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In creating their step-by-step mobile training app, one of the co-founders of Peregrine Performance Group thought back to his time perched on a rooftop documenting the quality-control process for a solar panel installation company as he worked to create an employee training course.

Co-founder Russ Powell said that his app, JobAider, is ideal for that kind of scenario because it allows employees to access step-by-step instructions for a task on a mobile device in real time. Powell and co-founder Joe Halpin launched the app in May.

A self-described “workforce performance improvement” company, the Santa Rosa- and Sebastopol-based Peregrine makes training sessions and creates software that allows companies to build real-time instructional materials. Halpin and Powell founded Peregrine in 2012 and have done much of their work consulting for companies on training programs and building e-learning programs.

The app allows companies to drop their training videos, photos and text into the app to create on-demand job aids available to an entire organization that can walk users through a task. It can also help companies create those photos, videos and text from scratch to create the step-by-step aids.

Powell said job aids differs from training. Training prepares someone for a future event. Job aids are used in the moment. “Training is … astonishingly expensive,” Powell said, noting that the information it conveys can also become obsolete quickly.

Halpin added that people who attend set piece work training, especially in lecture form and without step-by-step job aids at their core, rarely retain the majority of the information. He said that calling up instructions for a task on a smartphone or tablet in the form of a job aid can help ensure the task is done right, and to a higher standard.

“The trend is this need to have great job aids on mobile devices,” Powell said.

Companies nationwide are increasingly embracing digital training and job aids, according to the Association for Talent Development, a Virginia-based nonprofit that studies workplace performance.

“Use of online training and e-learning continues to rise steadily. In the most recent ATD State of the Industry report, technology-based learning accounted for about 41% of learning time used,” wrote Justin Brusino, associate director at the association, in an email.

E-learning and training companies continue to develop different approaches to mobile learning platforms, but Brusino said mobile training had not yet taken root nationwide as the preferred method.

“While the majority of workers have a smartphone, we’re still not seeing a massive focus on designing mobile-specific training,” Brusino wrote.

“(M)obile only accounted for 2% of formal learning hours used," he added. "This makes sense as going through an actual training program on your phone is likely not the best experience. Mobile learning is much more suited to performance support and just in time learning.”

That may be because of how many training and job aids are presented, according to Juliette Denny, managing director and ideologist in chief at Growth Engineering, a United Kingdom-based company that builds a variety of training platforms.

“In learning technologies it’s all about the latest features and technology,” Denny said, noting trends like artificial intelligence and even virtual reality are increasingly in vogue. “The problem with any and all of these things is you’re not coming from a cornerstone of brain science…and how people learn.”

Denny said just because someone went through training doesn’t mean behavior is in any way affected. To get around this, her company makes “gamified” training that use a platform like a video game and can take the form of learning challenges or quests.

“If you tell them ‘you’re going on a learning adventure’ it feels more social and more gamified; it doesn’t feel like learning,” Denny said.

She added the company’s Knowledge Arcade platform, a mobile-focused app, conveys “bite-sized” pieces of content and employs a social aspect to it, allowing users to communicate with one another. Denny likened it to the online question-and-answer platform Quora mixed with Facebook and YouTube.

The company’s Genie product creates games employees can play through as they learn content, and its Academy LMS, on both desktop and mobile, also uses a gamified environment to entice users.

“When you’re happy and amused, your endorphins are alive, and you’re in a good learning mode,” Denny said.

The social aspect of training software is an essential function for some companies that say it drives engagement and makes learners less likely to feel like they are being forced to complete a task.

Ehsan Memari is the marketing manager at Toronto-based SkyPrep Inc., which also creates software companies can use to make their own training using their own content.

In addition to its SkyPrep training platform, the company also created BoostHQ, a mobile and desktop app that focuses on social interaction with other learners.

BoostHQ allows learners to leave comments on courses and discuss them with other people moving through the courses.

“The value social learning adds is it attracts people to come there and leave their comments and say what they think,” Memari said.

Memari agreed mobile was the trend of the day in the e-learning industry.

“The old days of having a computer in a room and doing it in a certain time have passed,” he said. “One of the purposes of creating Boost was to make content available any time.”

In order to keep employees engaged, Memari said his company’s software also tracks how a learner is doing, skipping additional sections for an area a user seems to know well and offering additional content for topics where a user is struggling.

“We are adjusting the learning path to the learner’s need,” he said. “This way the learner doesn’t get bored, and the person is more engaged.”

For North Bay-based Peregrine, that kind of tracking is also essential. The JobAider app tracks a user’s engagement from login to logout to determine what job aids are most popular and useful. The app records things like taps, clicks and video views to give an employer a sense of what their employees need to know most along with other helpful information.

For all the possibilities real-time training and job aids present, there are drawbacks, according to Brusino from the Association for Talent Development.

“The only disadvantages would be an over reliance on any one tool or methodology,” Brusino wrote. “You should use the method that makes the most sense for your workers and their needs – in person options like classroom training or on the job training or coaching are still a good options in many cases.”