Monthly Archives: July 2014

Innovation by the Numbers: Why Investors are Looking to eLearning

By | eLearning Solutions | One Comment

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The corporate wallet can be tight at times, with investors looking to put their dollars into innovation that really counts. But it can be tough to know which of the latest developments is a total fad, and which will actually pay off over time. Luckily, corporate investors are looking toward eLearning to lead them into the next generation of workplace and development. By examining some of the numbers and hard facts about how eLearning is changing the game, you’ll have the same information as corporate investors and L&D professions. The verdict is in: eLearning is worth every cent.

There’s a reason eLearning makes such an impact in the workplace. It’s the fact that eLearning isn’t just about delivery methods for the same tired, old subject matter. Rather, it’s centered on innovating the actual subject matter itself. Through the development of new learning methods, eLearning professionals are able to combine learners’ learning styles, personalities and even social leanings into consideration to create the most comprehensive and engaging training materials possible. That way, investors aren’t just allocating wallet share to the same training methods that have failed before, but acting as backers for innovation, creativity and productivity in the L&D sphere.

Consider some of the following facts about eLearning investment in the U.S. and Europe.

  1. The U.S. is seven times more likely to invest in eLearning that Euro markets. When it comes to eLearning, the U.S. has a clear advantage over other markets, offering a unique opportunity to become a clear leader in training techniques, as well as learning and talent development. Make no mistake: As the efficiency of eLearning is demonstrated, other markets will be eager to invest  and implement similar programs all over the world.
  2. Investment in eLearning is increasing 48 percent each year. Corporate investment into traditional training methods – think instructor-based or conference training – has been stagnant for the last six years, while eLearning investment has enjoyed steady growth. With further innovation and better delivery methods, that investment will only continue to grow over time.
  3. eLearning saves corporate dollars and time. There’s a reason investors are scrambling to purchase a share in eLearning: The massive potential for savings. eLearning costs 50 percent less when compared to traditional training methods, including a 60 percent decrease in instruction time and a whopping 90 percent energy savings.
  4. eLearning offers a solid ROI. While it’s often difficult to calculate the ROI for eLearning and training, one industry estimate is that eLearning can boost productivity by 50 percent and offers a 30 percent return on investment via productivity and efficiency. Hey, we like those odds.

Calculating the impact that eLearning can have on your organization can be notoriously difficult, only because the reach of an effective and innovative training program can be hard to estimate. After all, it’s almost impossible to measure learner engagement, retention and enthusiasm.

Still, the numbers don’t lie. Corporate investors are acknowledging eLearning as a training method worthy of the almighty dollar. Follow suit and you might find yourself keeping more in your corporate wallet – all while getting more from your training programs.

eLearning: Getting Buy-in on Personal Learning Networks

By | eLearning Solutions | 3 Comments

Break down barriers to eLearning with Personal Learning Networks (PLNs). Find out how!

There’s nothing new under the sun, and that includes Personal Learning Networks (PLNs). Mastermind groups, exclusive groups of like-minded individuals who collaborate to attack business and personal challenges, went mainstream after Napoleon Hill published Think and Grow Rich. Toastmasters International, which functions as a PLN, just celebrated its 90th anniversary. Today’s educators use PLNs to harness the power of connection and collaborative brainstorming to find better ways to teach. We’ll look at ways to break down barriers of resistance and draw hesitant people into PLNs.

Who Resists PLNs?

Some older workers will like the idea of a PLN until they discover it uses social media. They’ve heard shocking things. Practical uses for social media don’t make headlines; revolution and titillation sell papers, and that’s all some people know about social media. It’s not a huge leap for them to think that Twitter caused the Arab Spring, and they don’t want to end up on “some list” somewhere. They can’t imagine social media used as a force multiplier for good! At the other end of the spectrum, some younger workers once let social media rule their lives, and they’ve sworn it off. You have to entice them back into the social fray.

A Trio of Tactics to Entice Learners into PLNs

You need a layered bag of tricks to draw in the reluctant segment of your audience.

