Navigate / search

Liveblogging from London: Mobile learning in Qualcomm

I decide to attend a session with one speaker – hoping that will allow us to dig a bit deeper than in the sessions with 3 speakers.. Geoff Stead is from Qualcomm – who make the chips in our phones – and will work with us on Enterprise Mobile Learning. Qualcomm is an organization with 31.000 employees.

Four things for today!

  1. Guerilla learners
  2. Moving to mobile
  3. App stores for learning
  4. New tools new tricks

Guerilla learners

These are the people who don’t have the patience to wait for L&D activities, they solve their own issues and find their way. The room recognizes these people. Currently they are not well served by L&D. They go to Google, use their LinkedIn groups and social networks. The guerilla learners and self-conscience, already mobile. See the graph about the modern learner below.

Moving to mobile

In Qualcomm content evolves very rapidly. “We used to teach aging things”. Qualcomm adopted BYOD (bring your own device) and new generations of employees and coming onboard. All these changes make it harder for L&D to keep up. The outreach of Qualcomm has shifted – elearning which does not work on mobile has been eliminated, so elearning has to be multi-device by definition. Shift from longer training sessions to smaller sessions with domain experts. When we talk about mobile learning we don’t talk about the older courses squeezed onto mobile devices. “Think beyond courses“.  The things people do on their phones is part of learning.

There are two approaches basically:

  • the approach of the Swiss army knife – there is one platform you go to with many functionalities
  • the approach of the toolbox – a distributed set of tools

Developing your own appstore

If you have an app developed it doesn’t really scale. Hence Qualcomm has developed its own appstore.It is important that apps in the store can be available through single sign-on to make it easy to access them. In the employee app store there is a wide variety of apps. Examples are compliance apps, video learning apps, performance support apps, games, performance support, social learning apps. It is up to the room to choose! The most popular game is flappybird which is just for fun… however, this helped to get people into the appstore. A more serious game is a car racing game. It helps to learn cultural things about the company. In the videolearning app there is the Lynda app, and a subscription for the whole organization was negotiated, half of the employees have used Lynda. Some apps were developed for Qualcomm. An example of social learning is Pathgather- a sort of internal Facebook where you can create paths. About 50% of learning is via mobile, yet their are also face-to-face trainers, or employees may go to an external training.

The most popular app is the map app, called Qmaps, which uses Google maps with a layer of data. QC Lingo is a company jargon learning app. In California every manager has to take two hours sexual harassment training. It doesn’t matter whether you learned anything as long as it is two hours long… :). It is now offered on mobile which is a huge success. There is another app with the faces of the top 15% people. Another example is Qspeaks to learn business phrases in languages, like mandarin, which is actually made by Chinese colleagues in the company.

Obstacles for mobile learning 

Organizations haven’t gone far with mobile learning. In groups we discussed obstacles for mobile learning in organizations. Some of the issues experienced are:

  • security issues – when the IT department doesn’t approve because they can’t put it behind the firewall
  • infrastructure – people need smartphone or ipads
  • cultural and generational issues – different generations and have different aptitudes and ideas about mobile learning

The largest obstacle is plumbing – the systems don’t easily work together. Geoff offers some Barrier-Busting approaches (I like that word!) like start small, with a small budget and grow into success; security models may need to be revisited; start new partnerships with IT- departments, in Qualcomm there is huge interest to go jointly into mobile. The new model for security goes from high via medium to low and NONE. Then you have to make smart decisions about what should go where.

New tools – old tricks or new tricks?

Think: What can mobile offer we can’t do at the moment? Knowing where people are.. iBeacon is a way of figuring out where you are in a store. This is an example of indoor positioning. Qualcomm developed an app for a museum sensing where you are and giving you information. Think augmented reality too with examples like hollow lens, word lens, etc. The photo booth is fun – it allows you to take a picture with a celebrity (fake) and very popular in South-East Asia. It is not the old serious learning – but it is helping employees to get excited about the app store.

Want to browse more? You can visit


Designing mobile learning: people underestimate the power of text messages

On wednesday we had a webinar with Clark Quinn, a specialist in the field of mobile learning, He has written a blogpost upfront to get us all thinking about the power of mobile learning, which you can still read here. We asked participants how do you use your mobile phone? The answered ranged from twittering, sharing on facebook, checking the yammer community for my courses, mailing, playing games, taking pictures, looking for information, sending sms, talking on whatapp, finding my car on the parking, taking pictures of flipsheets after brainstorms.. and also calling :).

