Mobile learning is still proving a challenge to many organisations, with a series of complex and costly solutions emerging on the market, when in our view mobile learning is really about additionality of learning opportunities, flexibility of learning opportunities, not the wholesale migration from the desktop or classroom to the tablet and smartphone. Mobile is just another channel to support the learner in the quest for on-demand learning lifestyles.
So what are the options that need to be considered in developing a mobile offer in these budget challenged BYOD days. Well remember L&D does not do R&D, so what are they, for the organisation that is already some way down the e-learning road: Convert, Create or Complement.
Converting your existing e-learning modules to mobile learning materials is an interesting and obvious point to start.
Depending on the genre of the materials you are already endowed with, and the development environment they were created in (rapid tools such as Lectora or Articulate for instance), it may well be possible to re-purpose the materials most suited to play through a tablet or smartphone. Selecting what will play through the devices is a judgement call – screen sizes and interactivity requirements being key.
There are as yet no magic ways of converting Flash based content to HTML5, so it is as Web Apps that this content will be made available….Web Apps integrate with the LMS, but do not offer the fully engaging and integrated experience of a Native App.
If you judge your content convertible, the means of development allows this re-purposing, you are very lucky.
Converting your content to a Native App is not that easy, and likely to prove quite costly, given that you may need to develop/convert content for 4 or more differing APP store requirements. Also, do remember a Native App by itself will not integrate and report to an LMS.
Creating Native Apps shares this challenge, but tools are emerging to support the development of content in HTML5 and offering cross App store publishing functionality. These tools are newish, and offer have quite limited functionality and features. Remember with a Native App, you will be maintaining several different iterations of the learning content, or paying a developer to so do.
Clever solutions are emerging integrating web apps and native apps to allow the best learning experience and tracking to the LMS. These solutions will grow in number, but will no doubt require the procurement of the providers LMS and in-house content.
The alternate solution being offered by many of the e-learning content development houses is Responsive Web Design. This is aimed at newly created content, and as such is a bespoke development project, that quite cleverly allows the page to be resized to adapt to the device the learner is using to take the course….quite neat, but also still quite costly, as this approach is not a tools based solution, but uses a proprietary development environment, and will require strong levels of Learning Design. Cost will be a consideration in choosing this route.
We have discussed converting and creating mobile learning content, what about a complementary strategy. We mentioned the BYOD challenge which is adding a level of concern and complexity to the mobile learning market at present.
Well video….third party video offers a useful solution. Well made Videos are ideal for tablets and smartphones, and users of these devices are well used to consuming video on demand.
Why third party, well third party video in a BYOD environment is a safe solution, the materials do not give away the organisations systems or procedures, rather well made video can be used to provide leadership or communication skills for example, addressing issues common to most organisations.
If we consider how tablets and smartphones are used, it is important that learning content provided is suitable to the usage style…..few learners will take a course on a smartphone, they may well use it for revisions and reminders, tablets offer a more interesting hybrid usage, but the importance of Just in time (JIT) is very real.
The key is that the video is well made, engaging and provides the right amount of learning, so while Youtube can be considered a great learning resource, don’t forget the provenance of video e-learning.
So, if you are looking for a mobile learning solution, in a BYOD environment, third part e-learning video content may well be the best option.
If you wish to see a great example of e-learning videos,….in a shameless piece of self promotion see these videos from our sister site Learning Light.