Archive for the ‘m-Learning’ Category
Many predictions for 2013 include the rise of enterprise mobility. I know that my company is pursuing an enterprise-level plan and they are not alone. Many companies and organizations from small private companies to large government agencies are beginning the move to enterprise mobility and most have long ago abandoned the notion that it’s a bad thing. This is all good for us as mobile learning technologists, designers and developers. My current focus is on building an enterprise application for my company. I like the idea of working on internal applications for a number of reasons. First, enterprise applications can really allow you to focus on the problems you see on an every day basis within your organization. You can build an application that facilitates better communication or connectivity between employees or departments and you can boost overall collaboration by doing so. You can build an application that provides quick information for employees who need to do specific tasks. For example, your department may rely on up-t0-the-minute metrics in order to make decisions so you could build an application that shows that information at any time. And since employees are most likely to have their mobile device with them at all times, their situational awareness would be improved by using your application on their device.
If you’re an instructional person and you’re reading this, you may be struck by how much these examples and ideas sound more like performance support and productivity applications than learning applications and you would be right. Most of the thinking I do about mobile learning applications seems to come back to information delivered at the point of need or learning content that helps someone do a job. I used to think of learning and performance support as two different things. Now, I think about learning as a huge, broad container that includes performance support and all the other things that we traditionally include when we think about learning. I think there’s space for all of it with mobile learning. I find myself learning with my mobile devices out of boredom and curiosity as well as for an immediate performance-driven need. However, I seem to hear some in the instructional design community who don’t think performance support is learning. Personally, I don’t think that is an important argument to have because we should really be owning all learning and not simply what we have traditionally owned. As an employee of a company that continues to implement a mobile enterprise strategy, I will continue to think about all ways to help out, whether it’s performance support applications, informational applications or other training applications because they all help our employees do a better job and when people do a good job, they are happy. Overall, let’s own the mobile learning space, including performance support because I think we as instructional designers/developers are better equipped to do that than most others!
Yesterday, I posted about mobile learning and using the sensors on the device in your learning design. Tomorrow a great app will launch in Apple’s App Store, called Coach’s Eye, from TechSmith. Coach’s Eye is an app designed to help coaches, parents and teammates evaluate an athelete’s performance and provide feedback through video. Think about it as if you’re the commentator watching the game with the magic pen that writes on the screen. I had a chance to preview this application and I can tell you that it’s easy to use and provides something I haven’t seen in any other apps, the ability to review and slow down video so you can provide feedback in a structured way. The end product is a video that you, the coach, produce with your feedback.
Among other things, Coach’s Eye allows you to slow down video to highlight certain places for improvement. You can highlight by drawing a box, a circle or lines and the best part is that you can comment on the video to give verbal feedback. You can then send the video to the person you’re coaching so they can concentrate on areas to improve.
Once you take a look at this app, you’ll immediately see how useful it can be for an athlete. I personally used it already to start working on some improvements to my baseball swing. I intend to keep using the application for that purpose. However, I think this app can easily be used in the broader training world. Think about a scenario where you or a coworker are charged with performing a task. A simple example would be the use of a specific piece of equipment like a printer or even a piece of software. Coach’s Eye would be beneficial because you could record a procedure and highlight certain things along the way while also providing verbal direction to the user.
The best thing about Coach’s Eye is that the designers and developers took the approach of using the device’s sensors. They realized that a mobile device has both added functionality and limitations when compared to a desktop or laptop computer. And since a mobile device has a camera and can easily be manipulated to provide good video in any environment, why not leverage that strength to allow the user to do something other than consume the content of others… you actually create your own learning content with their application!
I give kudos to the developers at TechSmith for building a focused, easy to use application. Like a lot of good applications, they stuck to a simple, intuitive design and they make it fun with a colorful interface.
Disclosure: I do not work for TechSmith, and I don’t have any official affiliation with their company. I was able to get on a list of testers for Coach’s Eye. I believe the app and the concept of coaching through the use of mobile devices are both heading in the right direction.
Much of mLearning has to do with repurposing existing content or building modules similar to other eLearning modules. I see the value in that particularly for compliance training and other types of information dissemination. Sometimes learner’s needs are met by simply having content available in multiple places (i.e. desktop and mobile device). So I don’t discount the value of mobile courseware, I just think that the design community often forgets to think about the differentiation between mobile devices and desktop computers. Besides the always on, always connected, always with you nature of mobile devices, they also have a number of different sensors that we can utilize in our learning design.
Through the browser, you have access to geolocation through the devices location sensors (GPS and WiFi can be used to access the location of the device http://mobile.tutsplus.com/tutorials/mobile-web-apps/html5-geolocation/). And with native applications, you can access the camera, accelerometer, GPS location and any other sensors on the device.
So how can you start to use these in your designs? That’s my question to the reader. Obviously, there are several considerations when building a mobile learning application. You may have some great ideas for sensor usage, but you may not have the staff to build the application or maybe you are building the application yourself (like me) but you know you’re going to have to build a web app so multiple devices can access it outside of an app store. These considerations are just a few of those contributing factors to your design. But let’s not throw away the idea of using sensors in our design. Instead, consider how the user would benefit from the use of sensors for contextual relevance, documentation, interactivity and engagement. From there, you can walk your design back to the realities imposed by the resources you have to work with from a development and implementation standpoint. My hunch is that you will find that if you consider these additional sensors at the beginning of your design process, you will end up with a better mobile design in the end.
So the question again: How would you leverage sensors for your mobile learning design?
