Will iBeacons Revolutionize Manufacturing e-Learning?

4 ways iBeacons can be a powerful tool for instructional designers when used appropriately

Recently, I have been prototyping the new iBeacon technology. The more I work with them, the more possibilities I see for use of this technology in e-Learning applications.

For those not familiar, iBeacons are small (about the size of quarter), inexpensive pieces of wireless technology that give location-based information to smart phones and tablets via a low energy Bluetooth signal. Apple released iBeacon technology with iOS7, but the technology is also available on Android devices.

The purpose of a beacon is to enhance the user’s overall experience, connecting the online world with the physical world. Beacons allow you to push location-based information to anyone who has the app. They can detect how far the iBeacon is away from the user and perform a function like open a website, push a location-based reminder or notification, offer up a video, animation or audio file, or even help guide the user to the beacon.

Beacon applications are just starting to emerge in many industries – from retail and education to hospitals and airports. Retail will be a key application. Imagine shopping in a store or mall and receiving special promotions or additional information about a product when you are within its proximity. Or even be able to find a product’s location via mapping technology. I can pretty much guarantee you’ll be seeing this new technology in a store near you soon.

So, how can this powerful new technology be used in training?

  1. Location-based job aids – Imagine iBeacons on the manufacturing floor pushing just-in-time help or safety information. Handy machine-side information such as videos, Material Safety Data Sheets, customized line set-up procedures or technical specifications can be immensely helpful, on-site resource materials.
  1. Location or audience specific information – Your training can be set up for different audiences. Installers, assemblers, service techs and quality inspectors may all need role-specific content. When a learner opens the app, they can select the job function they perform and then be served the specific content that is applicable to them.
  1. Specific learning zones can be set up in a classroom based on the piece of equipment they are training on, area of the classroom or factory that the training is taking place or even type of learning that needs to be communicated.
  1. Learning scavenger hunts – iBeacons can provide discovery learning experiences by placing them in different areas or on different pieces of equipment or help guide learners through an assembly process.

Like most other techniques available to an instruction designer, iBeacon technology can be powerful if used appropriately. It has some very positive qualities, such as it is:

  • location-based
  • easily updatable
  • customizable by audience­­­­­­­
  • able to push a variety of content
  • able to provide more contextual learning
  • cost savings – no more printing brochures, training material or maps that become useless when the information changes

Please share your ideas about how you can envision iBeacon technology enhancing your audience’s learning experience.

Ron Trilling
Author of Learning Lines | Founder and Partner, at Media Dynamics
Ron is a great source of information when it comes to eLearning. He has a background in instructional design and has worked with many companies to help develop their eLearning content and courses.
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