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Posted by Joan Phaup
The idea of using mobile devices for learning and assessment sparks many lively conversations these days – and we’re looking forward to discussing this subject during the Questionmark Users Conference March 20 – 23 in New Orleans.
Among those who can talk about this in detail is Barry Jass from Covidien Vascular Therapies, where Apple iPads and iPhones are used for sales training, product knowledge tests and observational assessments.
I enjoyed asking Barry about the case study he’ll be presenting at the conference.

Barry Jass
Barry Jass

Can you tell me about your job role?
I am the sales training manager in charge of elearning and curriculum development for our peripheral vascular division. I develop curriculum for the various products we have to keep our sales force up to the date on — new features, new indications, new product design and usage.
What do you think are the biggest challenges of training itinerant sales people?
I think the greatest challenge is that most people in sales don’t have much time. They are busy with their customers! For example, our sales force works directly with doctors; they’re serving as consultants for the use of our devices, so they don’t have much time for extended learning. They need the learning, but it’s hard for them to find the time to dedicate to it.
What will you cover during your presentation?
I’m going to talk about the concepts involved in training somebody through a mobile device. I think that’s a big issue for curriculum designers who’ve grown up thinking the computer was the greatest thing in training. Now we have tablets and smartphones!  Very different rules are necessary to make learning effective on a small device like a phone. It is more than simply taking already existing learning modules and making them available on a person’s phone.  I want to talk about how you plan learning and assessments that work on mobile devices. If there are people in the audience who are already using mobile assessments, I’ll want them to share their ideas throughout the session.
I’ll talk about the principles, but I’ll also give participants the chance to make an assessment or survey right there on the spot that can be used immediately. I’d like people to bring their phones and tablets with them so they can try this out using Questionmark OnDemand. I think that if you’re going to use the smartphone or tablet to view something, you should also be able to create it using the same tool.
Do you have any quick pointers for people pondering a move to mobile assessments?
My favorite quote is by Blaise Pascal: “The present letter is a very long one, simply because I had no leisure to make it shorter.” One of the hardest things to do is to make something short! We tend to create modules that are 45 minutes or an hour long, but for mobile learning these modules should be no more than five minutes. You also have to think about short assessments – say 3 questions instead of 10! That’s a big challenge, and it takes a lot more planning and development than a learning that would take place through your computer.
What do want people to take away from your session?
I hope they will learn that m-learning is here to stay. It’s not going back to the bigger screen: it’s going to a smaller screen. I think we have to embrace that and make those changes now or we’ll be left behind as instructional designers and curriculum writers.
I hope I can show participants how easy it is to use new technologies to create mobile learning and assessments.  I hope to give them some clear principles to work with as well as the chance to put them into action.
What are you most looking forward to about the conference?
Getting together with other people and hearing what they’re doing. I want to know the latest and greatest that’s out there because I always want to be on the cutting edge.
Want to get together with your colleagues and be on the cutting edge, too?  Register for the conference soon!