or training camps or institutions, the dawning of mobile phones has crucially made its equally significant role of extending the scopes upon which man can be able to act. Mobile phone technology has allowed man to reach several places in a specified time while simultaneously making constant calls. The learner, on the other hand, is now able to not only access the learning institution while at home. He is now able to access this same institution while travelling, or while simply taking a walk in the park.
Mobile learning, or m-learning, soon became a part of the daily affairs of man. Changes both in the habits and lifestyle of the general population have led to a shift in the working attitude of the employees and a change in the studying habits of the student-learner. An illustration to this includes the office worker who now transacts at home or anywhere else in the world given that the person is connected to the internet. Another one is the student who is now able to download modules for his or her courses through the use of the cellular phone while going on a road trip across state borders.
M-learning’s origins can be traced to a development and research program conducted within the span of three years specifically in the areas of Europe. The research focused on providing assistance to the young people within the range of 16 to 24 years old who were seen to be on the verge of being excluded by the European society.
The reason behind such discriminatory act is because these individuals have no firm educational background and were left without work. However, there is a common binding element amongst these individuals: they were all equipped with mobile phones largely because these devices are inexpensive inasmuch as they can be brought almost anywhere and is within the reach of a large number of Europeans.
One can observe that m-learning employs the utilization of the technological advancements in mobile phones in order to bring about several useful enhancements in the person’s experience of learning (Wagner, 2005). Not only is m-learning, then, held to be a stagnant form of learning but one that is a form of an exciting art. Quite apart from these, the engagement and motivation among learners from various points in the globe at any given time is blended with the gadgets involved in m-learning such as PDAs, Pocket Personal Computers, mobile phones as well as the world wide web that, as part of their functions, cater to the basic as well as the more advanced needs of the individual.
M-learning, to a certain extent, can be understood as a combination of the teaching practices similar in a way to those taught in schools and the program utilities applied to advanced peripherals. Examples of these include quizzes in the form of java software that can be employed in order to keep track of the employee’s skills within a specific working context through the use of mobile phones, media boards wherein the learner-employee keys in a message (SMS) or an image (MMS) in their phones that will be posted in an online message board so as to foster collaboration among web site handlers and the learners, and quizzes via SMS through the mobile phones in accessing various sheets of information in order to raise the awareness of the employee by simply texting.
Other examples include short but informative quizzes installed right into Pocket PCs wherein the quizzes are tailored in such a way that fits the device. This type fuses materials based on papers with learning as well as with other Information Communications Technology inasmuch as it is also blended with the most common things that every person usually does. One can also obtain m-learning through the Pocket PC by creating media that is compact yet flowing with useful information and enables the learner to bridge together his or her ideas.
Above all these, m-learning provides a vast expanse of sensible, useful, and authoritative solutions to a huge number of learning as well as training tests which include on-the-field work and projects that require collaboration among individuals, and training “facilities” in the form of a mobile phone software in aiding employees who have just been hired. M-learning also provides an alternative to the voluminous books, thereby cutting-short the time spent on browsing an archive of journals and book sections without sacrificing the quality of knowledge and skills to be acquired by the learner.
Also, in cases wherein companies have employees who are at the same time learners who are widely dispersed across states or regions, m-learning provides a unifying solution to the problem posed by distance between the learners and the organization. It can also be used in furthering the scopes of campaigns that mainly tackle the promotion of awareness within a specific working group, especially among learners who might have experienced the sense of exclusion in the past.
Concrete illustrations to all of these can be observed in Tribal CTAD which is part of the Tribal Group. These include the participation of 1600 employees using 150 PDAs in Middlesbrough in learning the essential skills in cleaning, care and transportation where m-learning was deemed effective because of the patterns in shift and the dispersal of work. In Scotland, supporting centers were built in order to engage individuals who are beyond immediate contact so as to provide them the capability to initiate their own efforts in formulating their professional portfolio. This event involved 50 participants that used 60 PDAs through 10 sites (CTAD, 2007).
Further, several m-learning applications deliver the necessity of providing sufficient training to the employees without the hassle of distance learning and the deterrents of time and other physical constraints. One of these includes the Mobile-IT Education otherwise known as MIT.EDU through the creation of the technology that can be worn by individuals through MIThril which assists in the quick prototyping and transfer of broad applications that are primarily built around communities.
This type of m-learning application was conceived initially in providing assistance to both emergency and military underpinnings. At the core of this application rests the configuration that is dispersed, modular as well as one that is infused with the clothes worn by the individual systematically grounded on a fused power and data bus. This permits the combination of calculating, contact and perception resources at times when they are of utmost significance.
