The workforce of today is inherently mobile. According to Elucidat, over 1 billion smartphones were sold in 2013, and worldwide tablet sales grew 68% – toppling PC sales. And the average worker now travels with at least three mobile devices. This shows an increase in the number of employees who, are doing work while away from the office. Unlike an angst teen who just discovered punk rock and leather pants, the continued usage of performance support applications shows that mobile is not just a phase. In fact, an entire symposium based around performance support garnered nearly 1,000 eLearning professionals earlier this year.
But performance support cannot be effective without integrating context-based learning.
Contextual learning shows that listening to lectures or reading books is not the single best way to learn (did anybody else hear all those college students high five just now?). It acknowledges an immersive environment in which a user’s specific concerns or questions need to be addressed at the “moment of need,” all while presenting any new information in a way that fits that user’s own frame of reference. However, this theory does not advocate a complete shift away from traditional learning – it acts a compliment instead. So try not to brush off that Psych 101 lecture just yet.
Qualcomm’s QC Lingo application, which helps users learn corporate jargon in everyday settings, is an excellent example of contextual technology being applied in the workplace. The app uses a flashcard system paired with the spaced repetition to easily teach new employees the terms that are used in their respective industry. Qualcomm even included a preview of the app called Ye Olde Lingo on April Fool’s Day, which let visitors see how the application works by using Shakespearean English for common phrases. I tried it myself. It surprised me at how intuitive the interface was, and how often I felt encouraged to continue using the software.
Pete Mortensen of Fast Company compared contextual technologies to what we call “situational awareness” in real life. He calls contextual technology “our sixth sense,” which provides us with enough information to make an informed decision at when it matters most. No, not the twist at the end of that movie, but the moment of need in the workplace.
Another popular platform, WalkMe, is an award-winning cloud-based service that helps customers and employees access information at the “moment of need,” to help them complete tasks faster and communicate problems or solutions to each other by contextualizing information. Notice a trend here?
Donald Doak, senior vice president of EBSCO Information Services, wrote back in 2014 that having contextual learning systems in place gives employees confidence in knowing information is relevant and frequently updated. “There is a risk and cost factor involved with team members aimlessly searching the Web for ideas on ‘how to handle a difficult customer’ for the content they may find may not be reliable best practice,” he writes.
The CHAMPIONS framework from Float and Qualcomm Learning Center organizes digital technology into 9 clusters of intertwined affordances. An affordance is a quality or attribute of an object that allows an individual to complete an action. The first of these clusters is Contextual.
CHAMPIONS informs us that contextual technologies can be applied in nearly every area of a company. Engaged employees should be able to emphasize problem-solving on a day-to-day basis, learn from their fellow employees, and eventually be capable of self-regulated learning when there is no direct instruction or feedback available. And what could be better than employees who know what they are doing?
Float’s been presenting on the importance of context since our inception. Check out this presentation from CHAMPIONS co-author Chad Udell for a primer on how to leverage a context for mobile design.
For more information on the first cluster of CHAMPIONS, download your free starter kit today
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