  1. Set up eLearning, social networking and mentoring as one integrated unit. Make networking available from the employee’s eLearning home page through links. Automatically sign up eLearners for all applicable in-house social networks using the same logon and password used for eLearning. Those who appear the most reluctant probably don’t understand social networking and are often afraid to ask for help, but mentors can guide novices with stage fright.
  2. Next, include protected Twitter accounts—Twitter with training wheels. No one other than approved followers can view tweets from a protected account. This creates a safe environment for newbies to practice Twitter skills before jumping in the deep end.
  3. Finally, encourage use of Social Bookmarks, public Twitter accounts, Pinterest, etc. Once the hesitant employee understands how hashtags can decrease time spent researching and begins to see PLNs as a shortcut rather than a time eater, the transition nears completion.

Discovery, like learning, takes place in stages. The key to getting universal buy-in for PLNs is guiding the novice and pointing out attractions along the way.

 

All by Myself: The Benefits and Disadvantages of Asynchronous Learning

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Is asynchronous learning right for your team? Get the pros and cons of student-led learning

Traditional training is usually seen as a team effort: An instructor sits in with a group of learners as they discuss and work together. But that face-to-face learning has a few limitations, especially when it comes to respecting the independence of individuals. For those who prefer a more independent approach, asynchronous learning makes more sense. While it’s not perfect as a standalone method of training, it might be a worthy addition to your current efforts. Sometimes, working solo can be a benefit for learners and instructors alike.

What is Asynchronous Learning?

Despite the complicated name, asynchronous learning is actually pretty simple: It’s a learner-lead method by which the course is accessed and completed at different times for each individual. Unrestrained by the necessity of in-class instruction or having to access a module at a specific time, asynchronous learning gives each person maximum control over how, when and where training happens.

Tools of the Trade

Chances are that you already have many of the tools used for asynchronous learning in place – it’s just a matter of utilizing them for learning and development. Some of the most common tools include:

  • Virtual libraries and resource centers
  • Organizational forums and FAQs
  • Online portfolios
  • Learning management systems

In short, any tool that a learner can access anytime, anywhere, can be used as a tool for asynchronous learning. Since a learner isn’t constrained by working face-to-face with an instructor, he or she can check in, grab pertinent information and even share with other learners online without a traditional classroom environment.

Benefits

So, what’s the point in taking learning online? There are clear benefits to utilizing asynchronous learning, and most boil down to a healthy respect for the individual. Not all learners absorb material in the same way, so autonomous learning means they can brush up on the stuff they need and skip the material they already know. It’s also the most flexible method for learning, which is ideal for tight schedules and large groups. And, since it’s learner-led, students can read material, think and reflect before answering questions or joining discussions.

Of course, the fact that asynchronous learning programs are cheaper to produce and administer doesn’t hurt the case, either

Disadvantages

Okay, so asynchronous learning sounds pretty flawless. But it’s definitely not perfect. Unfortunately, the lack of a class atmosphere can sometimes cause a disconnect between the learner, the material and the other people involved – both instructor and other students. That can result in a lack of motivation to log in, read the material and finish the course while flying solo.

Another issue to consider is the lack of instant feedback that asynchronous learning offers. In short, a learner could be completely misunderstanding the material and demonstrating that misunderstanding with incorrect discussion questions, but because the course isn’t live, the instructor might not catch that misunderstanding until it’s too late.

In the end, asynchronous learning is awesome, but it’s not the answer for everything. Instead, it works best when blended with other methods to make sure all learners are accounted for when it comes to understanding, access and discussion.

Continuous Creativity: 5 Ways to Encourage Innovation at Work through eLearning

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Set your team's creativity free by encouraging innovation through eLearning!

Most managers can tell you that creativity isn’t something you can turn on and off like a faucet. Instead, it can either flow continuously – or completely run dry.

Whether an entry-level paper pusher or the top of the food chain, all company employees have great ideas. Unfortunately, without the right tools, that creativity can act a lot like a sink without a plug, washing all of that innovation down the drain. By using the right eLearning strategies, you have a better chance of taking advantage of the innovation and creativity your brilliant employees have to offer.

1.  Remove the Hierarchy

Naturally, there’s a pecking order at work. It starts with the managing partners, moves down to supervisors and then trickles down to the garden-variety employees. But maintaining that hierarchy can seriously stifle creativity, especially when employees feel intimidated sharing their thoughts with the higher-ups. Offering learning tools that remove that hierarchy for a more level playing field can promote more frequent idea-sharing. A mentor program, for instance, or an organization social network or forum can create a more casual learning experience, encouraging everyone to share and share alike.

