The Pairing of Performance Supports and Mobile Learning

Designing Digitally



“Performance support” and “mlearning” are terms that are commonly being used together. This can be attributed to the rise of technology and mobile devices, as well as the growing understanding that a new type of support is needed for the workforce of today.

A study done by Carnegie-Mellon University asked workers to respond to the question, “What percent of the knowledge you need to do your job is stored in your mind?” The respondents of 1987 said 75%. Nearly twenty years later, in 2006, that percentage had plummeted to 9%.

The reasons for the dramatic decrease could be the result of a workplace that has become inundated with complexities, or it could be the result of the growing reliance on mobile devices.

Providing support

It’s important to highlight the use of the term "mlearning” as opposed to mobile “training.” They aren’t the same and they don’t have the same function. The purpose of mlearning as performance support is to work as a supplement to the information obtained in training.

For example, a teacher may refer to a manual that gives step-by-step instructions on how to guide students through a lesson. The manual is a tool that aids her in a specific task. However, following the instructions in that manual isn’t sufficient to make her a teacher. The step-by-step instructions are a helpful guide, but she has already been through the necessary training that has resulted in her becoming a teacher.

Mobile devices provide support in a way that’s similar to the teacher’s manual.

When is support needed

There are five key times when performance support is helpful to have:

  • When a concept is new.

  • When more information is desired or required.

  • When trying to apply, remember or adapt information to a scenario. 

  • When attempting to problem-solve. 

  • When there is a change in process.

An advantageous pairing

Mobile devices are the best vehicle for performance support. Here’s why:

  • Availability. Most people have their smartphones with them at all times, meaning the needed support is always on hand.
  • Offline storage capability. Smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices have the power to store information, so that it is available even when internet connectivity is inaccessible. 
  • Videos. Instructional and otherwise informational video content can be viewed at a moment’s notice, whenever it is needed. 
  • Ease of updates. When the support materials are developed in a responsive way, updating is easy and doesn’t require a whole new app to be designed.

What to remember

It’s important to keep in mind that the information accessed on a mobile device is support and not a replacement for the more in-depth, comprehensive training that is the scaffolding for the job. Like the teaching example above, supplemental materials help in the performance of duties. It may also be procedures or addendums and updates to content that have already been presented.

Performance support and mobile devices are a natural team that gives employees the tools to hone their skills and encourage better understanding, as they go about their job duties.