Learning with a smartphone. It may sound strange, but the figures in Italy seem to encourage it: According to the 2020 Digital Panorama, there are roughly 80 million devices for 60 million inhabitants in Italy, of which almost 50 million are active on the web every day and 35 million are constantly updating their social profiles.
When we look at our smartphones on average more than 80 times a day, which corresponds to five times an hour and once every 12 minutes, imagining finding a small space for vocational training does not seem so far fetched. “Having a mobile phone can make it easy to access any training course, even for a few minutes a day”, says Franco Amicucci, author of the book Apprendere nell’infosfera (Learning in the Infosphere), published by Franco Angeli.
Life-long and digital education
In the past, training processes were very standardised. “Ongoing education has always been set up in a very classical style: attend courses and events for a limited period, get the certificate and stop. The digital shift diversifies the context“, says Amicucci.
“Vocational training is similar to learning a foreign language: it helps to practice every day, even for 5 minutes. Instead of a full immersion only once in a while, you need continuity”. This is why the telephone comes in handy. The 2019 figures from the Italian National Institute of Statistics (ISTAT) confirm this: 89.2% of Italians use smartphones to access the web, while only 45.4% use desktop PCs.
It helps to practice every day, even for 5 minutes. Instead of a full immersion only once in a while, you need continuity.
Lower percentages are instead reserved for people who use a laptop or netbook (28.3%), a tablet (26.1%) or other types of mobile devices, such as e-books or smartwatches (6.7%). A Deloitte study found that accessing the Internet via smartphones is mainly for the purpose of keeping up to date with the latest news, as 57% of respondents confirmed.
For this reason, using an app for continuing education can certainly help improve cognitive ability and identify a more functional learning style for the user, allowing a more creative approach to solving both theoretical and practical problems. Tools such as quizzes, videos and games improve interactivity, but the app also does much more: it lets you create communities wherever you are, thanks to its easy accessibility. Using a smartphone therefore allows you to stay informed and increase your professional learning. However, there is no shortage of difficulties, especially related to its use.
Everyone has a mobile phone, but many people still don’t really know how to use theirs. “To make sure that everyone can learn via smartphone, organisations, both public and private, need to ensure that everyone is well connected, but above all that they have adequate basic digital skills“, Amicucci points out.
Not a trivial problem for Italy. This is shown by the Desi 2020 data on the Digitisation Index of the Economy and Society of the 27 European countries (plus Great Britain). The Italian score is nine points lower than the European average (43 versus 52), which ranks Italy 25th: only higher than Romania, Greece and Bulgaria.
The 2019 ISTAT data fathom the situation even better: while 29.1% of internet users aged 16-74 have high digital skills, while 25.8% barely reach basic skills, the problem lies with everyone else. In fact, 41.6% of the respondents have low skills, below the minimum standard, while the remaining 3.4%, i.e. 1.135 million people, have no digital skills at all even though they access the Internet.
To make sure that everyone can learn via smartphone, organisations, both public and private, need to ensure that everyone is well connected, but above all that they have adequate basic digital skills.
However, the lack of consistency in the age groups surveyed does not help: at least 39% of the population aged 16+ has at least basic digital skills, with percentages varying according to age and level of education, but can reach 67% in the 20–24 age group and less than 15% in the 65–74 age group. Organisations have been working together to deal with this for some time.
“All companies, in both the public and private sectors, have already begun implementing processes of revert mentoring, where a younger person teaches an older person the minimum standards for good digital skills, and of preventive mentoring, so that, thanks to artificial intelligence, we can gain a better understanding in advance of the jobs coming in the next 5–10 years, which means we can create the appropriate skills now”, Amicucci points out.
The challenges of tomorrow
Technology can therefore be of great help in understanding the future of the world of work. Today, augmented reality and simulators still seem to be a near future, but they are destined to become reality soon and to help users train themselves by simulating possible situations that might occur in the workplace. The same applies to artificial intelligence, because it will allow a certain type of learning to be profiled according to the user’s needs, the aptly-named adaptive learning.
Blockchain also comes into this context. “Obviously, because in the future it will be essential to know how to authenticate your CV. This is why new certifications already include blockchain protection as well as the curriculum, so that it cannot be falsified. Some companies have already taken steps in this direction”, Amicucci points out.
“Already now we can begin to stop taking for granted things that once were. For instance, writing: We can already ask ourselves today whether in the future we will still write with pen and paper or only with a computer. Speaking a foreign language is also another topic of great interest: very soon technology will allow us to speak any language fluently and in real time. This helps considerably”.