Apr 23, 2012

It is unbelievable to think how much can change in a year, or even a few months, thanks to the growth of the electronics industry. Our personal access to knowledge and information is ever transforming to make it easier for us to get data we need quickly and efficiently so we can spew it back up at the next person we see, making it seem like we know what we’re talking about.

Sure, access to information is changing; Apple’s iPad is making it more fun to touch our information, Android tablets are getting more powerful, phones are getting better screens and even more intuitive. With all this chance you’d think we would be absorbing more, but we really aren’t the sponges we give ourselves credit for. This is probably why we feel we need to share our knowledge as soon as we gain it, so that we don’t lose it immediately. It really doesn’t matter that all these devices keep popping up, claiming to make interacting more fun, but they just display the information for our eyes to look at. What mobile devices require is a method of presentation. Some developers are right on board with this, creating interactive books (Apple’s iBooks platform) and fun games that allow us to learn quickly while absorbing. For years, eLearning has accomplished this by using interactive courses that present information in a way that we must think and apply said knowledge. So, can we not just apply these techniques to a mobile device? It isn’t as easy as you might think.

Interface:

Here is one of the biggest problems with the mobile platform: an ever changing, ever evolving interface that differs from one device to the next. We have phones with screens differing in small sizes; tablets with large displays that range in resolution, some with buttons, others require gestures. This creates a greater problem than eLearning has in the past. All computers basically have the same input and display methods so there was no problem. There are basically two options: Find a way to make it work cross platform, or fragment it to pieces. This is especially the case with Android devices; they’re all completely different with slightly different versions of the same operating system. Some things will work on all platforms, like pinch to zoom and tap gestures, and that is what developers need to focus on.

Pricing:

Price models vary when it comes to mobile applications. Many developers choose to use advertising on a free version of an app, while offering a paid premium that does not. Others may set a higher price with no free version while some even do subscriptions. My suggestion would be to research your clientele; you may find some users want different options. Variety is key, let your users choose the method of payment they like, it isn’t impossible to offer multiple pricing models, but just make sure they are all fiscally beneficial.

Formatting:

With eLearning we are very used to a course model, a simple step by step online class that allows for user interaction and knowledge application. Many use flash, now shifting to html5. Luckily, so is the mobile world. HTML5 will likely be our best friend here, but the question is how to set courses up. Gestures replace keystrokes and mouse clicks so that is important to take into account. Be creative. Make sure the course navigation works with the devices you focus on, and then really go outside the box. Remember what the devices you are developing for can do differently versus a standard computer, you may find ways to stimulate the learner even more, which is always a good thing.

Learning is changing rapidly and we are already seeing universities take on new models for teaching, like MIT’s new MITx program, offering open source learning for free, while only charging for accreditation. I imagine the textbook soon being replaced by tablet devices and mLearning will be right in that revolution. Portable devices are bringing us closer to knowledge and you see it every day; people staring into their phones while sitting on the bus, or having a coffee. Even the 3rd world is being revolutionized by low cost devices like the 100$ Tablet and the XO Pc and Tablet, making mLearning a new way to educate those who previously had no access to knowledge. It truly is becoming a brave new world, but one that I definitely want to be a part of.