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Mobile Learning – Performance Support’s New Best Friend

Organizations have realized that the knowledge demands of today’s multi-tasking, multi-generational and diverse workforce cannot be met with traditional learning models or e-learning. They need to implement advanced solutions to support the learning needs of their employees.

In addition, the 70:20:10 learning model puts forth the argument that:

  • 70% of learning comes from on-the-job experiences (experiential learning)
  • 20% from interaction with others (social learning)
  • 10% from formal learning

According to this model, organizations need to focus more on the informal and social learning aspects to effectively train their employees. The best way to do this is to connect learners to information, when and where it is needed. That’s why it is crucial to include performance support in learning initiatives. This can help employees solve a problem, perform a task, or update their skills at the specific time of need.

Advantages of Providing Performance Support

Performance support helps overcome the limitations of human memory. The human tendency to forget what is learned is validated by Ebbinghaus’ ‘Forgetting Curve’, the theory which declares that the human brain can retain only 40% of what is learned after a few days. In short, what is learned in a classroom session or online training will be forgotten after a few days. If learners have to retain and apply what they learned in a training session, performance support is important.

Performance support helps learners retain what they have learned by providing context and immediacy. Performance support tools (PSTs) aim at providing personalized support by providing answers within seconds rather than minutes to the questions learners have in the context of work. The important thing is the availability on-demand and accessibility anytime, anywhere.

Performance support promotes continuous learning. Training managers can integrate a part of a course into the workflow with the help of performance support tools which negate the need to cover all the topics in one session. This in turn reduces cognitive load and increases the capacity to learn and remember.

Performance support improves performance by providing learning at the point of need. It helps employees look for an answer online, ask a friend or colleague or go through quick step-by-step instructions to solve a problem. PSTs can be in the form of short videos, microlearning nuggets, or podcasts.

Similarly, when employees have to solve a problem or are faced with a ‘need-to-know’ situation, they will learn when provided with how-to instructions or a quick video demonstration. The ideal PST in this case would be short videos.

The other advantages of providing performance support are it improves retention and transfer of learning to the job, speeds up the time to competency and compliance of learners. It helps employees in the moment of need, thus reducing risk and stress.

Challenges Faced in Providing Performance Support

A decade ago performance tools were in the form of printouts, checklists, user guides, reference manuals, files, etc. But these PSTs have their limitations. Printed manuals do not have a keyword search feature to quickly find the information needed. They may be too bulky to carry around, especially for the mobile workforce such as service technicians. This later changed to Electronic Performance Support Systems(EPSS). EPSS required that the employee have access to a desktop or laptop to find the required information.

The other challenges faced when providing performance support include providing immediate answers to problems. The employee should not be made to go through the whole manual to find a particular answer; rather, the PST should be focused and concise to help find an answer immediately. The support environment should be available on-demand and should be easily accessible by employees. Another feature crucial to performance support is that information must be organized so that it is easy to find, can be understood, and used when problems arise.

While printed manuals and EPSS can meet some of these challenges, there are limitations when it comes to providing immediate solutions, instant access or a visual demonstration of solutions. This is where mobile devices can provide better performance support.

Why Mobile Works

Provides information at the moment of need: Everyone carries a mobile most of the time, making it the ideal vehicle to provide performance support at the moment of need. This makes it ideal to provide real-time help, it can provide access to information or people, who can solve the problem, provide answers when needed. With bandwidth issues, connectivity could be a limiting factor, but mobile devices can overcome this limitation as well.

Offline storage: Mobile devices not only access real-time information but can also store information offline when the device is not connected to the net. So the employee can still access the information needed.

Engaging formats :Performance support tools such as videos are best delivered on mobile devices. This potent combination catches the attention of learners. Videos are the ideal medium to provide quick tutorials and how-to videos for step-by-step explanation.

Mobile apps offer just-in-time information at the moment of need. Another format is whiteboard animations that can convey important messages succinctly. Interactive PDFs in the form of fact sheets, tips, and checklists also help learners. Webcasts or podcasts offer brief information that learners can access on the go.

When available on mobile devices, these PSTs are accessible online or offline for immediate performance support.

Mobile learning can be delivered in these formats to provide performance support and help employees working in the pressure-filled, fast-paced hi-tech workplaces of today.

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