mLearnCon 2012 Report


In June, I attended, and presented at, mLearnCon 2012, a mobile learning conference put on by The eLearning Guild. There are plenty of posts that cover sessions and keynotes. You can find them all on David Kelly’s great website.

I’m going to focus this post on what the week meant to me.

Mobile First

I recently attended the Penn State Web Conference, which had a heavy focus on accessibility and mobile design. My takeaway from that conference was a shift in my thinking and design from mobile-accessible or mobile-friendly to mobile-first. mLearnCon cemented this shift.

It will be a long time before most organizations move to a mobile-first strategy, but I want to support the people inside. The ones who want to learn. The ones who want to improve. The ones who matter. They’re bringing their own devices to work and I want them to have more access to more relevant information so they can learn and perform.

Rick Zanotti recently posted that “mLearning May Ultimately Be Irrelevant”. I respectfully disagree. Some of the hype may be around rapid tools for conversion, and many people believe every “course” must be available on a phone or tablet. I believe the real hype is the anticipation and excitement around the possibilities; around the idea that we can learn and teach anywhere, on any device, from and to anyone.

Sure, many will dismiss this notion. But the numbers don’t lie. More people than ever are accessing the web from mobile devices instead of traditional computers. A large number of people are ONLY accessing the web from mobile devices. What was the future is now becoming reality. The devices have improved, and access to devices has improved. Because of this, mobile is, and should be, the new default.

Now, mLearning isn’t new. It’s been around a while. Consider what’s been done in Africa with feature phones and SMS. Don’t limit your thinking of mLearning to smart phones or tablets. Think about your audience, what devices they’re using, and how you can create valuable learning experiences on those devices.

So, mobile first. How many people do you know who bring their personal devices to work? I bring my personal iPhone an iPad to work all the time. My company designs training primarily for the desktop. I take the required courses, but I’m not interested in the rest of the content my company is developing and pushing out. I care about what all of you are creating. I have more access than ever before to smart people and their creations. I’m usually not accessing that content from my work computer. I’m accessing it from my personal devices.

As for the organizations, they better wake up and pay a little more attention to their people. And I’m not talking about silly workplace surveys. I’m talking about finding top performers and working with them to find out how and what they are learning, and what support they need and want from the organization. This is a win-win situation, because employees are getting what they need, and the organization is finding out how and what its top performers learned. How valuable is that?

Tin Can API

The big announcement at the conference was Project Tin Can, which Judy and I spoke about with Aaron Silvers on The ToolBar a few weeks ago.

“The Tin Can API is a brand new learning technology specification that opens up an entire world of experiences (online and offline).” [Read More].

In other words, Tin Can is plumbing. What I learned at mLearnCon was how Tin Can enables two-way communication. Never before have we had the ability to track and log so much activity, and, at the same time, retrieve that activity as data. This is all I really care about. I want data. I want to know what people are accessing; how they are accessing it; what they’re doing while they’re accessing it; what they do before and after; and whether or not the learning activity affected performance.

Tin Can enables this kind of retrievable data, if, and that’s a big IF, the tools and systems are built on top of it and are able to communicate. I’m not a Tin Can expert. I’m not a developer. I’m not sure it will be successful. But, I do know it’s one of the few things I’ve been excited about in this field in years. So, go learn about it. Get involved. Build something that takes advantage of the technology. It’s not perfect. It’s not the thing. But it could enable you to build that thing.

The Future

Finally, last week was about people. People who genuinely want to change the world and make it a better place. Brilliant people who build things that help other people. Think about that for a minute. These are some of the brightest people, not only in our field, but in the world. And they’re using that brilliance to help people. That’s pretty bad ass. You should appreciate them, learn from them, and help them.

I, for one, can’t wait to see what the next six months bring. I want to work with smart people to make change happen, to help people, and make things that matter.

Chad Lockhart asked me the other night, what did the word “future” mean to me. I responded, “the future is the unknown; it’s opportunity.” I look forward to opportunity. Like my friend Patrick Scullin, I’m excited about the unknown.

Thanks to the Guild, the brilliant folks at Problem Solutions and Rustici, all the presenters and early adopters of Tin Can. I’m really freaking excited about the future, which, apparently, is already here. Take advantage.