What do we understand by the term mobile learning?

Mobile can “Augment our brains wherever we are“. Clark’s main concern is about effective learning and the difference between formal and informal learning. Courses are good for novices, but for practitioners there is more value in informal methods (see the slide)

. We should increase the reach of informal methods to support practitioners and this is where mobile fits in. As one participant remarks: “Learning by phone would be great when i’m bored or waiting”. Mobile learning is then about how to use your mobile devices to make yourself smarter when you’re out and about. Our brains are good at pattern detection, mobile devices are good for remembering, yet not for sense-making. Via mobile we can augment our brains wherever we go. People underestimate the power of text messages. It is about performance – how can mobile devices make people more effective.

What mobile devices do we consider?  ipod? Or phone?

I don’t separate smart phones from other devices like PDA, but I’m talking about pocketable devices. Devices that fit a purse. My tablet goes many places, but not as many places as my smart phone.

So is there no role for mobile in formal learning?

There is also a role for mobile in formal learning – to augment it. It is hard to have a fully mobile course, but  mobile can  augment the course. It has been proven that when we gain knowledge over time sticks beter then gaining all at once. Use mobile to revisit and contextualize. You can use reapplication to solve problems. You can share a picture of something you are working on and ask for input.  It is like an augmented reality game. For instance, we worked on a course on negotiation- wanted to augment it and build a little quiz. The course had 10 scenarios – stories with situations where you had to make a decision, so we had 10 reminders on negotiation. It could also be used BEFORE a training to get the right mindset.

For what type of processes can we use it?

Mobile is a generic platform. It may be difficult to make complex graphics on mobiles, but other than that it can do almost anything. We can distinguish the four C’s for the power of mobile.

Content – share content

Compute – do computations based on where we are

Communicate – finding the right persons

Capture – capture information and store for later use.

What about the small screen size?

Attention and retention may be seriously affected by small screen size. Mobile is particularly suited to meet needs in the moment, it can give you small tasks over time. You can not just transfer a course, you have to mobilize and sequence your course. Be concerned about attention and for retention

And what to do if people don’t want to use their mobile phones?

Some feel their phone is for private life, this is a bigger problem in Europe. You should make it attractive for people. if you want to be more successful you have to use mobile learning. The company may provide a device, then people have less arguments for using their own phones.

What does it require from people to use mobile device for performance support? 

It requires a willingness to start thinking about mobile as personal mentors. Understand that you can customize for your own development. That’s a change.

When an organisation want to start with mobile learning where should they start?
You should get a mobile initiative going, find something that you can do. Your content development from now on should be mobile accessible. Videos etc should be mobile accessible. Get a portal where people can get it.  After that start developing a mobile strategy. Mobile is a platform, not a simple tool. How do you want to take advantage of the fact that people are using their mobiles for anything anywhere? If you have an LMS: is it mobile enabled? Google is already designing for mobile first and desktops as an afterthought.

How to seduce an organisation to start with mobile?

You have to be creative. One CEO got an ipad and suddently thought everybody needs to have one. When you ask the question of how people use smartphones they get inspiration to use it too, they can copy from one another.  Help them make the transition. The first answer may be that they make call, but in second thought they may realize the rich ways they use their mobile phones. Show them how mobile is transforming society. Shops realized patterns of shopping had changed. One woman was going in alone to fit cloths and taking longer. The woman was snapping pictures and sending it to friends. That’s a huge change in behaviour.

Should we as educational institute facilitate the phones or iphones in courses or can we expect our participants to have that with them when following our course? can we expect that from our participants?

That depends. You have to do research what kind of devices do they have. What is their appetite? If they find value they will do it!

What are the trends on mobile learning for the next 5 years?
One trend is geometric growth, another one is augmented and alternate realities.

And ending on a very practical note: are there any tools that we should try?
Start exploring Yelp (US – based), a Facebook app. Look for Apps for productivity and play with them, search for flashcard apps search in the app store. Look at You can find a lot of resources here at designingmlearning and at learnlets. Or follow Clark’s blog at Quinnovation. And have a look at the float learning primer and the ADL mobile’s guide. Finally there is Jenni Parker’s mobile learning toolkit full of ideas on how to augment a formal training experience with mobile exercises.