Here are a few developer resources to get you started if you have to use the browser for your mobile design. Native applications can access the sensors through their native programming environments like iOS and Android:
accessing accelerometer in the browser:
accessing the camera roll with ActionScript 3 (Adobe Flex and AIR)
accessing the camera with other scripts:
And technologies like PhoneGap and Titanium also provide for access to some sensors and you can build native applications using web technologies with PhoneGap and Titanium.
While most of us in the learning community are more concerned with engaging the learner and providing effective learning content to our mobile learners, there are a lot of people who think of one thing when you mention mobile learning and that is security. The lack of real security options on mobile devices is one reason so many decision makers look at mobile learning as a “cute” novelty and not a real solution.
The fact that an organization’s data could end up on a mobile device scares many leaders. We’ve all seen the headlines about data taken from stolen or lost mobile devices and the recent phone hacking scandal at News Corp’s News of the World . Those events lead many to believe that they can’t provide content to a mobile device because the risk is too great to justify the reward of situated, contextually driven learning.
When I give a presentation on mobile learning, there’s always someone who questions the security. I normally provide a very simple answer and it goes something like this: “There are a lot of really smart people at well-funded organizations working really hard on that one”. So if you get this gist of it, my answer basically comes down to, “they’re working on it”. And we all know that when someone says they’re working on it, they really mean that it’s not done and who knows how long it will take to finish.
All the big companies, McAfee, Symantec, etc. are working to provide security solutions for mobile devices so data is safe and secure. Blackberry has traditionally held the crown of “most secure phone”, and security remains one of their strengths. However, with more individuals adopting devices running iOS and Android, those operating systems have become hot spots in the mobile security world.
So far, several high-profile government agencies here in the US and around the world have started to embrace mobile technology. The US Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard and the Veterans Administration are just a couple of organizations currently building mobile learning applications and all sorts of performance support applications to deliver to their learners (following some serious pilot programs like the Army’s CSDA - check out the videos in the multimedia section to learn more).
The leadership in those organizations must have confidence that the security issue will be worked out, especially if the organization’s data is going to end up on mobile devices. One reason they have confidence is that new apps and systems are coming around to address security. One new security app is Mobileworks DE, built by a company called SteelCloud located in Ashburn Virginia. This article at Information Week explains some of the details. The application will provide military grade security features so decision makers can sleep a little easier at night.
I look at the security issue as one of the last remaining obstacles for mobile learning. As security restrictions become as common place on our mobile devices as they are on our desktops, we will sigh and hopefully be somewhat satisfied that we at least have the ability to target the devices in our enterprise learning architectures to provide content. But it may be a slightly different world. Companies like RIM, maker of the Blackberry, and others are focusing on systems where your personal life is separated from your corporate life and free from the security restrictions your employer provides. But there will always be some thought of big brother watching me if I choose to allow my company to control anything on my mobile device. As with anything, we make trade-offs and compromises to have our cake and eat it too. Let’s hope in this world, security doesn’t make it feel like someone else owns our device (unless they do of course!).
The bottom line for me comes down to the fact that companies and organizations are aggressively dealing with mobile device security. Leadership at these organizations are embracing mobile technology and mobile learning. We can finally start to feel like it’s really here and no longer feel like mobile learning is “coming soon.”
I’ve been trying to keep up with all of the latest in the US Army’s Connecting Soldiers with Digital Applications (CSDA) program. The big idea behind the program is to leverage mobile devices to deliver information, training, performance support and even intelligence to soldiers to increase their situational awareness.
As someone who works in the learning world, it’s significant when any organization with hundreds of thousands of learners decides to equip their entire workforce with mobile devices and applications. I think it’s even more important when that workforce is widely dispersed. It’s important because it allows us to see how learning can be applied over great distances with lots of technical, cultural and geographical barriers.
This article in Defense Industry Daily notes several initiatives under the CSDA umbrella of programs. Basically, the Army is doing some field testing and they’ve decided to make training and education one of the early uses of the technology. The article lays out a few of the applications that can be looked at as training applications. The TRANSTAC program is pure for performance support to soldiers needing to communicate with foreign speaking civilians:
From the article:
“An English speaker talks into the phone. Automatic speech recognition distinguishes what is said and generates a text file that software translates to the target language. Text-to-speech technology converts the resulting text file into an oral response in the foreign language. This process is reversed for the foreign language speaker.”
These kinds of applications can be extremely powerful and can only be used in context with a mobile device. This is the kind of mobile “learning” (translated as performance support in this case) that shows off the strengths of mobile devices and their ability to be at the hands of the learner when conducting an activity.
In the long run, it looks like the Army is even going to push commercial mobile devices (iOS, Android, Windows Phone 7 devices) into combat situations as long as they can figure out the security. Security is a very hard problem to solve, but it’s being worked on by several big and small industry players at the moment and it’s on everyone’s mind. It sounds like the Army and other agencies are grappling with how much security is enough and is there such thing as too much? But I’m confident that governments and industry will settle on some standards for security in smartphones and tablets, just as they did with PCs. Remember, it’s taken a long time for PCs to evolve to the security and restrictions they have today. I think the trip to a “secure” smartphone will be much shorter now that we have some consolidation in operating system deployment and versions.
Obviously, there’s lots to come with the CSDA program. The Army has made a commitment and bought into the power of the mobile device as a gateway to training and information. This quote from Lt General Vane sums it up quite well:
Again from the article:
“We have a number of pilots inside TRADOC…but we now have several theater commanders asking for these capabilities to deploy with them in combat….If we can figure out the smart cost/benefit way of doing this, it probably makes sense [to give every soldier a smartphone] in the long run.”