“Can I take this training course on my iPad? smartphone? tablet?” Many instructional designers have heard that question lately and wondered exactly how to get their course content to fit into a mobile learning environment. Instructional designers (IDs) need to know which tools are fast, friendly, and provide cross-platform functionality and support.
Stop and consider what learners will gain
Before investing in tools for m-learning development, the instructional designer should take a learner-centric view of the organization’s training initiatives and decide which goals will translate to m-learning courses. The question should not be, “How will I get my training out there?” but rather “What do my learners need to know?” The ID should determine exactly what pieces of knowledge will be most useful to the learner when delivered through the mobile learning environment.
For example, consider each of the following mobile learning goals:
- Access to troubleshooting support for the organization’s technology or products
- Compliance training that is untethered from the traditional office environment
- Knowledge checks for refreshing company product knowledge
- Quick reminders of company policies and procedures
The ID should look to “chunk,” or segment, each of these learning goals into simple, short interactions for the mobile environment. These will become the building blocks for a mobile learning strategy. In fact, IDs should forget the word “course” when planning m-learning. Rather, they can focus on “interaction” to keep mobile learning sensible, compact, reusable, and useful in the mobile context.
Consider the limitations of mobile technology
While mobility and flexibility are buzzwords for m-learning, the ID should keep the limitations of technology in mind when planning an m-learning strategy. For starters, smaller screens mean that graphics need to be kept to a minimum and that text explanations have to be much shorter. There is no full-sized keyboard for entering text, and finger-cursor navigation is much clumsier and less precise for selecting options. Another consideration is context. Mobile devices are often used in highly distracting environments, so there is often competition for the learner’s time and attention span. Finally, access for all workers must be considered; unless the organization has rolled out devices for all employees, there may be a segment of the workforce that will lack access to the mobile training resources.
Questions to consider when choosing a development tool
When choosing an authoring tool for m-learning, the instructional designer should be mindful of the following concerns:
- Will the tool I choose provide ongoing support for the rapidly evolving mobile device universe?
- Does my company have security concerns with the availability of proprietary information?
- What sort of technical support can I expect? Will I need to get IT involved?
- Does my organization support and encourage BYOD (bring your own device)?
- Does the learning need to be tracked through an LMS for compliance purposes?
Tools to explore
Learning development tools provide varying levels of support for LMS tracking, cross-platform support, and information security. Here are four m-learning authoring tools that have caught our eye:
- Articulate Storyline – This tool was created to be user-friendly and allows publishing to iPad and HTML5, but it currently lacks support for Android, which is a big concern considering the popularity of the Android platform. One big plus is the ability to download the training for offline viewing. As we all know, we often take our mobile devices to places that are “off the grid,” so training that can be completed offline is beneficial.
- dominKnow Claro – This cloud-based development tool has been getting a lot of positive reviews for its easy-to-use authoring interface and availability of ready-made templates. Output to HTML5 is supported. There is built-in connectivity to web sources like YouTube and Vimeo as well as support for SCORM and the Tin Can API.
- EpicLearning’s GoMo – We like this authoring tool for its ability to optimize content for a variety of smartphones and tablets, including Apple, Android, and BlackBerry. The interface is intuitive and non-technical, so learning interaction development is fast and easy. It supports both SCORM and Tin Can API.
- Lectora – Templates that are the perfect size for small smartphone screens and quiz-building flexibility are some of the features we like about Lectora. The latest version, Lectora 11, provides support for HTML5, SCORM, AICC, and Tin Can.
Tools to keep interactivity high
When developing your m-learning strategy, don’t forget to include tools to deliver chunks of information that aren’t necessarily built into an application. In your quest to pull learners in and engage them in the learning process, you may want to integrate the following:
- QR codes – A quick scan of a QR code can take the learner to a special website or additional explanation.
- Twitter – Create a hashtag for your learners to follow so they can share their own learning insights.
- YouTube videos – Short and well-scripted videos can be exactly what you need to convey your learning points.
- Flipboard – The recently added ability to create your own magazines means that your mobile learning can incorporate a centralized repository for timely information about your industry. Have your learners subscribe and curate a collection of the latest cutting-edge articles for delivery to their mobile devices.
- Polling – On-the-fly polling apps like polleverywhere.com can foster learner engagement and gain valuable feedback from learners on what’s working, what doesn’t, and where they are getting “stuck.”
Your mobile learning strategy should be one that relies on components that will grow with the rapidly expanding mobile device marketplace. An m-learning strategy that considers the constraints of mobile devices while putting the needs of the learners first will ensure that your training resources are managed wisely.