Does BYOD matter?

Posted on Sep 23, 2014

Elearning

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Whilst your child may well be having their smartphones confiscated by the teachers at school for using them in the classroom, you, on the other hand, are probably encouraging your employees to bring their phones into work and start playing with them during training time.

It’s the world gone upside down, but, with the addition of years comes (hopefully) the addition of maturity, and BYOD (bring your own device) policies mean that staff aren’t wasting time on their phones, but working on them and learning on them – anytime, anyplace and anyhow they want.

This should be a good thing, right? Surely it’s every employers dream to witness their workers happy and in control of their study, able to tackle tasks on their own terms and get the most out of the material provided to them. BYOD is on the rise, there’s no doubt about that, but there’s still a certain level of resistance to it and suspicion surrounding it in some workplaces.

67.8% of workers bring their own

According to a Cisco Partner BYOD Insights report, 90% of the American workforce are already using their own smartphone for work, and the rest of the world isn't far behind. A study carried out by Ovum found that nearly 70% of employees who own a tablet, smartphone or similar device use it to access corporate data. Furthermore, 15.4% of these employees admitted to using their phones in this manner without the IT department’s knowledge, and 20.9% use their devices at work despite a policy prohibiting such usage. (The research surveyed 4,371 people from 19 countries who were employed full time at a company with over 50 employees.)

Security

The reasons for the dubiousness surrounding BYOD is of course down to security. No business wants their data to go missing, so how do they account for employees who accidentally lose their phone or have it stolen? The same Cisco report highlights that out of the 90% of people who use their smartphone for work, 40% don’t use password protection, 51% connect to unsecured wireless networks, and 52% disable Bluetooth discoverable mode. It is clear, then, that a certain lack of responsibility inhabits the culture of BYOD.

Yet, at the same time, there is certainly a large amount of appeal to both employee and employer alike. For the employer it means lower costs, higher flexibility of staff and general employee satisfaction. For the employees themselves, it means that they can perform tasks on devices that they are familiar with and comfortable using, and they do not have to waste time training to use new hardware.

Elearning and BYOD

So it’s certainly true that BYOD does matter to companies, but what does it mean for elearning platforms? Design is one thing. The phenomenon of BYOD is not going away, despite some attempts by certain organisations to stamp it out. And so, going forward, businesses need to embrace the culture and start putting strategies in place to manage it.

The iPhone 6 has just been launched and no doubt a significant percentage of your learners will want to be able to access the learning material on their brand new device – is your elearning compatible with iOS, or for Android handsets only? This matters – and what’s more, iPhone 6 is only the latest and greatest thing today, who knows what devices will be popular in 2, 5 and 10 years’ time.

BYOD into the future

Tomorrow’s elearning platforms must be ready to use on any desktop, laptop, tablet, smartphone and possibly even smartwatch in the not too distant future. Wide adoption is of utmost importance, and so targeting only a single operating system, browser or even screen resolution will no longer cut it, especially if you’re (and you should be) enhancing your material with all the interactive and visual media available to you. Indeed, physical interaction with the devices must be considered along with their touch screen capabilities and other ‘smart’ functions.

Creating platforms for BYOD

The world of the internet is moving into the realms of HTML5, and more platforms are being accommodated as a result. Elearning authoring tools are also now beginning to add HTML5 support, which should allow everybody the opportunity to step up and start delivering the great elearning content and responsive experiences across all compatible devices.

Designing for BYOD is, essentially, designing for mobile. So it’s simplicity that should be the focus, and of course a stellar UX with a responsive layout. Consistency is also key. That’s to say that it is no good creating some part of the program that is only accessible to tablet users, but not smartphone – the inclusion of device-specific features is definitely not advised.

But of course, the rise of BYOD means that elearning authors will now have to equip themselves with the tools to carry out comprehensive cross-platform testing. What works wonderfully on your desktop may lose all of its charm and functionality on a tablet. Certain tools like Sauce Labs can help, or the managed testing solutions eLearningQA. But one thing’s for sure, BYOD is here, and it does matter – not just for companies who are concerned about the security of their data, but for learning professionals and developers too, who need to adapt and adopt their designs to accommodate every possible device. Are we ready?

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