What gives the assurance that m-learning will be an effective tool in delivering quality training and information with regards to the enhancement of the skills of an individual, especially the employee who is in dire need of acquiring the needed training in the soonest possible time? In recent times, an estimate of 1.5 billion mobile phones in the whole world exist and are being utilized daily in the affairs of humanity in general (Prensky, 2004). If m-learning programs are introduced into these gadgets, mobile phones will not merely serve the function of allowing its user to communicate swiftly across destinations but also allow the user to be a learner in the process.
With the continued annual increase in the sales of mobile phones, it is expected that the percentage of these sales will reflect the total number of individuals in the world’s population that will utilize these gadgets along with the basic services it provides. Correspondingly, there remains the great possibility that the number of those who are to seek training through the use of their mobile phones will also increase (Smith, 2007). The primary reason is that, as the modern world becomes more and more filled with intricate patterns and skill prerequisites with regards to the employment opportunities, mobile phones will contribute a huge role in the achievement of such goal.
Training programs specially designed to meet the prerequisites needed in molding the skills of an individual—whether an employee or someone who is seeking to land a spot in the job market—have a close link to mobile phones. It is a fact that handheld devices such as PADs and Pocket PCs have pre-programmed basic applications in them. The question now is: how are the contents of the training programs to be delivered through mobile devices? The answer rests on our understanding of e-learning in general and m-learning in particular.
Since e-Learning has been established as an acceptable and advanced learning and training method, it is a common approach for the program developers to automatically convert this into m-Learning. But this is an approach that compromises e-learning in the process for the reason that the conversion implies that e-learning can already be replaced by m-learning. The delivery mode should be improved but nevertheless the internet capability should be retained to the devices that are either inclusive of e-learning or of m-learning. None should be compromised in the process for both e-learning and m-learning equally serve distinct and useful functions.
One of the most important facts to be considered and understood is the idea of how the target audience would be able to use their mobile device as well as the idea of when will they be able to access information even in cases wherein these people are on the move. Another equally significant thing to consider is the packaging and arrangement of the information that will be served to the targeted audience. Once these factors are properly addressed, the propagation of m-learning as well as of e-learning to the rest of the population would be held with very minimal hindrances.
At this stage it is useful to understand several, if not all, of the common constraints that beset m-learning in general and the multitude of devices that contain specific programs designed to provide m-learning. An understanding of these deterrents will not only allow the developer to make certain adjustments and changes to the program itself but will also give the learner a better grasp of the processes involved in the training via mobile phones.
First, most hand held devices operate on low bandwidth rates. Hence, the content of the program itself has to be manageable in the sense that it should not exceed the bandwidth limit by toning down the size of the application without compromising the quality. This is because the quality of the application, in order to meet the perceived standards for m-learning, should remain as the top priority for it rests at the very heart of the training process.
Second, because of the limit in the bandwidth capability of phones, graphics would have to be limited while browsing. That is, for as long as the content of the m-learning program remains true to its purpose, the need for graphics would not arise unless otherwise the underlying purpose of the program is to provide images to the user for specific purposes such as those who are engaged with learning photography and are training themselves in the field.
Third, the size of the device screen is quite small due to the fact that modern handheld devices ought to be the size of the palm of the hands of the user or is close to being that size. Apart from this, the compactness of these devices ensures that minimal space is used in order to allow the user other sorts of actions that primarily require the use of the hands. All these pose several difficulties on both parts of the manufacturer of the device and of the end-user primarily because the storage or memory capacity is limited and, hence, the input capability is also limited in some degree. Summating all of these observations, one can arrive at the understanding that, consequently, the mobile usage of the user is also limited.
Once all of the factors stated have been understood and properly addressed, the content of the m-learning program can then be designed and configured in such a way that the limitations are adequately matched. Further, the content has to be very straight to the point so as to avoid having too many unnecessary elements in the application such as images that eat away most of the mobile phone’s memory.
By having an application that is compact and is easy to use without the excessive and unnecessary graphics, the software will not only to fit in the screen more easily but will also express its content in a more straightforward manner, thereby removing the possibility of confusing the user with the intricacies involved.
Further, the text messages should be within the range of 100 to 200 characters/digits and must allow a two way interaction in contrast to e-learning where it is only one way per time/session. A user can use power point and organization of text to create interest and develop interactive deliverables. After all temporary locations are not the focus as much as mobile movements.
Interest and curiosity occupies a big part in a mobile user’s mind. The content of the m-learning application should be configured in such a way that the attention of the learner is attracted. Yet this does not necessarily mean that the program should be filled with images or graphics just to grab the attention of the individual. Rather, the program should be designed in such a way that its content has strong relevance with m-learning thereby attracting not only the attention of the learner but, far more importantly, the mind of the individual as well.
