Trainers: can you use the iPad for live online learning?

The vast majority of our customers are talking iPad for their field reps.  Many of them are in the midst of pilots, some are starting pilots, some have finished pilots and are deploying.  At this point, the question is not if but when .

But interestingly, we’re also seeing that while deployments are happening, there is a lot of ambiguity around how reps will actually use the iPad.  Will be just for CRM and sales aids, or will it be for doc management/admin work?  And what about training – how can we do live training on the iPad?

In our design and usability studies for iPad for training, we’ve found the following good and bad things for the iPad:

  1. CRM:  If your CRM system is good on the iPad, it’s great for in-field updates.  If your CRM does not port well, it’s a major issue.
  2. Sales Aids:  Most sales aids can port fairly easily.  However, current sales aids need to be re-envisioned for the capabilities of the iPad.
  3. PDF/Module conversion:  Same as sales aids – documents can be converted to ePub/iBook fairly easily (watch out for formatting problems), but this misses a lot of the potential of the iPad
  4. Office apps (eg: Word, Excel, Powerpoint):  the iPad fails here; the software is just not ready for enterprise level office document manipulation, storage and versioning. You’re going to need to maintain a second computer if you need to do Office app work.
  5. Live online Learning:  WebEx is basically Powerpoint sharing; Adobe Connect is much better. However, Adobe Connect is basically a desktop port to the iPad; it does not really leverage the iPad capabilities. And user-to-user meetings with doc sharing does not work for any of the current app offerings (wait for rVibe Vusion).
  6. Effectiveness: If you’re doing formal live-online-learning (Trainer to reps rather than informal or Manager based training), Reps can effectively be trained while in the field over 3G, but you have to pay attention to methodology even more closely than before.

Some things to be thinking about that relate to live online training on the iPad

  1. Shorten the duration of your classes: 4-6 hour, multi-day training is possible at the desktop, but not the iPad and besides, it misses the value of field based live training. Short, bursty updates are the most effective methods for the iPad with users in the field.
  2. Drive greater interactivity: don’t broadcast, work hard for it: Make sure users give multi-way video a try during the session and interact with content and polls. Make sure they talk back.  Don’t let 3G or a noisy environment be an excuse. Obviously for 2 way video, you need an iPad 2.  Don’t worry about data unless you do a ton, you’re only looking at about 200MB per hour of video based training.
  3. Liven up your presentation with images:  the iPad is a highly visual device. If you can control your content, make it more image centric. But remember, people can hold it up close, so don’t be afraid of eye charts too.

The biggest take aways and our recommendations on iPad deployment are these:

  • Use cases: Know how you intend to use the iPad; rely on subject matter experts to guide you
  • Port then experiment: Port your existing processes/models/content first, then migrate to forward looking functionality and methodology
  • Technical support:  For training departments that are not highly technical, use a technical subject matter expert


Posted on August 3, 2011 in Technology, Updates

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