Research-Based Insights Inform Change in IBM M-Learning Strategy

Research-Based Insights Inform Change in IBM M-Learning Strategy

Nabeel Ahmad
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-042-6.ch054
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Although mobile phones have become an extension of the workplace, organizations are still exploring their effectiveness for employee training and development. A 2009 joint collaborative study between Columbia University (New York, USA) and IBM of 400 IBM employees’ use of mobile phones revealed unexpected insights into how employees use mobile applications to improve job performance. The findings are reshaping IBM Learning’s mobile technologies strategy for networking, collaboration, and skills improvement. This chapter reveals the study’s results and IBM’s new direction for m-learning, highlighting IBM’s preparedness for a shift in its organizational learning model potentiated by ubiquitous access and mobility.
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Half of the world owns a mobile phone (Hanlon, 2008). The mobile phone is shaping society in new ways and has become as indispensible to many as money and keys. In organizations, mobile phones are increasingly being used for business purposes. While mobile phones have broadened the boundaries of the workplace, there is inadequate information on how they can best be used to enhance training and development. IBM is a global technology company with over 400,000 employees focusing on the manufacturing and selling of computer hardware and software. IBM and Columbia University conducted a study to understand how IBM employees use their mobile phones in the workplace and where to focus its efforts to improve employee performance and productivity. Known commonly as mobile learning, or m-learning, the focus of this chapter revolves around the shift in IBM’s m-learning strategy resulting from research-based insights.

Chapter highlights:

  • How mobile phone adoption affects IBM

  • How mobile phones impact the way IBM helps its employees

  • How mobile phones affect internal collaboration

  • New business models that exhibits IBM’s m-learning strategy



Companies and organizations are taking advantage of multi-function mobile phones by offering their employees mobile solutions that are integrated into daily job functions. Mobile phones are used for far more than voice calls and exceed the original extent of mobile phone use in the workplace (O’Connell & Bjorkback, 2006). Mobile phones now encompass a greater role in workplace activities. M -learning, capitalizes on learning and performance improvement opportunities made possible by mobile technologies and arises in the course of interpersonal mobile communication (Nyiri, 2002). Given a well-designed system based on appropriate theory, a mobile phone affords ways to increase access to resources, improve communication and decrease response time to complete tasks.

M-learning has some similarities to e-learning, which includes an expansive range of applications and processes like web- and computer-based learning and virtual classrooms. Both definitions of e-learning and m-learning vary across organizations and contexts (Mayer, 2003), leading to a proliferation of views and perspectives. Mobile technologies have the power to make learning and performance improvement even more widely available and accessible than previously thought in existing e-learning environments (Yuen & Yuen, 2008).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Mobile Infrastructure: The front- and back-end hardware and software that support mobile offerings.

Performance Support: The use of job aids, references, checklists, and more to aid a person in completing a task.

Job Performance: The ability of a worker to perform their job well.

User Interface Compatibility: The nature which a user interface resembles prior user knowledge.

SMS: Short message service, commonly called “text message” by many.

Mobile BluePages: IBM’s web-based mobile company directory.

Mobile Learning: The use of mobile devices for learning in a variety of contexts, where the learner is nomadic.

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