2. Set a Precedent

The best time to set the tone for a creative workplace is during your onboarding process. There, you can set a precedent by helping new hires see that your organization is interested in input from all levels of employee. By encouraging discussion questions during onboard training and ensuring that new hires are aware of the workplace environment, they’ll be more likely to open their mouths and share their creativity in the future.

3. Promote Continuous Learning

One of the best ways to stop the flow of creativity is to try and force it into certain parameters. It’s difficult to invite employees to a meeting and tell them to be creative. Instead, a flow of knowledge and sharing means creativity can happen anytime, anyplace. Aim for a continuous “drip” of information via social media, mLearning and quick, bite-sized training sessions so employees aren’t overwhelmed or put on the spot to be creative.

4. Utilize Storytelling

What’s more creative than a story? Setting the scene can really help employees visualize a problem and come up with a solution. With the right storytelling during training, you can help employees engage with the material as they picture how a scenario affects them and what they’d do to solve a potential conflict. Their answers to seemingly innocuous discussion questions after storytelling, role playing or even a short game can offer organic innovation for your organization.

5. Create an Informal Learning Space

A quiet boardroom can be seriously intimidating and can stifle creativity. So ditch the formal spaces and aim for something a little more casual: The break room can be a treasure trove of creativity, but you can also try lunch time training or utilize sharing on Facebook. Without the constraints of boardroom decorum during training, employees can feel more comfortable in sharing thoughts and ideas.

Don’t run the risk of innovation running dry because of your training methods. By working to foster and respect the thoughts of your employees from the start, you’ll welcome a continuous flow of ideas, creativity and innovation.

 

 

Quiet and Quite Insightful: Tailoring eLearning for Introverts

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Don't mistake independence in introverts for indifference. Find out how eLearning can bring out the best in your quieter employees.

Introverts can sometimes get a bad rap, especially at work. While the extroverts are showing off their talents and eagerly giving input, it’s the introverts that sometimes seem more subdued and even less invested in their jobs. But nothing could be farther from the truth: While quiet and less likely to speak up to superiors, introverts are often highly committed and willing to learn.

If you have members of your team that could be described as introverts, play to their strengths: While they may not be the most outgoing, chances are that they’re creative, independent and thoughtful. Use those to your advantage to make eLearning more effective – and more comfortable.

Independent, Not Indifferent

While it might seem like introverts don’t always play well with others, it’s probably due to an innate need for independence, rather than a lack of team spirit. Introverts often prefer to work alone, and struggle with programs that require reading along with the group. Instead, independent learning is more comfortable, which is where individual eLearning access can play a role.

When an introvert can read ahead or even complete the course material on his or her own time, you get not only a happier learner, but one who is able to better absorb information. Without the constant drain of staying with the group, introverts have an easier time learning on their own terms.

Comfortable Communication Via Social Media

Ask an introvert his opinion point-blank during an office-wide meeting and you might get a shrug or a one-word answer. Introverts need to be able to throttle communication to their own comfort level, so verbal questions, answers and teaching don’t always work well. While, as the administrator, you might feel like you’re giving the introvert a chance to speak up, he might feel like he’s being put on the spot.

That’s where social media can really come into play. While an introvert might get tongue-tied in a large meeting, he’s probably more than happy to voice his opinion from the comfort of his computer screen. Connecting via social media helps reduce the pressure for more casual interactions, which a quieter employee will appreciate.

Flipped Approach

Don’t make the mistake of using the terms “shy” and “introverted” interchangeably: They aren’t the same. In fact, introverts aren’t always shy, but rather thoughtful and independent. Instead of answering questions without thinking, they prefer time to mull over issues, concepts and techniques completely.

A flipped classroom model works especially well for both extroverts and introverts alike. While extroverts still get the chance to get involved during class time, it’s the introverts who will go home, absorb the material, and come prepared to participate on more comfortable terms. Giving introverts time to read up on a topic before class can help them feel better prepped to ask questions, understand concepts and even participate in role playing.