Since training is quite broad in usage, it is more effective to deliver it on common devices that can receive Pod casts. Pod casting is an example of an automatic system (mechanism) that allows the user to view computer files in multimedia format such as audio, video, graphics or even PDF files that are then transmitted to the receiver or client from the sender or server. Information can also be conveyed to the organization’s Learning Management System through the use of the wireless network or even through SMS messaging.
Pod casting is becoming very popular in the field of training largely because Pod casts enable both trainers and trainees to share information simultaneously with any person anytime of the day thereby allowing and establishing an effective and efficient communication between the two individuals. The trainee can download the pod cast of the recorded lesson at his free time inasmuch as the trainers can record their own lessons, vocabulary or technical lessons and broadcast them at their convenient time.
Pod casting can also be a tool for presentations especially in conferences or meetings that involve, for example, the handling of the training of the employees. With introduction of video pod casting, presentations amongst companies and several other organizations has become more interactive and interesting, dissolving hindrances such as distance and time that has been the usual deterrents with regards to company meetings or trainings in organizations in the past decades.
More challenges to address
The general summation of all the challenges that can be posed towards the consequent proliferation of m-learning through the coming years can be briefly summarized into two contexts: first is that which concerns technical challenges while the second can be interpreted as the factors that are related to both society and the educational institutions.
Under the technical challenge, the challenge of connectivity implies that mobile devices have o developed in such a way that they are able to efficiently connect to the internet without complications. The performance of both the application and the hardware device should be optimal in the sense that both have to be developed in the manner in which they are able to provide the best connectivity without crashing or malfunctioning.
Battery life is also a primary concern when it comes to m-learning for the reason that a very limited battery supply will most likely affect the learning process of the “trainee” and the teaching performance of the “trainer”. Given the instance wherein the user constantly changes battery just to keep up with the pace of the learning process, the training process will result to distractions on the part of the user of the device. Hence, m-learning applications ought to be designed in such a way that they do not consume too much energy from the battery.
Moreover, the senses of all men vary depending primarily on age or the health of the individual. Eyesight is a major factor that must be considered in designing the interface of the devices as well as of the programs for m-learning. Texts that are too small to be identified and read by the eye of those who have vision impairments will not only lead to a slowing-down of the training/learning process but also to possible misinterpretations or misreading of the documents. This instance very well leads to the next challenge being posited.
It should hence be the case that both mobile devices and m-learning applications be configured in the manner in which they serve their purposes first and foremost, doing-away with the extravagance and unnecessary components of technology. The useful contents within the software should be given due emphasis through a proper display of these items on the small size of the mobile device’s screen.
On the other hand, one of the challenges that are directed towards the society in general and the number of educational institutions that apply m-learning in training their employees or part of their working force is the problem of assessment with regards to the learning process beyond the classrooms.
There also remains the possible threat of invasion to someone’s privacy, especially to those who have very little background of information or knowledge with regards to the complexities of these programs and devices. The privacies of both the individual trainee and trainer should be given utmost emphasis since the online activities of these people through their mobile devices can be monitored by the pirates in the web.
Moreover, the configuration of the technology must also be designed in such a way that it properly addresses the duration of the learning process. This is in the sense that mobile devices and m-learning programs should be able to support the process of learning at a specified working duration. Specifications with regards to the prerequisites of the companies with regards to the level of skills that their employees ought to have should also be considered in the determination of the capacity of the technology to support the time-duration of the learning process.
In essence, all of these challenges point to one interesting observation: the mobile technology that we have today is still in the process of refinement. In the coming years, more developments are to be pursued and that these developments may play a vital role specifically in the attempt of both employees and employers to refine and upgrade the skills of their workers, depending on the context or on the nature of the job.
The normal e-Learning reduces the trainee from the classroom but still makes him or her face their desktop computers in the end. He or she becomes busier in the progression of days and is also in need for training. It is most important for the company to offer this training at the lowest cost available.
For such people and companies the solution today is in the form of m-Learning and m-Training. Both offers them two way access while staying mobile or while doing their jobs. It also enables them to interact with the trainers and colleagues as well as it offers focused training by being more objective.
The m-Learning module is still in its childhood stage. Content is a major area of worry as well as storage, screen sizes, memory and internet bandwidth limitations. It is true that these factors are constantly being improved with new generation of hand held devises and smart phones. But for the time being, it remains as the immediate alternative for the expensive and bulky training equipments that enable one to arrive at the same set of concepts in learning and training. Even though the cost of mobile devices is quite high in several parts of the globe inasmuch as it is an easy grab to the companies or individuals, it would do a great deal of advantages to the company as much as it would for its employees—a worthy investment.
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