Designing Effective Mobile Elearning
12th December 2014
Technology is moving at an incredible pace: handheld devices are getting smarter, smaller and cheaper and mobile internet is getting faster and more reliable. With now double the number of users consuming online media through their mobile devices, it makes sense for elearning to also move from the traditional work station to smart devices.
Gone are the days of booking an often over-subscribed learning centre and juggling tasks to clear time in your busy schedule. By leveraging mobile platforms, learners can progress at their own pace and put their training into practice through accessible content and resources whilst on-the-go.
Through these informal methods of learning, you can not only increase the likelihood of embedding the learning but also make it more accessible and engaging. So what sort of things should you consider when creating your elearning for mobile?
1. Less is more.
Think how your learner is most likely to be consuming their media. Often it will be whilst on the train, during a lunch break or between meetings, therefore design your elearning into small, manageable units. In addition, the environment in which they are situated may be filled with distractions, so keep the learning focused, short and to the point.
The learner must be able to stop and resume the training at any point, making it more likely that they will come back to the training more frequently without fear their progress will be lost. Make use of bullet point lists, avoid repetition and ensure images and video are used appropriately (after all, they are there to enhance the learning experience and are not there for merely window dressing).
2. Make the most of your screen capital.
With devices ranging from tablets to phablets to phones, you cannot guarantee a specific screen size. This means that your design will need to be adjusted even between a tablet and smartphone, bear this in mind when designing your content and use it to focus on what you really need to convey.
Remove bulky text blocks and unnecessary imagery to optimise the layout for ease of use and accessibility. That’s not to say that your course can’t pack a punch visually you can replace these items with the use of bold colours and careful selection of appropriate graphics. Take a look at how large companies like Microsoft and Apple optimise their site design to be mobile friendly. You’ll often find a simpler, pared down interface that still offers a pleasing design and good user experience.
3. Adjust your interaction types.
For many interactions, such as drag and drop, access to a keyboard and mouse is necessary. The problem is that we are so accustomed to designing courses for desktop that it’s possible to overlook this or assume access to a touch-screen and simply replace the clicks for taps’.
However, it’s important to remember that there are some users that will be accessing the training without the benefit of a touch-screen, relying solely upon the buttons on their phone. A good rule-of-thumb is to minimise the complexity and frequency of interactions and focus instead on simple interactions with a minimal number of required steps. Navigation elements also need to be simple, clear and easy to access; after all there’s no point designing engaging mobile content if no one can get past the welcome screen.
4. Not all devices are created equal.
When developing for mobile devices, what works for one device may not work for another. To prevent common compatibility issues, avoid the use of Flash components and video codecs that are platform specific, such as .mov or .wmv. Instead opt for HTML 5 animations and platform agnostic video formats like H.264 or .mp4 which are more widely supported by mobile browsers.
Most rapid tools enable you to publish content that is mobile responsive, so remember to adjust your settings so that page elements will automatically resize and then test it on as many devices and browser types as possible.
5. Utilise the additional hardware benefits of mobile devices.
Just as you need to consider the limitations of mobile hardware, you can also leverage the many advantages over the traditional desktop. Take for example barcode reading, GPS and the potential of augmented reality. Each of these could be used to transform the training from a passive experience to immersive and active use within your working environment.
As a delivery platform, it’s also a great way to continually provide the learner with push notifications for news, updates, and course reminders in addition to offers on performance support tips, checklists and toolkits. The caveat of course, is knowing the hardware specification of your learners devices to ensure all of your intended audience have access to the same capabilities.
6. App store or web delivery.
A key consideration at the start of your learning strategy is how you plan to deliver your training as each has its own pros and cons. For example, for proper tracking and reporting, ensure you use the correct SCORM Engine or offline Tin Can wrapper or TinCanJS (for web apps).
The choice of whether you deliver your training as a native or web app is largely dependent upon your audience, content and subject matter, so keep this in mind when planning your delivery strategy.
7. Mobile platform security.
One of the great benefits to mobile devices (i.e. their portability) can also be a source of their greatest vulnerabilities, i.e. security. If your learning portal is issuing news updates and push notifications that could contain sensitive information, or is a source of potential security risks to a company’s network, it is vital to encrypt personal information and use password protection.
If a device ends up in the wrong hands, there is always a risk that a determined hacker will exploit vulnerabilities to access sensitive information, but you can at least make it harder for them to do so.
8. Audio constraints.
When deciding upon content types it is always best practice to consider the environment in which the learning is taking place this could be in a quiet office, on the train or in a noisy venue. To give your audience the best chance to focus on the learning, offer them the control to pause video if necessary and always provide transcripts. It’s an important consideration that not all learners will have good quality speakers or headphones if they are in a public place, so make it easy for them to read along and keep videos and narrations to a minimum.
If you are considering taking your training to the next level, come and talk to us at Marshall’s to discuss your mobile learning strategy. We can guide you through the process, offer insights and provide the ideal learning solution, whether it’s off the shelf or fully-bespoke courseware.
Author Tamar Elderton-Welch