Archive for the ‘m-Learning’ Tag
Mobile devices are used to consume media of all types, but the Pew Research Center reports that news is the number one thing that Americans access on their devices. It’s not hard to believe because our news has become increasingly “byte-sized”. We use our mobile devices frequently, but for short periods of time in most cases and that follows the byte-sized model so news may be a natural fit. We may be able to take a lesson from news sources as we create our mobile learning.
It doesn’t appear that news sources spend a lot of time thinking about the formatting of their mobile content. But the fact that they already design their content in shorter easier to consume chunks, may have something to do with why we see it as acceptable and sought after mobile content. It may also be that we just want to see the news when we’re mobile because we want to keep up on current events. It’s probably worth a look at some popular mobile news sites to see how long their content is for a given story and how it’s formatted. If news is what people are looking at when mobile, they will already be conditioned to that model and we as learning designers may be able to take a page from their book. Here’s a link to the Information Week article on the Pew study:
As one Google guy I spoke with recently said, “everyone is thinking about mobile.” And that is a really good thing for mobile learning. All the money and concentrated brain power of some of the most innovative and powerful companies will certainly yield some great results in the form of new software, hardware and cloud based applications to enable our productivity and creativity.
One of the best signs for those who make learning content is the Flash Player finally coming to mobile devices in large numbers. Some of you may be familiar with the trials Adobe has had in bringing the Flash player to the mobile area. It has actually been in use, in the form of Flash Lite for several years now. We don’t necessarily see it in North America, but it’s been used heavily in places like Japan and parts of Europe to deliver content. But now Adobe has adapted the Flash player to run higher end content on new devices. The version that will run on devices is 10.1, so it’s able to provide of all the modern Flash capabilities. Apple is still not allowing the Flash Player on the iPhone, and depending on who you talk to it’s either because the Flash Player is “too resource intensive” for the iPhone OR Apple has made a “business decision” not to allow the Flash Player on the iPhone because Apple plans to use a competing technology to deliver video and other content that Flash has been good at for awhile now. Those other competing standards may come in the form of HTML 5, QuickTime or something else that Apple has up their sleeve. I’m sure we will all hear a lot of buzz about whatever it is when they finally bring it out.
But iPhone aside, Adobe has been doing a lot to try to get mobile device manufacturers to include the Flash Player on their devices as either a stand-alone player or a browser plug-in. And the newest version of the plug-in is good by most accounts – take a look at what it’s capable of here:
With a large Flash developer base in the e-Learning community, your designers and developers can now start to take advantage of the mobile player. This means you can re-purpose your older content, and make new content immediately deliverable to mobile devices without going through an app store or marketplace that you can not control.
Now, I understand that Flash has its’ issues. Security, and performance on mobile devices has been in question before. However, no mobile device or mobile software has conquered the security problem yet, so I wouldn’t let the Flash player be my reason for not going mobile with it. And I don’t think Flash Player 10.1 will run well on older devices. But as you can see if you look at the link above, it runs very smoothly on a modern device (Google’s Nexus One). And as people upgrade to newer devices, we’ll see more processor power, which will make performance a non-issue.
I do believe that the Flash player will be available on many newer mobile devices very soon, so start getting your developers ready to create some pretty interesting learning content.
Innovative thinkers are always finding new ways to leverage the power of the mobile device. We’ve seen the screen used for a flashlight, the device used as a compass and lots of other novelty oriented uses (just take a look at the iPhone’s app store). But now a professor of engineering has been able to use the software and hardware features of a mobile device to create a microscope capable of checking for diseases.
The New York Times article cites an example where a user could place a slide of blood under a cheap external hardware setup on the device and the mobile device’s camera could image that blood. The image could be sent from the device to a doctor for analysis.
I really think we’ll start to see more of these types of applications, where the device’s capability is enhanced with bolt-on solutions capable of exploiting the mobility of the human operator and the device and extending the power of the hardware and software.
