This guest post comes from Nick Floro. Nick is the president of Sealworks Interactive Studios. Nick has over 20 years of experience developing e-Learning solutions, applications and web platforms. He has worked with numerous Fortune 500 companies to help them understand the technology and develop innovative solutions to help their teams and customer base. In 2011, Nick designed and launched a new web application, Launchcycle.com, to help developers and designers simply project management. Nick has won several awards from Apple and Fortune 500 organizations for productions and services. Nick is passionate about how technology can enhance learning and loves to share his knowledge and experience to teach, inspire and motivate.
We’ve seen mobile learning gaining steam over the past couple of years due to the growing popularity of our smartphones and tablets. Most of us can’t walk too far without making sure we have our phone or favorite device with us, whether we’re at home, work or traveling. As of January 2014, Americans used mobile apps more than PCs to access the internet with 55% of internet usage. Source CNNMoney Feb 2014. As of October 2014, 64% of Americans owned a smartphone. Source PEW Research Center Mobile Technology Fact Sheet. As a learning professional, instructional designer or learner we need to pivot and with any new project or development, if your organization supports mobile, you need to start planning, testing and allowing time for mobile delivery of your learning.
Personally, I believe we should be able to use any device wherever and whenever to access content. We should not limit our users to a desktop or just mobile but we can enhance or optimize for each device when appropriate. The primary challenge is understanding how to develop content with the flexibility to view on any device or add to the experience based on the device that is being used at that time. When starting a new project, you should consider whether you want to support mobile, provide an add-on or content that can be optimized to compliment your learning course or classroom. For example, if we have our learners taking an online course to prep for an in classroom training, can we create any support or content that can be viewed on their mobile device to enhance the experience.
One of the big learning trends today was discussed in last weeks #Chat2Lrn about microlearning. You can view the curated transcript at http://goo.gl/ufnJY2 or post at http://goo.gl/B0u3TY. Many L&D professionals connect the mobile movement with mircolearning because we often grab our device when have seconds or minutes in between other tasks. I think that is great but we have also seen a growing trend where our participants are using mobile devices as their primary device. What does that mean? If you haven’t started already, you need to start to develop a mobile strategy or better yet a content strategy which allows your content, tools, or support add-ons to work across multiple devices based on your audience.
There are a lot of exciting ways (and buzz words) that we can use for mobile learning, such as performance support, location based learning, responsive design, personal learning plans, and designing an app to provide a unique experience for your learners. For the purposes of this #Chat2Lrn I wanted to get everyone on the same page by providing a foundation and then in a future chat we can continue to grow the conversation based on your feedback, needs and experiences.
Defining What is Mobile for Your Organization
A first step in getting started, is to define what mobile learning is to your organization. Do you want to support phones, tablets and desktops or do you want to create unique content, apps or add-ons for each device type? Some questions to share with your organization, development team and audience to better define and understand where you are at and develop a strategy.
- Does your audience use mobile devices? What percentage?
- What types of devices are we using?
- How do we create content today?
- Do our tools support HTML output or a app?
- Which platforms do we want to support? (iOS, Android, Windows, Other)
- How often do we update our content?
- What is the normal lifespan of our content or course object?
- Does your LMS or Learning platform support mobile devices?
Your First Mobile Project (or your next project)
At the start of every project, we always start with understanding three key factors:
- Define who is the audience? Who is the primary participant, do they have a mobile device, where will they use it and how will they use it?
- Document what technology will your audience use to interact with the course, content, app or tool? Will they have a slow, fast or possibly no bandwidth based on their location?
- Create a user story that explains how the average participant will use your content, course, or tool.
It is important to document each answer, for each project and have each stakeholder agree with what is discussed and the plan. Ask WHY, when appropriate to better define and understand each factor and response.
