Archive for the ‘Blogroll’ Category

A great new app, Coach’s Eye, knows how to use its senses

Coach's Eye App on Sale

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.

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Is Mobile Learning Too Shallow?

Diver from a high distance

Conversations about mobile learning are happening all over. One community asking questions about mLearning is the community of instructional designers who are wrestling with how to approach mobile learning. As ISD’s, our tendency is to provide the learner with the most information we can as long as we can find it to be relevant to the learning need. However, the prevailing knowledge we have about mLearning suggests that we provide less content, not more. But is that really the right way to approach it? Is the reality that we have to provide less content, or is it more a matter of structuring and access to the information that should drive our design decisions?

We make a lot of assumptions about mobile learners and their behaviors (i.e. they are traveling on a bus/train, they don’t have any time, and they’re not looking for a vast body of information just an answer to a simple question), but are those assumptions right? And even if they are right, do we know that users will always be in those situations and unable or unwilling to access more content and add to their depth of knowledge about the subject.

I don’t know all the answers to those questions, but I am of the mind that we can provide deeper knowledge to meet the needs of our “typical” mobile learner, AND support their possible desire to learn more about a topic.

I do think we should focus most on addressing the learner’s perceived immediate need. But I also think that we can provide more knowledge to deepen the experience if we think critically about the navigation and media we provide.

One example I can think of is a simple mobile learning application about driving a car. You could structure your navigation to make the basic, most immediately necessary content about steering, speed and how to use the turn signals available as the storefront to the application. You could also provide a set of short videos demonstrating how to do each of those activities.  However, beyond that you could provide additional links and navigational components on each video page to give the learner an opportunity to see the inner workings of a steering mechanism or a link demonstrating how speed ratios effect braking.

My example is very basic and we know that a lot of complex content will have to be covered in mobile format. But I don’t think we should hold back on content that can provide depth, we simply need to think of how to allow the user to get to it without bogging them down with too many distracting choices that will inhibit the effectiveness of your learning product.

Any ideas about how you could structure your content for easy access to the most necessary information, while maintaining the learner’s ability to dive deeper?

New Report Reinforces Mobile Learning is Best as Performance Support

I just read an article titled, “Smartphones Make IBM Smarter, But Not As Expected” about IBM and Columbia University’s recent study on the behavior and effects of mobile learning within IBM. The study was very insightful, and the findings support the notion that m-Learning is currently best consumed in the form of performance support material. Employees in the study used mobile content that helped them find information about clients and other employees at the point of need before communicating with clients. Employees did not find the mobile courseware to be particularly helpful. This may be the nature of their jobs, so I don’t think this means that mobile courseware of any kind is not useful. We’ve seen examples of compliance training work for other organizations, so there is room in the mobile world for certain types of courseware. However, this study does point to mobile performance support, delivering context relevant content quickly and efficiently as a major enabler for productivity. I would urge you to go to the ASTD Web site and get a copy of the article. Here are some main highlights:

  • “surveyed 400 employees about their use of mobile devices to access company information”
  • employees used mobile information “for two main purposes: in-field performance support from colleagues and access to late-breaking information”
  • “IBM employees, especially sales¬persons and managers, need current, just-in-time information that is relevant to their specific task and contextual to their environment.”
  • “generally dislike having to learn any new user interface;” – go with established norms
  • “employees seem to prefer fewer options and less information on their mobile phones than would be available on their desktop computers”
  • “Mobile phone users typically have more immediate, goal-directed intentions than desktop users. The former know what they seek and rarely deviate from the path toward finding that information. Presenting only the most critical information, mi¬nus extraneous and potentially distract¬ing segments, is far more desirable than offering a wealth of opportunities.”
  • “As a result of the study, IBM has shifted its mobile learning focus from delivering formal learning modules to creating just-in-time performance support systems. IBM is now building a new system for executive sellers that provides, via mobile phones, reference checklists of critical information that is useful when preparing for client meetings.”
  • “In June 2009, IBM announced a $100 million investment in mobile research over the next five years, focusing on mobile enablement, emerging markets, and enterprise-to-end-user experience.”

The article also includes some good design tips, so definitely do what you can to get a copy of it. It was $10 to download. The article is in the January 2010 Issue of Training and Development Magazine.

