Magazine article Talent Development

Entering the Mobile Zone: A Large Hotel Chain's Unique Mobile Learning Experience Blazes a Trail for Trainers Wishing to Traverse the Mobile Zone

Magazine article Talent Development

Entering the Mobile Zone: A Large Hotel Chain's Unique Mobile Learning Experience Blazes a Trail for Trainers Wishing to Traverse the Mobile Zone

Article excerpt

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

This is the story of one global Fortune 500 company that bravely went where few have gone before: the mobile zone. To date, MetaMedia Training International has supplied one major hotel chain with more than 900 handheld Sony PlayStation Portable (PSP) devices to deliver customer service training to the employees of its most popular hotels.

Employees include front desk staff, housekeepers, and building engineers who are dedicated to earning a customer's repeat business. The compact design of the PSP truly puts the "mobile" in mobile learning as employees receive their training by walking around the hotel, often finding themselves immersed in the same environment displayed on the PSP's screen.

As you read this, there is undoubtedly a hotel employee somewhere walking through the hotel with her PSP looking well-appointed and dutiful, with a white halo emanating from her cupped hands and the faintest sounds of recorded audio playing from her headphones.

She is being prompted by an actor playing the role of Carter Riley, the hotel's quintessential business traveler and affable training host, to stand next to the front desk and watch a customer service transaction between a guest and fellow employee. In another segment, Carter will guide her into a hotel room and try its various amenities.

Entering the mobile zone

MetaMedia started providing the hotel company with more than 200 PSP units in 2005. To date, as a testament to the level of acceptance the program has garnered, we have added new modules to the program and are rapidly approaching a milestone of fulfilling 1,000 units.

What factors led the hotel's learning department to use the PSP as its delivery platform? What instructional design considerations had to be met to create an effective training program? Given that there is now a five-year history behind this initiative, how effective has the training been? Finally, what advice would we give to training professionals who may be considering implementing their first mobile learning initiative?

Program design

The hotel chain's need to find an alternative delivery platform surfaced when its leaders asked our company to help create a nationwide customer service training program. The challenge was that the hotel building does not have dedicated training rooms equipped with computers or DVD players where employees can receive training.

While we evaluated different delivery solutions, the details behind the training emerged. The course would place a strong emphasis on the use of video to model and demonstrate ways for employees to properly handle and resolve customer complaints. Video would also be used to highlight the unique features and key differentiators of various amenities found throughout the hotel.

We made a business case for the company to consider the use of the PSP for training purposes. Previously, the PSP has been used to watch movies and play interactive games. It showed promise with such features as its large screen size, easy operation, portability, long battery life, and considerable video storage capability delivered from an interchangeable memory card. And, given its size, it could be easily stored inside a desk drawer instead of a training room.

After careful deliberation, the PSP was selected because of its superior features and price. The unit cost in 2005 was approximately $200, and today the price is lower by about $20. The per-seat cost of the training was and remains cost-effective because current staff and new hires continually take the training. At the time of the first training implementation, the iTouch, iPhone, and 3G networks had not yet hit the marketplace. Even today, with the latest advents in smart phone technology, we would be hard pressed not to use the PSP. It costs less than the iTouch and is easier (in our opinion) for a "non-techie" to access and play the videos. …

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