Professional Development in a Mobile World

By 2016, it is projected that 85% of broadband will be delivered via mobile (tablets, smartphones) versus fixed locations (hardwire computers) per Maris Stansbury in eSchool News.   Such ubiquitous broadband access will transform learning of all stripes.  From public to higher education to professional development, educators and trainers should to take heed.

BYOD (bring your own device) is an expanding practice in school districts.  Attend any association conference and you will find attendees who try to constantly balance two audiences simultaneously:  f2f conference goers and digital contacts.  And this is the current situation.   What will a totally mobile, connected world mean for education and learning?  Here are three initial observations related to professional development.

Delivery.   To successfully deliver mobile professional development (PD), end-user platform requirements must be considered long before the PD session.   If a hosting and distribution solution, e.g., Vimeo, is not in place, make that selection early in the planning process.  Any walls between association functions, e.g., education and technology must come down.  The technology team (or individual) should be involved in mobile PD from the very beginning; these experts will provide robust ideas related to the platforms, seamless interface, and positive user experiences.  Lyndon Cerejo has written a very helpful description of the elements of the mobile user experience.    Mobile PD will require thinking through technology lenses from the get-go.  Don’t be afraid of the technology, embrace it for top-drawer delivery.

Design.  To create quality mobile PD experiences, they must be designed specifically for mobile consumption.  Design refers to the actual learning experiences that will come in various lengths and styles.  Length can be snack size to long-form.  Snack size may be popular but not all mobile PD must be limited to a 30-second video or 140 characters; brevity, however, may win the popularity contest for the most users.  With the ever-expanding capacity of tablets and smart devices, however, long-form also will work.   Whether short or long-form, the mobile learning experience needs to meet a professional development need.  This brings us momentarily to design style.  Mobile PD should be engaging with readily available interactive options (see functionality in Cerejo post above).  Use short video; embed brief Q&A; link to a community of practice.  Remember this PD experience is mobile so design for valuable learning on the go.

Content.  To ensure quality PD via mobile, content that is pertinent to users and based on professional and industry standards really will be important.  Relevance and standards-based practices are core to quality training.  When working within mobile parameters, it may be tempting to just develop and push PD; the user, however, may quickly identify these missives as spam or spam-like.  Just because the delivery is via mobile broadband does not mean that it is disconnected from the total professional development mosaic.  Create mobile PD that stands alone yet complements the total association education program.  Keep relevant, best practices as top priorities in mobile PD content.

If these three facets — delivery, design, and content, are developed specifically for mobile delivery, on-the-go PD experience has a better chance for success.