HTML5/Browser vs Native App Delivery
With any project, you need to consider the time frame, budget, resources, and type of delivery. When you consider mobile delivery there are 2 primary way to develop a solution:
- HTML5 / Browser Based Delivery requires that you export or develop your content in HTML format and requires a internet connection to download or interact with your content. The biggest benefit to this format is that you can create one primary content set and use responsive design to optimize for each type of device requires less time to develop a custom solution then for each platform. Content resides on a server, so each time a participant accesses the information they automatically see latest version.
- Native Apps provide an amazing experience but typically require more time, budget and optimization or custom code for each operating system that is required to support. The primary advantage is the speed and experience is optimal and a internet connect may not be required if all content is pulled into the app. An alternate format is a Hybrid App which combines the native code on the mobile device but will pull in the content from a server when requested.
If you are using a software package to create your learning, such as Captivate or Storyline or one of the other amazing tools on the market, it is important that you test your concept in the software product prior to starting a project to understand how it works, what features are supported and consider how will you distribute the content. You also may want to consider learning HTML5 or adding a resource to your team if you want to create custom experiences or better control the experience on each platform.
A Few Ways to Get Started?
1. Start Small & Measure – Launch a small, manageable initiative to measure what devices and how your audience is using the content. How? This can be done in a lot of different ways but to get you thinking and started you can email or provide a link in a upcoming course where the learner can download a document in PDF document and suggest they view or use it as a resource on their mobile device. You can also provide a audio, video or link to content. Make sure to test prior with a small group and gather feedback to insure the best outcomes. You can design a pdf with interactive hotspots using just about any tool today from Microsoft PowerPoint, Apple Keynote or Adobe Acrobat to add links over your content. You can actually simulate or use a PDF to provide a simple interactive guide or tool to quickly link to content so that the learner can use as a resource or to dive deeper. You can deliver the PDF by emailing or providing a web link or share via a cloud service such as Google Drive or Dropbox.
Look at adding Google Analytics, if you are not currently supporting it to measure the web link, what type of device was used to interact with the content or site. If you are not familiar, you can learn more at http://goo.gl/uI5TRu. It’s free and requires you to setup a account and then you can add a custom code to any html page to help you measure results.
Below is a example report displaying the browser that was used to interact with the sample site over the past week:
This view demonstrated the break down of mobile device that interacted with the content:
2. Upgrade Your Tools or Add a New One – Do your current tools and development team support creating mobile content? If not, start to think about which tools you want to utilize and how you can start to incorporate mobile into your development process. Remember start small and look at creating a road map where you scale up your solution.
3. Observe, Capture & Brainstorm – Think about what your favorite app whether its a tool, utility, game or resource and consider how you might apply that concept to your learning. Two great examples:
Zite, a knowledge browser that customizes your viewing to your personal topics and learns from what you like and dislike. Its available for free for iOS and Android and if you haven’t used it, take it for a spin. Imagine a app for your audience where they can customize the content or learning they want to focus on, provide feedback, share and automatically see the latest when launching the app. Download and play at http://zite.com
Yahoo!Weather App is a great visual example, using imagery and animation to provide you with the current temperature with the low and high of the day. If you want o view more information, such as the hourly breakdown or next couple of days simply swipe up and it allows you to dive deeper into the weather (content). This is such a simple but beautiful design and experience. For homework, think about how you might apply it to your learning. https://mobile.yahoo.com/weather/
4. Prototyping a Concept – Got a idea or need to demonstrate a concept to your team? Checkout a great mobile app, which you can download for free, used to prototype your concept called Prototyping on Paper or POP. This tool works on your iOS or Android device to capture your sketches of a idea, allows you to add hotspots and then demonstrate on your device how the concept works or share a link and a team member can view in their browser. Learn more and download at https://popapp.in
I hope you found this post helpful and we got your brain thinking about the possibilities. Join us on Thursday, April 23 at 16:00BST/11:00EDT/8:00PDT to dive deeper into Getting Started with Mobile Learning on #chat2lrn.