by Noleen Turner
*A friendly word of warning to those involved in ‘conversion’ projects – mobile is different to traditional web – and your mobile learning programme won’t work if it’s just a regurgitated experience. Mobile learning is micro-learning, designed for short bursts of activity – your learners are likely to access it while on the job, performing a task, or in between other activities. And learners need to be able to access it via a range of mobile learning technologies which are likely to include smartphones and tablets.
But I digress…and to get back to the original point how do you design an effective user interface for mobile learning? And how do you manage navigation, usability, and aesthetics ensuring that the transition between screens feels natural and that users know where they are at all times during the programme?
LearningSolutions Magazine recently published an article entitled “From e-learning to ipad – how to adjust the user interface”. In the article they consider how the user interface design contributes to
the success of a learning mobile app – one in which the user interface enhances and eases the learning process.
According to LearningSolutions, the layout you build for your mobile learning app must enable users to answer these five questions:
- Where am I?
- How did I get here?
- How can I return to where I once was?
- How far have I gone?
- Where else can I go?
In response to these questions I’ve tried to come up with my own tips for optimising the mobile learning interface:
|How to improve the experience|
|Where am I?||
|How did I get here?||
|How can I return to where I once was?||
|How far have I gone?||
|Where else can I go?||
And finally…don’t forget to test your user interface
Once you design an interface, make sure you test it with a sample group of learners, checking how long it takes to complete the learning, how easily they can navigate the learning, how many navigational errors they make etc.
Useful resources for designing mobile learning
iOS Human Interface Guidelines
http://thatcoolguy.github.com/gridless-boilerplate/ guidelines on HTML5 & CSS3 topics
10 Tips For Designing mLearning And Support Apps
From e-learning to ipad – how to adjust the user interface
Ten things to think about when designing your iPad App
by Noleen Turner, Marketing Manager
We’ve all heard the buzz-word Mlearning but no one seems to agree on exactly what mobile learning is, and how it differs from elearning.
Mobile Learning Consultants Float Learning define Mlearning as: “Mlearning is the use of mobile technology to aid in the learning, reference or exploration of information useful to an individual at that moment or in a specific use context.”
Meanwhile the eLearning Guild describe Mlearning as: “Any activity that allows individuals to be more productive when consuming, interacting with, or creating information, mediated through a compact digital portable device that the individual carries on a regular basis, has reliable connectivity, and fits in a pocket or purse.”
From my perspective, Mlearning is about:
Delivering learning content and experiences to learners when and where they need it. It is learning that can be accessed at any time and any place to support performance. Typically Mlearning is accessed via a mobile device that facilitates just-in-time learning and on-demand learning. Mlearning can be formal or informal, structured or unstructured. It is flexible, self-paced and self-directed. Mlearning is driven by the learner, rather than the technology learners use to access it.
Many people are trying to predict the technology winners of the future – in other words which platforms will become favoured for Mlearning delivery. Instead, we should be focusing on developing Mlearning that is platform independent. Have a look at the 22 joint-nation Mobile Learning Environment (MoLE) project currently working to create a platform independent set of tools aimed at learning collaboration and information sharing on mobile devices.
So what kind of technology does Mlearning involve?
Mobile learning is supported by a variety mobile devices and technologies that facilitate the delivery of documents, presentations, multimedia, notifications, news, assignments, quizzes and educational courseware that can all contribute to Mlearning. These include:
- Smart phones eg. iPhone
- Tablets eg. iPad
- PDA (personal digital assistant)
- Personal media players eg. iPod
- Gaming devices eg. xBox 360.
While certainly due careful consideration, Mlearning should not focus on the technology it runs on – rather the single most important aspect of Mlearning is the learner – it’s a combination of how, when, where they access the learning content and what they do with that learning content that really matters.
So is Mlearning just Elearning on a mobile device?
It’s a BIG mistake to think that Mlearning is simply Elearning on a mobile device, and an even bigger mistake (and often costly one) to assume you can simply transport existing Elearning to make it work on mobile devices.
Mlearning requires a different pedagogical approach to Elearning for a number of reasons:
- Access: the way learners access Mlearning is different to how they access Elearning (e.g. mobile phone and PDA screens can limit the amount and type of information that can be displayed versus office-based desk-top computer).
- Short courses: Mlearning is also best suited to short bite-sized learning courses, theory, information relay rather than long or very practical based courses. No one wants to complete an hour long learning course via a mobile phone or PDA.
- Less structured/less formal: Mlearning is often less structured than traditional Elearning which often sets out specific learning objectives.
