Mobile phones have not only revolutionized the communication sector but the eLearning sector as well. With mobile devices hitting the 7 billion mark, organizations foresee a huge potential targeting this learning segment.
In terms of opportunities, it is predicted that the use of smartphones and tablets by professionals for personal work will rise almost to 70% in 2018. The just-in-time approach of mobile learning makes this a popular learning option for learners.
However, before targeting this segment a lot of research needs to be devoted to the learning design and strategies. Unlike most eLearning courses, m-learning offers only a fourth of the screen space for gathering learner attention. Thus, the major question is “What things should I keep in mind when designing courses for m-learning?”
It’s not just about the target audience, as an ID you need be friends with the medium too. Start with learning about the capabilities and limitations. Things like connection speeds will help you determine the technology to use for your m-learning, and also the file size and the type of elements you use.
Remember, your learners will be mobile and agile, and an m-learning module should be available to the learners both online and offline. Knowing about the storage capacity will help you to choose the right elements for the course.
Quick, small, and engaging are the three keywords to focus. A good m-learning content is often chunked up into a series of short 3-10 minutes’ micro lessons (we call these mobisodes). Make use of interaction to ensure that these chunks are engaging and memorable. Refrain from using long videos or high-resolution images, as this would mean a longer loading time and expensive data charges.
Wisely choose graphics for your m-learning module based on the device resolution and size. Encourage the use of scalable vector graphics over bitmapped graphics. This helps to edit each graphic element separately by changing the shape, size, position and adding color.
The resolution defines the final product, use relative sizes for screen elements and sections rather than absolute to maintain resolution. The use of HTML and responsive web design enables you to modify the content presentation and the screen layout according to the device.
Also avoid the use of handheld, personal digital assistant or the smartphone devices with only 128 x 160 pixels resolution for high-quality images. Avoid the use of detailed complex graphics and higher resolution “Retina” type screens.
Decide the mode of presentation while keeping in mind the device and the learner. Always remember it’s not always necessary that all the learners use the same learning medium. They can probably use tablets, fablets, mobiles, PDA,to view the m-learning, especially if their work allows BYOD. So, now you have a limited amount of screen space, to convey the idea.
Mobile devices come in various sizes like cell phones (4-6 inches) and tablets (7-10 inches). The mode of presentation will impact the content presentation but also demands to rework on the interfaces and the layout of items on the screen. Choose the mode of presentation based on the target device. Always make use of large screens as it is easier to read from and retain attention.
Avoid adding multiple interactivities at the beginning of the course as it can create confusion. Instead, start the course with minimum interactivity and gradually build up once the learner is comfortable. Always remember that you cannot have too many interactivities in m-learning because, in some devices, flash-based content may not play.
An m-learning should make use of creative modes of interaction like speech inputs, tilting or rotation, shaking the device, or taking a picture. Interactions with other learners can include both synchronous and asynchronous for communication and collaboration. You can use interactions like skype, wikis, podcast etc. to make it more engaging.
While designing an m-learning, it is important to strike the correct balance between the graphics and text spatially. With restricted screen space, you need to make the best use of the given space to make the course functional and engaging. Also, adding the right amount of spice is important to retain the learner’s attention. The challenge is choosing elements that retain the learner’s interest and add to the course value.
While choosing the elements for your m-learning, always identify an action or a state depicted in an illustration by using popup text or caption labels. Always build up a connection between the text and graphics by placing naturally linked content together.
Corresponding words and pictures should be presented simultaneously rather than successively. Keep practice opportunities with the corresponding exercise. Ensure that the feedback appears on the same page as the exercise or question.
Refrain from the use of illustrations, music, text or environmental noises that do not relate to the learning objectives or the course value. Test your audio files to make sure they actually work in the devices you plan to support.
Focus on creating smaller graphical and text pieces. If displaying illustrations, make use of popup text if possible. You can also add use Flash Lite or similar technologies to implement popups on PDAs or cell phones with small screen size.
An m-learning course has to be intuitive. Provide clear instructions to the learners how to navigate through an m-learning course. Move out of the eLearning mode terminology of ‘Click’ and ‘Hover’ and move to ‘Tap’.
These are a few guidelines that can help you be an m-learning pro, other than following these guidelines the best thing is to put yourself in the learner’s shoes to create engaging m-learning pieces.