Why declining tablet sales are a good thing for training managers

Much has been written as of late about the declining sales of tablet devices. While some writers have taken a more nuanced view of the meaning behind these trends, a good deal of clickbait has accompanied these facts and figures, suggesting that these declining figures represent a terminal decline in the tablet device in of itself, going as far to say its usefulness has largely been replaced by larger smartphone devices, called “phablets”.

While there is some truth to the cannibalization effect that phablets have had on tablets, in reality the market penetration of tablet devices is already huge; while 2015 sales figures were 10% down on 2014 figures, the install base of tablet devices has already surpassed a billion units and is still comfortably moving 200 million units per annum and in any event. The vast majority of American and British homes now have a tablet and at least part of the declining year-on-year sales can be attributed to a simple loss of the novelty value that initially accompanies such paradigm-shifting releases.

Regardless, tablets have established themselves as mainstays in homes, offices and schools and this mature level of market penetration and familiarity among consumers now represents an opportunity for L&D and training professionals to firstly understand their implicit strengths and then utilize them properly and effectively, both inside and outside the workplace, making their wider learning strategies stronger and more effective in the process.

Running parallel to this process of maturation, tablets themselves have broken down into several established form-factors and types, each with their own distinct purposes, from smaller consumer-orientated devices to professional ones like the iPad Pro and Microsoft Surface. Increasingly these have detachable and often foldable keyboards, extending their range of potential applications and threatening to further cannibalize laptop sales. More importantly for us, they also increasingly make them ideal learning platforms.

Gamification & Video Learning

Mobile Learning strategies that (m-learning) employ smartphone and tablet devices have already been proven to be extremely effective in delivering certain kinds of content, such as short e-learning videos and small quizzes to test things like the product knowledge of a salesperson on the shop floor. The latter is especially important when discussing m-learning because of its status as a hot-button issue in L&D in general over the last few years.

The increased incentive gamified elements within learning content give can’t be denied (and have indeed been academically demonstrated many times), but what isn’t often referenced as much is the synergy that is gained by putting mobile at the forefront of gamified and video content.

Firstly, mobile devices are what the average person spends most time on throughout the day, so it makes sense as a matter of convenience and secondly, both tablet and smartphone are ideally suited to consuming video and gamified content on – Gaming apps being the most lucrative type of app on both the Google and the Apple app stores and one report from Accenture showing one of the primary uses of home tablets being consuming video on demand.

“Traditional” written content

Another somewhat undiscussed intersection between learning and tablet devices is the comparative ease with which existing training/L&D content can be migrated over to mobile devices. Most training is still conducted through written content: textbooks, manuals and so on, as well as various kinds of shorter written materials in PDF form.

Tablets give this sort of traditional content a new lease of life, allowing both management and learners/students themselves to curate and interact with it in a more manageable way than they would PDFs distributed via e-mails or physical written materials. The fact tablets are dedicated e-reading devices also helps leverage this approach of migrating traditional managed content over to tablet devices.

In summary, tablets represent an ideal form-factor to try and engage and re-engage with learners, whatever sort of training/L&D environment you are in. But serious forethought has to be given to your strategy before you embark on an app procurement process. Bespoke applications are often excellent, medium-defining things, but tablets also offer an easy, low-cost way to simply migrate existing content across and communicate it to your audience in a much more effective way than you’re currently doing. Perhaps the best way to at least start exploiting the advantages the maturation of tablet devices bring is just that.

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