Introverts can be a serious asset to your team, even if they can be puzzling at times. By indulging their independent and thoughtful natures, you harness the best parts of an introvert while proving that you understand their needs.

Serious Gamification at Work: For the Win

By | eLearning Solutions | 5 Comments

Taking gamification seriously can lead to wins for both managers and employees.

Get Serious: Gamification FTW

Managers want their team members to play well together, but leaders have no desire to micromanage. It’s called “walking a tightrope.” They want their team members to take personal responsibility so they don’t have to account to their directors for lack of results. They want to see productivity, effectiveness and achievement beyond stated standards—without the team rocking the boat. The challenge is to instill entrepreneurial accountability without awakening the loose-cannon gene.

Gamification to Achieve Enterprise Standards

Gamification can help teach ideals once taught in the schools and necessary for success in the start-up and corporate environments—work ethic, proper work attitude and general ethics along with a collaborative but competitive team spirit as defined by the corporate culture. Incorporating soft-skill games into the learning curriculum can achieve a team that flows, that works together in harmony. There’s nothing frivolous about enticing engagement through games and rewarding achievement with badges and/or status. Creating game apps for mobile devices can reinforce little snippets of learning while individual employees wait for the subway or stand in line somewhere. Snippets add up to serious learning over time.

Consistency in Messaging

Implementing games is no guarantee of creating miracles in a diseased corporate environment. If your goal is to use games to bring together the enterprise, the corporate vision, goals and strategy have to be accessible and visible to everyone. Look to today’s headlines to see how incongruous words and actions lead to cynicism. Make sure your games align with the rest of your in-house communication efforts and with the corporate culture. Fold the message into corporate social networks and reinforce team spirit by extending recognition and praise to employees through your social media.

When Gamification Fails

Some topics fail at gamification and are best suited to role-playing in the classroom. The authorities often mandate these topics for compliance, though some compliance training lends itself to gamification. For example, you can teach local irrigation and fertilization ordinances with gamification for the win. Learning about Title VII discrimination laws and sexual harassment laws probably require blended learning. An instructor can delineate the fine line between tacky and illegal. Face-to-face role-playing can clarify rules for sensitive topics. Some learning requires a human touch. You wouldn’t want to teach employees how to notify next of kin when a fatality occurs on company property. The trick to games is using them for the win and losing them when they fail.

Out of the Inbox: Using Social Media for Employee-Executive Communication

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Learn how taking communication outside and offline can improve your team's creativity!

Traditionally, office hierarchy hasn’t changed much in the past few decades: The executives are at the top, and in order to communicate with them, employees have to go through the proper channels. This often means communication gets clogged in the pipelines of supervisors, department heads and assistants.

But good leaders know that sometimes, the best ideas move from the bottom to the top. Therefore, better workplace communication between execs and employees could be the key to better performance, productivity and creativity. Here’s how.

Beyond Office Walls: Collaboration & Communication

We all know that organizations run on clear and efficient communication. But when employees don’t feel like they have the ear of their colleagues, it can stifle communication and creativity at work. Utilizing communication channels that do more than just email and phone can help break down walls and promote a more collaborative atmosphere at work.

Take an organizational forum, for example: Once the titles and the offices are removed, employees feel comfortable sharing ideas with one another. The traditional walls built by organizational roles come down and the playing field is leveled so that anyone – be he an administrative assistant or CFO – has an equal voice within the company.

Social Media #SuggestionBox

You don’t need a custom organization forum to get the ball rolling on improving employee-executive relationships. Social media can be a great place to start and a natural fit, since most of your employees probably already use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.

Something as simple as a private Facebook group or a branded hashtag can be enough to start the conversation. Employees feel safe behind the curtain of the Internet, and will be more likely to give input. Try a daily question, like “What tips would you give management to improve training?” or a branded hashtag, that allows employees to sound off without feeling intimated: #suggestionbox. Social media eLearning is much more casual than a meeting, so you’ll get more input from those who might have stayed quiet before.

Think Outside the Inbox: Organization Forums

Organization-based forums and social media sites (think Yammer or Jive) allow employees and executives alike to collaborate privately. By implementing the use of a forum or social media site, you help to create an atmosphere where ideas and sharing is not only allowed, it’s completely encouraged.