Mobile Healthcare Apps Exemplify m-Learning

I try to be fairly broad with my resources as I research mobile learning and the mobile lifestyle in general. The latest article I came across is from Information Week, here’s a link to the the “Top iPhone Healthcare Apps” article.

There are a couple of things I covered in previous posts, but I think it’s worth a fresh post since mobile healthcare is really blazing a trail for m-learning in many ways. Doctors have really taken to mobile technology in a way that most of us have not. For years, the healthcare industry has been deploying mobile technologies of all kinds to medical practitioners so they can access references, patient records and all sorts of other information necessary to them at the point of need. In the past, healthcare workers often relied on specialized mobile devices or somewhat combersome PDAs to reference topics pertinent to a patient’s condition. Now things are changing and doctors are able to use off the shelf consumer technologies like smartphones to access medical records, reference large catalogs of medical information and even push perscriptions to farmacies so the patient’s medicine is waiting for them when they get there. And using consumer technologies offers another big advantage, it allows the patient to proactively handle their health care by carrying their records with them on their mobile device.

AllOne is the application that patients use to manage their healthcare records and it even offers the ability to look up x-rays and other types of scans on the device so doctors can see them. Information Week references AllOne in another article.

I think it’s pretty amazing that we can facilitate an interactive relationship with doctors and patients through mobile technology. The applications used in mobile healthcare are also offering performance support and coaching to patients by reminding them to take medicine, record nutritional information (meals, ex. for diabetes patients) and even reminding them about appointments. Just think of how we’ll be using these types of relationships for other mobile learning tasks. If doctors can rely on mobile learning paradigms, most of us can give it a shot too.

M-Learning: Google vs Apple as Web Apps square off against Native Apps

Google and Apple appear to have different outlooks on mobile application development, and those differences will certainly have an impact on how we consume mobile content. According to this BusinessWeek.com article, Two Mobile Software Visions, each company is preparing to leverage their strengths with a distribution model that corresponds with those strengths.

Apple is very strong in the native app market, where it’s App Store is a marketplace for all sorts of applications. Users download the applications to the iPhone and take advantage of that native functionality, storage and performance that comes with being on the device itself.

Google is very strong in the web-based application market and it domintates the search advertising that goes along with it’s web focus. Google is betting that Web-based applications that use the strength of networks and servers will be the future of mobile content consumption.

But both companies overlap in certain places. iPhone applications often link out to external services and resources and Google’s Android applications are native on the Android open source operating system (Google also has an Android market place, much like the Apple App Store). Google plans to push Web-based applications in the months and years to come and Apple will probably continue to push it’s App Store applications. Ultimately, it comes down to money. Apple makes approx 30% on each application it sells from the App Store and Google makes billions of dollars with it’s ad revenue from search and Google Ads.

As mobile consumers, we will have to make choices about how we want to consume our content. In the world of education, much of the content resides on the Web. Most of our Learning Management Systems are web-based and offer limited functionality offline. However, it can be argued that eLearning really got of the starting blocks with CD roms, which are more representative of the native-app model in my opinion. If the evolution of eLearning has been from native pc applications (CDs and disk based) to Web based applications, the question is, will that be the way that mobile learning goes? If so, you might say that Apple is re-hashing the hold model and Google is pushing the new model. BUT, I don’t think it’s that simple.

I think that Apple is leveraging the strengths of an on-device application in an age where connectivity to mobile networks is still spotty in many places, while allowing for connectivity when and where applicable and desired. Apple is also selling the iPhone as a platform and pushing too much to “the cloud” would be somewhat self-defeating. Google is setting itself in a position of strength in the Web-based market because that’s where it’s strengths are and it doesn’t produce hardware, so a physical platform is not attractive to Google.

We will see mobile learning in a variety of forms, some will be native applications and others will be Web applications. If I had to bet though, I would favor the Web-based model because it’s the most natural fit for the current eLearning architecture. Re-purposing your Web-based LMS courses to run on a mobile browser will be an easier transition for companies and learning institutions. There are also more developers with the skill sets required to build mobile Web applications since those skills are in many ways a subset of traditional Web development. More developers along with ease of transition will make the Web-based application the winner in my opinion. Both the iPhone OS and Google’s Android have good Web experiences on their respective mobile devices, so both should continue to be platforms that we will target for mobile learning. Overall, I think most content will be Web-based.