8 Pros and Cons of Mobile Learning in the Workplace

November 6, 2023 | By Jesse Liszka from Paylocity
Man with phone and chocolate drink

Are you looking for a cost-effective and flexible way to deliver workplace training? Mobile learning may be the solution for you - as long as you implement it well. Let’s look at what exactly mobile learning is, its advantages and disadvantages, and whether it is right for you.

What is mobile learning?

As the name suggests, mobile learning is the delivery of educational content via smartphones or tablets. It is increasingly popular in educational settings, and is also being adopted by HR professionals to improve employee training. Rather than attending in-person events or classes, employees complete training modules from their own devices - meaning they can do so from anywhere they happen to be.

Mobile learning is proving itself to be a valuable HR tool and an asset to many modern businesses. However, the choice between this and a traditional teaching method is not black and white. It’s worth thinking about the pros and cons of mobile learning.

4 advantages of mobile learning in the workplace

Mobile learning has grown in popularity for a reason, and here are four of the main benefits.

1. Accessibility and flexibility

A major reason to use mobile learning is the unique level of accessibility and flexibility it offers employees. Whether at home, work, or traveling, as long as they have access to a mobile device, an employee can complete their training. You can also effectively take advantage of SMS to promote mobile learning, which can help you make sure people are engaged in the training.

This is particularly useful for hybrid and fully remote companies as it eliminates the logistical hassle of planning company wide training events. These events require enormous amounts of planning to get everyone together at the same time in the same place, not to mention requiring in-person commitment from staff who likely joined because of the flexibility the job offered.

Just like a remote recruiting strategy, this increased accessibility makes it much more inclusive. As well as being available to those who aren’t based in an office, it also gives employees the freedom and flexibility to set their own pace. This is especially true when learning modules are represented in bite-size chunks, which can be completed at a time and speed that suits the individual.

2. Cost effective employee training

Think of all the costs associated with traditional in-person training. There’s room rental, travel, printing materials, hiring instructors, and covering food expenses. Even a webinar has promotion and planning expenses. And that’s without factoring the loss of productivity, as staff are taken away from their primary focus.

With all this in mind, mobile learning is an appealing alternative. While it does require staff, research, and content creation, these can be done just once - making it much cheaper than running repeated in-person courses.

Person on phone and computer

Plus, unlike traditional training, they’re easily repeatable. Let’s say you’ve got a new member of staff in your payroll team, and they need a quick refresher on setting up a direct deposit for their paycheck. Rather than wait for someone to be available to teach them, they can pick up their phone, look back through their training, and carry on with their day.

3. Supports multiple learning styles

When you think of in-person training, it’s likely that everyone is forced to learn in the same way, at the same pace. As we’ve mentioned, mobile learning allows employees to set their own pace, but that’s not where the personalization stops. It can also be adapted to suit various learning styles, which also means learners are more likely to be engaged.

There are many forms the content might take. You could use text, images, videos, or podcasts. Some people may learn better from hearing information out loud, where others would rather read it.

You can also experiment with quizzes and games. Not only do they make the learning experience more fun and interactive, but they also let course designers know about any knowledge gaps which need to be addressed.

4. Ease of content updates

Written text materials and textbooks are difficult to amend, so mistakes are costly to correct. With online content, you can easily make additions, clarifications, or retractions in response to employee mobile surveys.

This means that case studies can be refreshed to be up to date and relevant, new discoveries in the field inserted, and new modules added. You can even set automated SMS reminders when updates happen, so that staff know to go back and see what’s new.

4 disadvantages of mobile learning in the workplace

As with any new strategy, there’s bound to be some downsides, especially if you haven’t done your research. Here are four things to consider before diving in.

1. Risk of distractions

Managers may have apprehension about bringing mobile phones into the workplace - won’t employees be distracted? This is definitely a possibility, especially if you have a BYOD (bring your own device policy) in place. Your training material will have to compete with everything else on employees’ phones, from social media notifications and messages to the temptation to switch over to a different app entirely.

That’s why it’s important to make training as engaging and interactive as possible, possibly incorporating time limits or gamification to keep learners fully involved even from mobile devices. Alternatively, if you provide both a business telephone number and a company phone to your staff, this is likely to be less of an issue.

Man with headphones on phone with colorful monitor in background

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2. Lack of live social interaction

Mobile learning means less live social interaction, if any. However, how significant a disadvantage this is depends on the situation.

Some learners may thrive in this setup, working to their own pace in an isolated environment. Equally, some people need the social element to do their best work. For them, mobile learning means losing out on instant feedback, realtime dialogue, and tactile demonstrations which are crucial to their experience.

In some cases, such as safety training, there is no replacement for in-person learning.

The best people to ask for their thoughts are your employees. Would they rather have mobile learning as a supplement rather than a replacement of in-person training? Should it be optional? What works for them, and what doesn’t?

3. Less personalization

Mobile learning has some limitations when it comes to personalizing content. While it’s easier to accommodate a variety of learning styles at once, it can’t compare to in-person teaching’s ability to provide one-on-one attention. In fact, mobile learning can feel robotic in comparison, with pre-recorded content created for easy dissemination to a wide audience.

To counter this, try adding some “live” elements into the mix, such as video calls, discussion forums, and live chat.

Woman talking to someone on a tablet

4. Technical difficulties

Relying on technology for workplace training opens you up to risk. Poor connectivity or compatibility issues can distract from the learning experience and reduce engagement.

It’s important to note that technological problems will not affect all employees equally. Some will have access to reliable internet and an up-to-date device, while others may struggle to load courseware and drain their battery trying to keep up.

Think about your target audience and the technology they currently have access to before deciding on a particular app or piece of software. It may be that you need to provide for older models, or provide company phones and tablets.

Final thoughts

Ultimately, the pros and cons of mobile learning will depend on your business and your employees. Leaders need to be mindful of their employees’ preferences when designing any training program.

That said, incorporating mobile learning in some capacity can be beneficial. If you get the balance right, you can connect with employees however remote and dispersed they may be, keep everyone up-to-date on the latest developments, and run a more efficient training program.

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