Whether as part of a resource library for new hires to jump in and engage with others, or a quick way to communicate with an entire department, you’ll find that employees are more apt to work together when the walls of hierarchy are removed and it’s clear that you’re all playing for the same team.

Not everyone is comfortable speaking up in a conference call or expressing their opinions via personal email. Thinking outside of the inbox when it comes to workplace communication can help clear the channels so that the right ideas make it to the right ears – or at least, the right Twitter feeds.

Once Upon a Time: Engaging Learners Through Storytelling

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Reign in your learners' imaginations and improve focus through storytelling!

“Once upon a time, there was a CLO who was tired of learners falling asleep during their training – so she decided to do something about it.”

Sound familiar? A complete lack of connection between learner and material might be responsible for less post-learning retention. Unfortunately, not all training is going to earth-shattering and mind-blowing. As a leader, it’s your job not to spice up the material, but improve the delivery so learners sit up, take notice and actually remember what they’ve learned.

Enter the emotional connection: The best way to increase learner engagement and create a happy ending.

Telling a Good Story

Effective storytelling can help reduce some of the “mental check out” that happens with some training. Instead of launching directly into the materials, starting by painting a picture of what students will learn, how it will help them and what they can expect. Doing so creates an emotional connection before you ever start working your way through the material.

You might need to reach back into your English 101 education, but remember that all good stories have a beginning, middle and an end. Structure your material accordingly to keep learners with you every step of the way.

Making it Personal

Many courses could be summed up in a reaction of “So what?” or, “What’s in it for me?” When learners can’t see the direct link between the material and their own purposes, they automatically tune out.  When you can prove that the training can increase productivity, improve safety or even generate more revenue, learners are more apt to listen up. Suddenly the material becomes personal, because they can picture ways that it will benefit them directly.

Painting a rich picture that relates the subject material to the subjects themselves creates an emotional bond and more incentive to participate.

Encouraging Investment

Until learners are emotionally invested in what they’re learning, it’s easy to switch off their concentration and lose them to daydreaming of their own invention. Creating emotional investments requires some type of participation. Think about it: What projects are you the most invested in? Chances are it’s those that you’ve been an active participant, from start to finish. Don’t expect learners to get involved if you don’t provide ample opportunity for engagement.

You can drive an emotional investment utilizing strategies that prove you want learner involvement, through elements such as:

  • Brainstorming sessions
  • Active Q&A with participants
  • Role playing or scenarios
  • Earning badges for rewards
  • Sharing and connecting via social media after class

In the end, your learners’ emotional connections will match your own: Take the time and prove that you’re invested in the material, and they’ll follow suit.

And that’s how you’ll live happily (and well-trained) ever after.

 

Using Role-Based Playbooks to Improve On-the-Job Performance

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All the world’s a game, to borrow a phrase. Notice how the elements of life, games and eLearning intersect. Learners learn through games and receive badges for completion. Badges aside, the standard measure of effectiveness is how well the learner translates the material to on-the-job performance after the course. Performance is the ultimate measure of an instructional designer’s worth, and a role-based playbook or cheat sheet at learning’s end improves the learner’s performance and increases the instructional designer’s worth.

Your Life or Your Playbook?

Imagine the number of steps pilots must complete in a precise order for every flight in commercial and military aviation. Each pilot works through a physical, role-based checklist—leaving nothing to memory or chance. In an emergency, a euphemism for “we’re going down,” do you want to rely on your captain’s memory? These role-based playbooks have worked so well in the air that John Nance, a former Air Force pilot and aviation consultant, brought the same role-based playbook (checklist) idea to operating rooms across the country with the same results—improved performance and saved lives.

Occam’s Razor—The Holy Grail

When did instructional design get so complicated—and why? There’s plenty of work to go around without duplicating steps in the checklist after designing the eLearning course (read without making up work). The perfect example of how to build a playbook exists—right under your nose. Software engineers changed their M.O. when Windows came on the scene. They no longer wrote programs from scratch. They mix and match modules (.dlls, as one example) and write code to connect them into a cohesive program. Create once; use many.

