Traditional ‘talk-and-chalk’ workplace training is in trouble. Mandatory sessions with PowerPoint, flipcharts and feedback slips are perceived as boring box-ticking busywork. They fail to engage the trainees, they fail to develop skills by allowing trainees to practice them in real situations, and they often fail to directly address the concerns of individual employees, often being motivated by top-down concerns like the introduction of new systems rather than solving employees’ problems. Two years ago, a survey by Udemy indicated that 54% of employees don’t feel they have all the skills they need to do their job: the situation has yet to improve.
Smartphone-based app training solves all these problems. Most of the workforce now has access to a smart device – there are 42.4 million smartphone users in the UK. Training apps put resources and techniques in these users’ pockets, allowing them to engage with training on their own terms.
Student- centred learning is a key concept in adult education, in which the learners don’t need to be supervised by a specialist who controls what knowledge is dispensed. Adult education is about trusting learners to seek out what they need, and providing them with tools to do that – and as tools go, apps have some unique benefits.
What do apps offer?
There are two things to take in here. Firstly, there is a demonstrable link between having fun and successful learning. Secondly, 23.1 million of us already play games on smartphones, tablets or other handheld devices. Gamification is about taking advantage of this habit by adding gameplay features – scoring points, unlocking rewards, and competition with other users – to other activities. This is already working well for school education, in which games are used to test theories, start discussions, prompt research or simply build familiarity with devices. For our recent London Bridge app, we baked games into the software to help young users learn about the bridge site and structure.
Gamification has another big advantage: if the training app is fun to use, trainees will continue to use it in their own time, and so they’ll take their workplace learning home with them.
If you’re trusting your employees to learn under their own direction, at their own pace and in their own time, you do need a way to make sure that trust is well-placed. Apps connected to a database allow training managers to set metrics and evaluate the success of the training programme. Individual learners’ progress can be tracked in real time, while performance and assessment data are automatically logged throughout the training process. You can also extract feedback by looking at which bits of the app are being used and which aren’t, or identifying areas where learners are giving up.
Apps enable training managers to build (and tweak) training regimes quickly and cost-effectively. You’ll need this for two reasons. Firstly, new developments in your industry mean you’ll need to update your training materials, and it’s easier to change the content of an accessible app than it is to design a whole new course. Secondly, workplace training needs to be tailored to the needs of individual employees – if it’s not made relevant to their jobs and the problems they’re having, they won’t engage or learn.
App-based training doesn’t have to stay confined to the smartphone. As virtual reality hardware becomes more affordable and commonplace, it will enable workplace training to take place in virtual spaces. Imagine novice electricians, tailors and plumbers learning their way around their equipment with no risk of personal injury, delay to live jobs, or wastage of materials on clumsy first-time efforts.
Beacons afford similarly powerful possibilities: orientation days and workplace tours can deliver appropriate training materials, contact information and calendar dates directly to new recruits’ smartphones as you introduce them to their surroundings.
Medical Realities already use VR streaming to mobile devices when training surgeons, providing first person encounters with real operations rather than crude simulations or cadavers. Their Virtual Surgeon app also allows learners to experience techniques outside the immediate experience of their trainers and mentors, enabling first-hand access to new developments and techniques in the field.
Moving your workplace training from the classroom to the smartphone has a lot to offer. It puts your employees in charge of their own professional development, harnesses the way they already use their devices, and it lets them have fun and maintain motivation through gameplay features. You can track their progress in real time, adjust the training materials as circumstances change, and you’ll be well placed to take advantage of future developments in mobile technology.
Calvium build beautiful, intelligent apps for forward-thinking brands. Working closely with heritage, engineering and agency groups, we provide award-winning app development that drives customer engagement and boosts innovation in business.