We’re revisiting our mLearning series from almost a year ago in preparation for mLearning DevCon in October.
Do you think all of this information is still relevant even though it’s 10 months old? Does technology change that fast?
Mobile Learning Part 1: Is mLearning Right For You?
Mobile learning, or mLearning, has increased in popularity as a convenient way to train employees and spread information using mobile devices like phones, tablets, notebooks and even MP3 players.
Learners aren’t tied to a location, time of day or device.
What began with simple informational podcasts has evolved into interactive web-based content where feedback is nearly instantaneous. This type of reach and connection has been a boon to businesses.
While exploding in popularity, mLearning has different meanings across a variety of disciplines and businesses. It might be hard to tell if mobile learning is right for you.
Here are some questions to ask before you dive into mLearning:
Q: Do you have many satellite or field employees?
If your answer is yes, then mobile learning might be a way to reach and connect to these employees without spending much money.
Q: Does your audience have the proper equipment (e.g. mobile devices, battery life, Internet connectivity, etc.)?
If your answer is no, you will either need to supply this equipment or use some other form of training, such as eLearning, to reach employees. If the answer is yes, you will want to make sure your learners know how to use the equipment properly.
Q: Do you have proper support for the proper equipment?
Technology fails all the time. What happens if the tablet freezes or a learner’s Internet connection slows down significantly? You should ensure that you have someone on hand to help troubleshoot the inevitable problems.
Q: What can mobile learning bring you that other forms of training can’t?
Are you just jumping on the mLearning bandwagon? You really have to think about what mLearning can realistically do for you. mLearning brings convenience, mobility and reach to the table, but if those aren’t propblems for you, you might not want to pursue MLearning.
Q: Do you have mLearning experts?
mLearning is more than just putting training on a mobile device. There’s a kind of science to it. Design, usability and expertise are all essential to good mLearning. If you don’t have a team of experts, or at least one expert, creating mLearning that people really want to use will be difficult.
As you can see, there’s a lot to consider, but if you decide to roll out mobile learning, it can be an engaging, fun and convenient way to reach your learners.
Mobile Learning Part 2: Design and Planning
Once you decide mobile learning is right for you, it’s important to take design and planning under consideration.
Before you even begin to think about design, make a plan. Think about this mobile learning project no differently than you would a normal training session or class.
Consider who the training is for, how they will receive the training, what the training objectives are and how you will measure the results. Also, try to identify any risks and anticipate problems; make sure you have a plan in case any of these problems occur.
Only after you have a solid plan should you think about design. Designing for mobile devices is very different from designing for computer-based training.
Think about the following:
There are literally thousands of mobile devices on the market. If you have employees overseas, that number is even more.
Each device may have a different screen size, resolution, keyboard functionality, battery life, format restrictions and so on. You must understand the devices your learners will use.
In some cases, it might be best to distribute a specific device to each learner. This action might take some initial capital, but it would make design and support much easier.
Internet access and speed
Internet access and speed is different throughout the country and the world. As you design a module or course, remember that large images or complex interaction might not be the best way to go. Keep code, images and interactions as simple as possible.
Mobile devices have various memory limitation, and almost all of them have much less memory capabilities than an average computer.
The solution for this, again, is to know the devices your learners will have and keep things simple. Put content in small chunks that can be easily consumed at different times and under different circumstances. Use shorter videos, and instead of making modules that take a long time to finish, make them shorter and easier to use.
Here are some general best practices for design:
Keep it simple
Always use the simplest format possible. For instance, try images in GIFF format instead of PNG. The color and quality loss will likely not be noticed on smaller screen sizes anyway. Also, use simple code when designing interfaces so as not to bog down the mobile device with complex processes.
Flexibility is key
As you design, make the content and tools as flexible as possible. Good MLearning design should always allow for variations in preferences, capabilities, locations, schedules, device memory and Internet connectivity.
Sound and text
Always try to use sound and text as much possible. Never rely on just sounds or just text to alert learners or guide them through a training session. Devices may not register sound or text at any given time.
Be available for feedback
More than any other training style, MLearning needs user feedback. Because learners are remote and consuming the learning in different places at different times of day, it’s important to gather their opinions and advice. They are your best resources for making the MLearning experience better.
With the right amount of planning, know-how and tools, mobile learning can be a great way to reach learners in new and powerful ways.
Mobile Learning Part 3: Trends
Mobile learning grows and evolves as technology changes, and we all know that can happen seemingly over night.
Let’s take a quick look at some emerging MLearning trends.
Augmented reality uses the mobile device to add a layer on top of the learner’s existing reality, usually using the device’s camera function, but it’s also used on-screen. The London Museum, for instance, uses augmented reality to explore and compare new images of the city versus old images.
The idea is that this layer of new information adds material that can be used to learn more about an image, the learner’s environment or an interactive tool. It can be a very powerful technique to demonstrate new information in a contextual way, explaining the world around your users.
Altered Reality lays out an alternative to the real world that still parallels current reality. It’s often used in marketing, like the I Love Bees game used to promote the release of Halo 2, but it can be used to take learners through a course or timeline in an innovative and very interactive way.
Both types of reality, augmented and altered, give you a chance to create continuous learning with stories and characters that persist throughout the courses.
One of the biggest motivators for “snack learning,” very short, chunked learning, is the Millennial Generation, which has notoriously short attention spans and wants fast-paced, technology-driven learning.
This trend simply requires you to break up courses or modules into very short, maybe no more than three minutes, chunks that can be utilized whenever the learner wants.
The tablet is really changing the game for a lot of industries, including the education and training industries.
Apple’s iPad, BlackBerry’s PlayBook, Samsung’s Galaxy Tab, Amazon’s tablet,the list goes on. These little gadgets are very portable and have incredible processing speed and memory, much more than a mobile phone or MP3 player. The enlarged screen provides lots of opportunity for graphics and interactive tools. Basically, it’s ideal for mobile learning.
The tablet is a trend you should definitely look into; think about designing for the proper platforms and take the opportunity to be creative.
A number of big name software companies, like Articulate and Rapid Intake, have come out with authoring tools specifically for MLearning. These tools will likely only get more powerful, easier to use and extend into a number of devices for simple production.
Remember to first do some research and find the best tool for your needs.
This brings our Mobile Learning series to a close. We hope you are armed with the knowledge to make the best decisions for your company’s needs when it comes to MLearning options and possibilities.