- On-demand: Mlearning is more about just-in-time and on-demand learning at the moment it is needed (think a repair worker out on a job who can access a quick check-list of ‘to-dos’ when they are actually on the job or the Bloom Liverpool Project – a fantastic example of delivering mobile learning to taxi drivers) whereas traditional Elearning is more about comprehension and retention. With Elearning, learners are expected to learn information and retain it for a later time when they will actually apply it on the job.
- Assessment: Mlearning requires a whole new strategy for assessment. Traditional Elearning often includes a final knowledge check / assessment with the initial results recorded on an LMS but given that there is often a time delay before the learner is actually meant to put the learning into action, it can be difficult to measure and evaluate long-term behaviour change and the effects on the business. The time between Mlearning taking place and the learner putting what they have learned into action is relatively short, so it can be easier to measure behaviour change and impact on the business.
What makes good Mlearning?
- Bite-sized short chunks of learning
- “Just-in-time” “just-enough” or even “just-for me” learning
- Easy to use
- Practical and contextual
- NOT elearning delivered on a mobile device
- Informal – on the go learning
- Interactive (including appropriate opportunities to share knowledge)
- Knowledge distribution rather than knowledge presentation
- Portable – can be accessed anywhere the learner goes with their device
- Platform independent (however this is still somewhat aspirational).
by Lee Reilly, Senior Web Designer
My first real foray into the realm of coding over a decade ago pertained to making a text box on my page a solid colour, positioning it to the right and making the text white. After much musing (by which I mean searching around the internet) I fumbled a solution and had inadvertently coded something! In this case it was a <div> container to hold my text, which was aligned right and coloured accordingly. The beginnings of my first HTML site, though perhaps not as grand as I might have liked.
Over the years my HTML and CSS skills have improved, as has my understanding of the underlying processes involved. With the upcoming publication of the highly anticipated HTML 5 specification I find myself feeling like I did over a decade ago; is the difference between HTML 4 and 5 so great that I must start creating little text boxes on a page again in order to understand this new version?
The answer, mercifully, is no. HTML 5, in its simplest form, is a revised version of HTML 4. Sure, it has the ability to be so much more, but it does not have to be. I could take the latest project I am working on, amend line 1 to <!DOCTYPE html> and I would have an HTML 5 project. I would obviously not do that as it would be cheating and not advisable for compatibility of content within that project.
The real power of HTML5
The real power of HTML 5 (and CSS 3) comes from the improvements within. HTML 5 is created to improve the interoperability of HTML based documents. This means it is designed to work across multiple platforms and software setups. Numerous elements have been added such as <article>, <header>, <footer> and <section> to make the lives of developers easier. If nothing else these new elements reduce the quantity of <div> elements required for layout. These and other elements have been created to help add meaning to the content within. An example of this would be creating a news article:
In HTML 4 I might create something like:
<h2>Why am I making this site in HTML4?!</h2>
In HTML 5 this could be created as:
<h2>HTML 5: That’s the ticket!</h2>
The benefits to creating this in HTML 5 are two-fold. First, there is less coding involved. Second, and more importantly, the elements used are created for the purposes illustrated; <article> is used for independent, self-contained content and <date> is used for defining dates and times. The freedom that HTML 5 allows in creating element names might at first make it appear to be less structured and potentially more prone to variation between developers. What this flexibility does, when combined with new elements and attributes, is allow for greater control of structure.
Can it make a difference?
Everything mentioned above give HTML 5 the potential to improve the way websites and web apps are built. The real power of HTML 5, however, comes from its integrated Application Programming Interfaces, or APIs. They have been designed to make developing web apps easier across multiple platforms. These include new APIs for audio and video, which will act to provide a uniform (and non-flash based) approach to getting rich media easily on to the web. Great in theory but these are still a long way off being perfect. In its current incarnation, HTML 5 has no full cross-browser support for video file formats. This means if you were to use the <video> element in a project today you would need to encode your video as both mp4 and ogg file formats to ensure all modern browsers would play them; a large overhead to say the least.
When evaluating how good HTML 5 is we must consider that it is still only a draft specification and elements and attributes are still subject to change. That said, it has the potential to deliver on numerous fronts and the thought of a fully interoperable web app or website across numerous platforms, complete with rich media and animation without the need for user-installed plugins makes its success all the more appealing. So much so that we have already begun project work using HTML 5. These E-learning projects have been designed to work cross-platform, from the traditional desktop E-learning to tablets and smartphones (so called M-learning or mobile learning). The benefit of using HTML 5 as the backbone is that the same pages are served up to each platform, the only difference being how they are styled. This technique of catering for different platforms using the same pages is called responsive design.
In future blog posts we will look at responsive design as well as the hugely anticipated <canvas> element in HTML 5 and its potential for usurping flash for cross-platform animation. We will also look at what new features CSS 3 brings to the party.