Mobile learning can truly benefit from thinking along the same lines, especially if you consider the number of field deployed workers who operate several different electronic tools, sensors to diagnose problems with equipment etc. Using the device as a central hub for those types of sensors could really make life easier for those types of employees. And the networked communication of a mobile device offers the ability to receive real-time feedback on procedures, and training on the spot for those who operate sensors and diagnostic equipment.
According to this report from MediaPost (a web site devoted to advertising and mobility) mobile web usage continues to grow, which we knew. However, the report also goes on to talk about the frustrations many users experience with the mobile web. You can see the actual stats cited from Nielsen here.
Most users are probably frustrated by the “mobile web” because the web they are viewing is often the same web that’s formatted for the desktop and desktop browsers. Many of us who’ve tried to load a desktop site on a mobile browser know how poorly mobile browsers render those sites. Often you get a column of content with everything running vertically, and trying to find a link or read the text is so difficult that we just give up. Safari on the iPhone and Opera do better, but they are still not ideal for mobile users. And one thing that should be noted is that it’s not that difficult to build a mobile site. First of all, your users probably don’t want everything you are offering on your desktop site, especially if you have a lot of links and navigation. You may be able to work with a subset of content and navigation, so that makes it easier for the developer. But even if you have to provide most or all of your navigation, you can format it for mobile consumption so your users will stay on your site find the information they need. Some helpful development resources are shown below:
Great book about mobile web design:
Some information to get you up on terminology and history:
Platform Specific Sites:
iPhone and Safari:
https://developer.apple.com/safari/ Note: Link is on the right side, “Safari on iPhone and iPod Touch”
tips and pointers: http://articles.sitepoint.com/article/iphone-development-12-tips
simulator (will show you what it looks like in the iPhone frame, doesn’t mimic the touch, gestures, etc.) http://www.testiphone.com/
Blackberry development program area – http://na.blackberry.com/eng/developers/resources/
AND I WOULDN’T BE TRUE TO MY MOBILE DEV ROOTS WITHOUT FLASH/FLASH LITE – which should be picking up some significant steam as it gains support on most platforms. It’s still my personal favorite, but that’s the Flash Developer in me coming out, I’ve also done work on the other platforms above.
As an advocate for corporate mobile learning, I’m always encouraged when I hear about a company that takes it seriously. Lots of companies have experimented with podcasts and some have even produced html based learning content for their customers or employees, but it has yet to win broad acceptance in the corporate training community. However, there are a few exceptions, companies that have taken the plunge and they are realizing the benefits of their investment in mobile learning.
In an earlier post, I wrote about Mobile Learning at Merrill Lynch, where they’ve adopted m-Learning as a serious option for training their employees. In another, similar success story, Accenture (a large consulting firm) has embraced mobile learning for their employees and their senior executives in particular. Here’s a link to an article in Training Magazine where they discuss the mobile learning program at Accenture.
Accenture chose to use mobile learning as an augmentation to it’s normal e-Learning platform, specifically for compliance training on a number of topics. Results from their internal surveys indicate that learners liked the new mobile training modality and they plan to offer more of it in the future. Highlights from their internal survey of learners include the following observations:
- more than 1000 completions of 7 courses
- overall satisfaction rating of 4.4 out of 5, compared to 4.0 out of 5 for traditional e-Learning
- 92% of those surveyed would like to use their mobile device for training
- most executives who took the training would prefer their mobile learning in chunks of 10-15 minutes
- over half of the respondents would prefer an option to download their courses so they could take them when not connected to the Internet
An important thing to note here is the fact that some of the findings reinforce many of the guidelines we’ve been given when designing mobile learning assets. Those guidelines include keeping your mobile learning assets between 5-15 minutes (small chunks) and the suggestion that you consider the fact that the learner may not have a good connection/or any connection to the Internet. It’s good to see that the designers in this case took the time to consider these guidelines when designing their courses. You can read the whole article (here), make sure you read the “Quick Tips” section for some valuable insight into their design process, perhaps it can help you with your own designs. I really liked the idea of bookmarking all the pages, that makes a lot of sense for a mobile learner who may be intermittently engaged in your training.
Thanks to Training Magazine and author Sarah Boehle for this article.