Putting it All Together

Instructional designers use outlines and storybooks to develop their courses. The playbook contains the real-world results that bridges learning and life. Doesn’t it make sense to create the playbook from the outline when you have unfettered access to resources such as SMEs? Isn’t the outline the rough draft of the playbook? When I saw the number of steps ‘experts’ advocate to create a playbook as a separate entity after the fact instead of as a single-sourced component, my head exploded. It’s like a Yogi Berra quote gone even worse. If you “keep it simple stupid” by “single-sourcing” your course and playbook, you might just start a trend of saving time, money and sanity throughout your enterprise. Imagine that!

Investment Strategy: mLearning on a Shoestring Budget

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Mobile learning and development doesn't need to break the bank. Find out about mLearning on a budget!

Not every organization has a multi-million dollar budget to spend on learning and development. But just because you have a shoestring training budget doesn’t mean you have to skimp on the stuff that really matters. In fact, by getting rid of some of the dead weight you might be carrying, and switching to a leaner, meaner method of learning, you could actually save some money.

At first glance, mobile learning might seem like an expensive addition to your strategy, but when compared to the results, it’s a downright bargain. Consider allocating some funds to mLearning and the switch could pay you back big time.

Why mLearning?

The idea of developing custom apps and mobile learning might have you looking anxiously at your calculator, but when compared to traditional training, it’s pretty cheap. Consider this: A one-off course that requires learners to be in their seats and an instructor at the front of the class. While it might not require much of an initial investment, one-off training sessions cost your organization resources. From taking employees away from their workload to paying travel for an instructor, it’s a pricey way to train – and that’s not even taking poor retention into consideration.

While mobile learning may require investment to start, it could save your organization money in the long run. From better retention to a constant connection to resources and virtually zero travel time, the investment pays off.

Beyond Smartphones

Ericsson Mobile predicts that smartphone subscriptions will reach 5.6 billion by 2019, so if you’re not harnessing that growth, you’re missing out. Adding mLearning to your current training strategy means taking advantage of perhaps a learner’s most prized – if not most constant – possession: Their smartphone.

Think about it: If a learner already has a smartphone glued to his hand, it’s simply a case of making courses and modules available for that device. The sheer convenience of mLearning increases both access and finish rates, working as an ideal supplement to more traditional eLearning efforts.

Making modules available for mobile delivery means learners can access training from anywhere there’s a data or WiFi connection. Whether it’s a native app or simply making a mobile version of a current module, mLearning respects the fast-moving, ever-consuming nature of a smartphone user.

While smartphones are definitely the most common of mLearning devices, they’re not alone. Any device that allows a user to access learning on the go could be considered an implement for mLearning. Think about the possibilities for these mobile devices:

  • Tablets
  • Laptops
  • MP3 players
  • Smart watches
  • Wearable tech, such as Google Glass

Each of these mobile devices offers a unique opportunity for the instructional designer to build interactivity and engagement directly into the module. Whether it’s a touch-based feature, access to video clips or even mini flash cards, mLearning has you thinking outside the classroom.

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NFL eLearning

In one of the more unlikely eLearning success stories, the Baltimore Ravens are actually leading the charge when it comes to mLearning in the NFL. The Ravens did away with their past training methods (huge binders and constant classes) and replaced staff materials with iPads. Those iPads were then loaded with everything from rosters to playback videos and even nutritional information for players.

So, with the relatively small startup cost of the actual hardware, the Ravens are able to create an integrated learning experience for every staff member, without all of the paper shuffling and time.

Affordable mLearning Implementation

You don’t need to be a professional football team to start using mLearning. In fact, it can be done on the cheap by taking a BYOD – Bring Your Own Device – approach. By creating apps that are compatible across several smartphone and tablet platforms, you can instruct employees to use their own devices to access fact cards, a resource library, reminders, videos and even games.

You can also cut costs by combining mLearning with other types of training. Blended learning, which uses several different methods, allows learners to customize the experience that’s right for them. Perhaps you keep the face-to-face class time, but learners are instructed to prep by watching a video on their phones. Or, you create an eLearning module that can be viewed on smartphones so learners can check it out anytime, anywhere.

While the idea of implementing mLearning can have you seeing dollar signs, it’s a surprisingly accessible method of eLearning. Use what you have and – if you’re willing to invest a little – your innovative approach to L&D can really pay off.