This article is part of our eLearning series. To learn more about creating the ultimate learning and development system, check out our master guide: What's missing in your company's eLearning strategy.

Ever since Steve Jobs first announced the App Store in 2008, pundits have been excited about mobile devices transforming the market for corporate training. New startups have been popping up left and right, raising millions of dollars and speaking at conferences with platitudes like “The future of eLearning is mobile.” Every Chief Learning Officer has been scrambling to figure out what their company’s mobile learning strategy is.

As one of the world's most popular mobile learning apps for employee training, Brainscape is naturally excited by this trend. It’s easy for us to be biased toward encouraging all companies to embrace mobile learning.

Brainscape mobile and web complement
Brainscape is the best mobile and web flashcard app to use for your corproate eLearning programs.

But one thing we’ve learned by working with thousands of instructional designers is that mobile learning actually isn’t right for every company or for every training situation. There are many cases in which the learning format is not ideally suited to a mobile app, and/or where the added value of going mobile does not justify the costs of mobile learning development.

To help you determine whether mobile learning is right for your company, we have developed a list of cases where mobile learning is—and is not—the ideal format.

[If you want to learn more, see our 14 expert tips for implementing effective mobile learning at your company)]

Ideal mobile learning use cases

Use case 1: Bite-sized content

Whenever your content consists of a large number of facts or concepts to be internalized (or, dare I say, “memorized”), mobile can provide the perfect small-screen, short-session format—whether that is in the form of short videos, readings, adaptive online flashcards, or other forms of “microlearning” content.

Examples of such bite-sized topics include product attributes, menu items, legal regulations, selling points for sales training, common customer service responses, common technical support fixes, manager/client “faces & names”, etc.

[See how companies use Brainscape's microlearning]

Use case 2: Lots of content that needs to be retained

Building/buying a mobile app is typically a better investment when your employees will be opening the app frequently, to study a lot of content that you really want them to remember.

Otherwise, if you’re just aiming for a quick “one-and-done” training, you might as well just tell your employees that they find time to complete their short training from their office computer—or, at most, through a mobile web page that they only need to access once or twice.

Use case 3: Employees who are motivated to learn

Because mobile is best for frequent bite-sized sessions, you should ideally use it in cases where your employees want to learn the content (e.g. because they see that they will improve their sales results, or because they will pass a critical certification exam).

Without motivation, it may be hard for your employees to establish the “habit” of using it multiple times throughout the day, which defeats the purpose of investing in a mobile app!

[See also: How to develop eLearning your team will actually use]

Use case 4: Ongoing reference tool

Often, we don’t just want our employees to fly through a training and then mark it as “complete”. Some of the best eLearning tools can be used as a reference for long after the training is complete. Mobile devices are typically perfect for this, as employees have them out in the field, and can ideally search for well-indexed topics on the fly.

Such a “pull” vs. “push” nature of mobile reference tools allows us to nail the 70% informal component of corporate learning, when thinking in terms of the common 70-20-10 mindset.

Cases that are NOT Ideal for mobile learning

Use case 1: Complex technical skills

If you’re trying to teach your employees how to use complex technologies or skills, there’s only so much you can accomplish with mobile learning. True skills are typically acquired in a real-world context, whether that means using a computer program, fixing an engine, or constructing a building’s foundation.

Don’t try to use mobile learning as a “cheaper” alternative to hands-on training, as it’s likely that most of those skills won’t be retained and/or won’t transfer to the real world.

Use case 2: “Soft skills”

Similarly, so-called “soft skills” like management, communication, and leadership tend to require a greater degree of human interaction than can be accomplished in a mobile app. Even if you do choose to use eLearning to accomplish these training goals, you might be better off using a desktop or browser-based approach that allows you to conduct richer simulations than could be accomplished on a small mobile screen.

Use case 3: Assessment

If you are hoping to formally assess your employees using technology, you are probably better off doing so from a computer than from a mobile device. Not only might thorough assessments require an amount of time that is longer than your users’ preferred bite-sized session length, but they could also encourage “cheating” and could create issues if the user’s assessment session is interrupted (by, say, a phone call or a crying baby).

And even if your assessments themselves are broken into tiny micro-assessments after every lesson, you should be wary of treating their completion as evidence of “learning”, as it simply validates that they can remember the content 2 minutes after the initial exposure.

Use case 4: Annoying mandated training

Sometimes, the government requires that your employees complete some training requirement that you genuinely believe is a waste of time. If that is the case (and if you truly don’t care whether your employees “memorize” the content), you’ll probably want to just “get it over with” in the simplest, cheapest format possible. There’s little reason to add the cost of mobile learning for such an annoyance, even if the mobile device is technically a more “convenient” delivery mechanism for your employees.

[You can can also learn the 3 reasons why your eLearning has poor ROI]

Think carefully about whether mobile learning is right for you

We hope this has helped you better assess what parts of your L&D strategy should be accomplished with mobile apps (if any). Also check out our master guide to employee training to ensure that your L&D strategy is optimized for your particular needs.

And, if you would ever like to discuss using Brainscape’s lightweight web & mobile flashcards platform with your company, please feel free to fill out this form.

Either way, we wish you the best of luck on your continued L&D journey!