Exploring the ROI of Mobile Learning

Mobile Learning Conversations webinar recap

Pedagogy and Learning, Research, Webinars Comments (1)

Calculating ROI is simple, right? After all, the return on investment can be calculated by taking the net program benefits, dividing them by program costs, and multiplying by 100 to find the percentage. In other words:

ROI is net program benefits divided by cost, all multiplied by 100 to get a percentage

The formula for calculating ROI

As it turns out, calculating ROI for mobile learning isn’t as simple as plugging numbers into a formula.

What’s interesting is there is no one ROI formula in mobile learning, said Float senior analyst Gary Woodill in a free webinar earlier this month. What he meant was that there are number of different factors that go into determining either the net program benefits or the program costs.

For example, Gary and Float mobile strategist and evangelist Jeff Tillett listed numerous  benefits of mobile learning: increased speed of training, reduced instructor costs, and others listed in the slideshow below. Mark DuBois, one of the participants in the webinar, said another benefit could be the reusability of the materials, giving the learner the ability to access the material as many times as he or she wants. Another participant, Larry Bonura, said the material can focus on a specific topic that is relevant to the user. Location-specific learning is another benefit, according to our own Scott McCormick.

“The problem,” Gary said, “is how do you calculate them?”

Mobile learning offers intangible benefits, too. The cool factor is one. “I think you can relate to a younger audience with these devices,” Jeff said. “They’re already using these tools every moment of the day.” Larry said another is happier employees. Much like any business, cost is a factor. Since many employees use their own devices, companies can put those resources to other uses. Float managing director Chad Udell recently wrote an article about the BYOD – “bring your own device” – craze for Business Insider, titled “Dear Companies, You Should Start Using Mobile Devices As Training Tools For Your Employees.”

However, there are costs associated with mobile learning.

For example, in the case of BYOD, users can feel compelled to work all the time. Chad said that not only are companies not paying for the devices, but users are expected to interact and be productive with them outside of the office.

Another one of the top costs is if a company has implemented a scenario that the user does not find beneficial. “If your learning truly is bad,” Chad said, “you need to remember that you are basically two to three button presses (depending on your operating system) away from being replaced by Angry Birds. So engagement is just as important, if not more important, in mobile.”

Jeff agreed. “The device can’t fix bad training. If you don’t really have clear objectives, you’re not going to fix it by making it cute or shiny,” he said.

Participants in the session added their thoughts. Mark said small devices are easy to lose. This could be especially true if the company paid for it and not the employee. Paul Zahradka said that technology changes in a year, meaning lower costs down the road. Jeff added on to that idea. Beyond a device, he said, having a general mobile strategy in place is beneficial. Particular devices will change. Chad is currently posting about how to develop a mobile strategy at the ASTD Learning Circuits blog, in addition to the wealth of advice on this blog.

Of course, participants learned much more in the 60-minute session. This webinar, second in the four-part Mobile Learning Conversations series, engaged participants to think creatively about how devices can be used in the workplace, in the university, and anywhere where training, learning, development, or performance support can be leveraged.

Participants were even given special access to a whitepaper written by Gary and Chad, normally a $225 value.

As you take a look through the slides, feel free to ask us questions. These lists of costs and benefits are certainly not complete, so tell us… What costs do you think should be added to the list? Which benefits do mobile devices provide that we haven’t listed here? What information on these slides could be discussed further? Leave a comment!

Our next webinar in the Mobile Learning Conversations series will be Dec. 14 at 1 p.m. Eastern, 12 p.m. Central, and will focus on case studies. Reserve your spot now>>

View more presentations from Jeff Tillett
Please note: The whitepaper was free only for those who attended the duration of the webinar. It is, however, still available for purchase.
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Adam Bockler is the communications manager for Float. Besides marketing, other interests include: DDPYoga (certified level 1 instructor), martial arts (3x USA Martial Arts Hall of Fame inductee), and amateur weather spotting.

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On November 22, 2011
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