Mobile learning – where’s it really at? The debate!
Everyone’s talking about mobile. But just how much of a priority is it for L&D departments in financial services? We had a room of those very people on Thursday. So we asked them….
Q1: With so much existing content out there how easy is it to make compatible for mobile?
AJ: You can convert it but most important question is WHY are you converting it? What is the context of the learning that’s going to take place? Context is king. Who your audience is must be considered too.
There are conversion tools out there you can use, like Articulate’s Storyline, but mobile is still at its very early stages. It’s not very easy to convert existing content so the focus should be on mobile learning in new projects rather than converting old one.
RH: A lot of existing content that’s already out there is very detailed and complicated with Flash etc, which makes conversion difficult, so it’s often better to start again.
PP: The world around us is changing. We talk about ‘mobile’ as a generic term, but there are differences between mobile devices too. Tablets present a different medium, and different opportunities, to iPhones and smart phones. Tablets are still very, very new. It’s hard to believe iPad was only launched about three years ago.
AJ: Corporate environments aren’t designed around people having one standard type of device. To develop and deliver the same learning for multiple platforms – laptops, iPhones, iPad, Android, other tablets and smart phones – would be very expensive. It can be done but it comes down to budgets.
Also there is still the ongoing issue with connectivity. We talk about mobile learning being available everywhere so people can choose exactly when and where they do their learning but when I come up to London on the train do I have 3G signal for much of the way? No I don’t! That will likely change with 4G but we’re not there yet.
PP: I think it will go the way of downloading course when online, working offline on a mobile device, then all the data being uploaded again when back online. Storyline will play offline.
2. How does mobile effect eLearning design?
PP: There are two considerations here. 1) stuff we’ve got already we want convert to mobile and 2) what is the best way of using the new technologies of mobile devices to create incredible eLearning, because there is no doubt mobile presents us with huge potential. As Adrian said, then you have the issue of cross-platform content. What you develop for the iPad won’t work on Android etc. How do you overcome that without it costing a fortune?
RH: Where mobile is good is the technology lends itself perfectly to breaking courses down into bitesize pieces of learning. Small chunks of learning often repeated is regarded as the most effective way to learn and mobile gives you that ability.
We’re also very happy to scroll now on touch screens, whereas scrolling has always been a no-no for computers. This gives us opportunities to get away the traditional from ‘click next screen to continue’ format. It also raises the question where does the LMS fit in to this?
AJ: Mobile’s been a game-changer in user experience. People now expect things to be a lot slicker, more impressive and easy to use as expectations been raised by apps etc. eLearning can still feel clunky in comparison. Mobile’s bitesize nature means we have to focus what’s really key to what the learner wants to achieve.
Yes we can deliver mobile content on HTML5 but you may have to compromise on functionality. Is Flash dead? No. It’s in transition period. Over the next 3-5 years Flash content will still be produced, so if producing for desktop why not use Flash? However if I was building content today would I bear it in mind at some point need to be converted? Yes I would.
PP: People are used to consuming tablet technology, where there’s often not even a user manual, so there’s a user expectation for eLearning to be equally intuitive. There’s a race to find really good mobile tools to develop good mobile learning. Storyline’s been a huge success but it is definitely going to be a field that’s going to become more competitive.
Q3. What is impact of TinCan (XAPI) on mobile?
PP: TinCan is more in ‘real language’ in that it uses subject, verb & object so it makes it more flexible. TinCan isn’t specific to eLearning; the idea is it’s compatible across all kinds of platform and media.
RH: It enables you to separate learning from management so the LMS becomes a record management system.
AJ: TinCan is still very new. It will be interesting to have this conversation again in a year and see where we are at with it. It has definite flexibility.
Q4: Does mobile learning offer more of a security risk?
PP: I think it’s more of perceived threat than real. If you lost your phone you would be more concerned about someone accessing your emails, address book etc than the fact you have piece of eLearning on there? In a way it’s no different to what you’re doing logging on to your company LMS on your laptop from an external wifi source?
Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) is being talked about more and more and there are things company IT departments are doing to make device content more secure so that if you do lose your device they can lock it down remotely, all that sort of thing.
RH: It’s early days but there are things like screenlocks, encrypted data, apps than uninstall themselves if not used after certain time etc, which are trying to make mobile more secure.
Q5: What are your conclusions on where we are with mobile learning?
PP: Mobile learning is informal learning and most of us are learning through our mobile devices, whether that’s smart phones or tablets, all the time. It’s what we do in our leisure and down time; look at stuff on our phones and iPads, everything we read is all learning.
RH: Do you have an anxiety attack when you leave the house without your phone? Why is that? It’s because we use it for everything and we take it for granted that if we don’t know something we have an immediate reference tool. Who has maps anymore?
Just from this discussion in this room I’ve been surprised at how few organisations are even considering mobile learning when it’s considered such a big thing. There was a programme on BBC Radio 4 this week about how social/mobile has evolved journalism and I think there are parallels there to eLearning – click here to listen to the programme
AJ: Mobile certainly presents lots of opportunities. The technology industry is focussing on content but learning doesn’t always have to be eLearning content, it can be going and finding stuff, linking, collaborating elsewhere on the web. It doesn’t have to be so formal. We are all mobile consumers of learning now.