I feel as though another “shiny object” moment is coming. These are the moments when a new technology gets a bit ahead of itself and we start to see products or solutions that capture the attention, but fall short on delivery. It happens all the time. Remember how everyone was going to use virtual worlds like Second Life for meetings? There was also a time when we were sure we would all own our own set of virtual reality helmets and gloves. More recently we saw an example of taking a technology one step too far – the Facebook phone. People like their smartphones and people like to use Facebook on their smartphones, but nobody wants a phone dedicated to Facebook.

Right now, Samsung is making a huge push for its Gear smart watch. This is not the first smart watch. Pebble was one of the first successful Kickstarter campaigns and Sony has had smart watches for a couple of years now. There are also many more, smaller players with more on the way. They seem cool, but I’m not sure we’re all going to be wearing tiny screens that are paired to our phones any time soon.

What worries me about this is that we are finally starting to see some real traction in mobile learning. Brandon Hall Group has a growing library of mobile learning case studies, including this one. Our just-completed 2013 Mobile Learning Survey found that companies are finally starting to adopt mobile learning on a larger scale, and high performing organizations are doing more than anyone. The results will be published soon, but high performers are leading the way with:

  • Mobile apps
  • Mobile video
  • Mobile performance support
  • Mobile assessment tools

With this kind of momentum, now is not the time to get distracted by the latest shiny object to come on the scene. I’m not suggesting that companies are currently figuring out where smart watches fit into their strategy, but it’s an example of the distractions that will continue to come. Mobile by its very nature will see waves of new technologies and innovations come and go, some of which will eventually stand the test of time. But right now it’s important to focus on the basics and get it right.

For all the challenges around delivering mobile, companies that are good at it are focusing on the simple stuff: Pushing videos out to tablets and smartphones; building smaller, less complex content that works well on mobile; taking advantage of the ways learners already use their mobile devices. These are the strategies that are going to make mobile learning effective.

David Wentworth

David Wentworth has been a senior research analyst in the human capital field since 2005 and joined the Brandon Hall Group in 2013. He has authored reports and articles on various human capital subjects with an emphasis on workforce technology. He has contributed to several reports published by ASTD, including authoring Mobile Learning: Learning in the Palm of Your Hand, The Rise of Social Media: Enhancing Collaboration and Productivity Across Generations, and Instructional Systems Design Today and in the Future. His work has also appeared in Compensation & Benefits Review and T+D Magazine.

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