This post was written with the support of our Director of Engineering, Misha Milshtein. Misha helps support our clients with innovative ideas that bring their visions to life!
Here we are, right in the middle of mobile learning (or m-learning) revolution, taking our learning on the go. But even if learning can be done on mobile devices, should it? On those smartphones, with their tiny screens? Mobile learning can be a great strategy for many organizations for specific types of content, but any successful strategy is one that is thought through and well-executed. A good consultant will take a deep dive with you to address if m-learning is right for your organization. Here’s a glimpse into some of the consulting the SweetRush team does with our clients when we identify the perfect learning solution for their needs.
The Opening Question
First things first: When our client says “mobile,” we immediately ask a follow-up question: What exactly do you mean by “mobile”?
- Will the majority of the learners take the course on a computer, but you want the flexibility for use on an iPad tablet?
- Or do you truly want a learning experience designed to take place on a mobile phone?
Why do we need to ask these questions? While many innovations have resulted from the rise of m-learning, a few misconceptions have come to light, too. One is the notion that with a single process or a single authoring tool, courses can “work perfectly everywhere.” Or, more fervently, “mobile distribution will automatically and unilaterally answer all the prayers and satisfy all the audiences!” Unfortunately, this is not the case: when you see a course, an app, or a website that “works everywhere,” you are seeing the result of many hours of hard work by development and testing teams. These teams ensure that the end product is formatted correctly and is functional on a multitude of devices, platforms, and screen sizes.
When you develop…
- A website, you have to create code that considers these platform, browser, and screen-size variations. This can significantly complicate maintenance because, when changes are made, these variations need to be considered and retested.
- An app, you may to recreate several versions of the same content to satisfy the requirements of each platform.
- A product that depends on displaying an abundance of tiny details on-screen, you have to apply a different strategy and redesign specifically for smartphones, where tiny details may simply become unreadable.
By demystifying this common misconception, we can now make sure that we’re on the same page with our clients, and look at these two paths in the light of their objectives, content, budget, and timeline.
Let’s Talk Tablets
Once we all recognize that making the end-product work on every platform can be a labor-intensive undertaking, clients often prioritize accessibility on desktops and tablets as a winning strategy for their learning program. And, in our experience, iPads tend to be the preferred device.
Our next step is to explain — and demonstrate — the differences in the functionality and user experience between the desktop and the tablet, and how we strive to bring both experiences as close together as we can. We do this not by simplification, but by constantly pushing the technological envelope, and making sure that both experiences are rich, interactive, engaging and — most importantly — educational. Some of the specific techniques we use are with larger buttons, no functional dependency on rollovers, less content on a page, and mobile-appropriate practice activities.
Hello? We Need This Training on the Smartphone
Naturally there are cases when delivering training via smartphone is the optimal solution, such as for learners on the go, who need on-demand access to quick hits of information to effectively do their jobs. As good consultants, we let clients know that the mobile phone is not an exact replacement for desktop e-learning. We have found m-learning to be a fantastic support mechanism for on-the-job support resources such as a knowledge base, job aids, or an FAQ.
So, how do we make effective m-learning when the platform is so different than a desktop? We take a completely different approach!
- We “chunk” content differently (into much smaller chunks).
- Our designs leverage more non-interactive elements, such as animations with audio, videos, etc.
- Drag-and-drops that we know and love on the desktop just don’t translate well on a phone, so we replace them with more phone-appropriate interactive elements.
- We recognize the use and significance of rich media elements, specifically video, and use them in m-learning solutions to the fullest extent.
Learn more about our approach to m-learning right here on our website. We would be honored to discuss your unique situation and mobile options to support your business initiatives, and analyze the perfect learning solution for you: Give us a call!
Catherine Davis is SweetRush’s Instructional Design Practice Lead. You can read more strategies and tips from Catherine in her free eBook: How to be an Instructional Design Rock Star: Learn the ropes from a corporate training veteran and supercharge your career!