Archive for the ‘mLearning’ Tag

SMS for Mobile Learning

Image of hand using mobile phone for text messaging

SMS for mobile learning

In the last post, I talked about some ways that you could use voice in mobile learning. I’m going to attempt to show some ways that you could use SMS or text messaging for mobile learning. There are lots of ways that SMS could be used. I liked the simple example that I saw when working for a previous company. An individual in the knowledge management group decided to simply pose questions to a group of students in a class. Each question was carefully crafted to be simple enough to answer in 140 characters, while still requiring real thought. This is sort of like running a forum through text messages, but the great thing about it is that… it’s mobile. Learners can tend to those questions anytime they have a free moment, without needing to be near a PC or needing to login to any kind of system. Our administrator (the knowledge management worker) was able to collect the responses and pass them to the instructor so he could see them and he loved the idea.

Beyond that, there are a lot of more advanced solutions that use more technology than the SMS text itself. I’ve used PollEverywhere in presentations and I’ve seen it used in the classroom. The PollEverywhere service allows your learners to respond to polling questions through SMS and a web interface for devices equipped with a modern browser. The beauty of a service like this is that you can see the results right away and so can your learners. Check out the 1 minute video on the site for an overview.

If you’re more inclined to tackle the technical side of all this, you can setup an SMS gateway. It’s not trivial, but you can configure your service to be flexible for your needs.

You can also setup a support number for learners. Learners could send texts to that number and receive feedback from an expert or a group of support personnel. Think about how you can support your eLearning and mLearning resources. The simplicity of text based communication is where it really shines.

Where Does the mLearning Go?

learning within the task

Task based learning with mobile devices

 

We talk a lot about mobile learning in a general sense. Most learning professionals agree that it’s at least another tool in our arsenal and certainly could be very valuable to learners. But two questions come to mind when I reflect on my conversations with students and learning professionals:

Where does mLearning fit in?

What does mLearning look like?

I wouldn’t want to suggest that we only use a particular strategy for mLearning. Like all technology, mobile should only be used when it makes sense and helps your learners accomplish a learning task. But one place that you can really start to help your learners is within the task that the learner is performing. This means that you need to know what your learners are doing. I recently did a survey of my core group of learners within my previous company (I just moved to a new employer). The survey focused on a few things, but mobile tasks were one of the major areas. I wanted to know what the learners within my group were doing with their mobile devices… so I asked them, and I got some good answers. I did a session on this at the eLearning Guild’s latest online forum, and I found that while phone calls and email were the two biggest mobile activities performed by our learners, text messaging and web browsing/searching were right up there. These results may not surprise you, I guess I figured that communication would be one of the most useful functions of a mobile device! But knowing that people are using their mobile browsers, their voice capabilities and their text messaging capabilities allows us to think about how we could embed learning into those capabilities.

I’ll take a cut at the first of those in this post, and I’ll cover the others in subsequent posts. Let’s start with voice calls:

Voice calls – how can we support learning before a phone call takes place?

My ideas: Most of my learners had iPhones or Android phones. My first reflex is to use the browser. We know that those learners can use a WiFi connection on their device while making a phone call (provided that one is available). So we could look to build a simple interface to support those learners with their corporate phone calls by providing access to different learning resources that are designed to be easy to read and otherwise accessible to our mobile learners. I believe the simplicity of the interface and the content is key because the learner’s attention will be divided between their phone call and their attempt to view the resource. The content could range from immediate data to support the substance of the phone call to coaching suggestions that a learner could reference when talking to a client or even a checklist of things to cover during the call. You may say that some of these are straight performance support and not “learning”, but I am in favor of learning professionals owning all of that since we are the ones who know how to structure content for learning… why shouldn’t we be making the performance support content?!

Another option – Provide voice coaching to the person who is in the conversation. You could help learners by embedding actual coaching through voice to the learner. This strategy has been used to teach and coach help desk and support technicians for some time now and has shown itself to be effective in the field of customer support.

Another option –

Provide text messaging based question and answer services. Basically, a learner could be on a call and send simple text message questions to a system or individual. The individual or automated system on the receiving end would respond immediately with an answer. People use this method all the time when they are on a phone call with one person and they need information from another. I was recently on a call with one friend, who asked me what time my flight landed, I was visiting him in his city. I didn’t know, so I sent a text message to my other friend who bought the tickets since we were traveling together. I got an answer back during the phone call and was able to provide an answer. We could automate this model with any number of text-based Q&A systems (just do a search).

These are just suggestions, so feel free to comment on your thoughts and suggestions. In the next post, I’ll make some suggestions regarding email.

 

News is king of content on mobile devices

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:
http://www.informationweek.com/news/mobility/smart_phones/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=223101018

Flash Player On Devices – Going Mobile Just Got Easier

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:

Flash Plug-in Running on Google’s Nexus One

Ok, finally to my point about mobile learning… A lot of learning content developers use Flash to deliver rich and engaging learning environments. Many simulations use Flash, many games available in e-Learning courses use Flash and Flash is used a lot to deliver graphics, animations and different kinds of user experiences that are not able to be produced with HTML, JavaScript or any other traditional web technology. Plus, Flash developers are all over the e-Learning content development industry.

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.