Tag Archive | Mlearning

Effective User Interface Design for Mobile Learning

by Noleen Turner

Sample mobile learning user interface developed by AurionWith the explosion of mobile learning many of us are now in the position of creating brand new mobile e-learning programmes or transforming existing e-learning content to mobile.

*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?
  • Don’t overload functionality, features or content – just focus on what is necessary to get the job done.
  • Simple functionality will enable you to create a straightforward and easy to follow user interface.
  • Structure information so it can be easily accessed – learners expect to get the information they need with just a few taps.
  • Group similar topics together. The Learning Coach has a useful blog post on visual grouping.
  • Keep the screen uncluttered and use clear screen titles so learners won’t misinterpret visual cues.
  • Emphasise menu items already clicked (change colour or attach bookmarks).
  • Design for a low error rate – remember that selection errors on mobile phones are higher than desktops so surround selection areas with white space so that a learner can easily tap them and invoke the correct action.
How did I get here?
  • Create a visual trail as learners move through the content. For example, highlight a section already clicked on or use a “breadcrumb trail” so learners can track their progress through the programme.
How can I return to where I once was? 
  • Use navigation buttons to allow movement between learning units.
  • Ensure some navigation menus are visible throughout the entire course.
  • Provide Back buttons or Menu buttons to return to a map of choices.
How far have I gone?
  • Include a screen ID such as “Screen 2 of 24” to inform users of how far they have progressed through a lesson and how much there is left to do.
  • Use the word “screen” rather than “page”.
  • Group similar content and create intense learning nuggets rather that one long course – nobody wants to see “Screen 3 of 60”.
Where else can I go?
  • Use clearly labelled navigation buttons to help learners orient themselves.
  • Make sure navigation buttons are easy to find.
  • Stick to simple touch tap or swipe commands to manage navigation between screens (for now). Don’t assume that everyone knows how to use all the interface features of their smartphone / tablet – e.g. pinch open gesture to magnify text.  According to Josh Clark, author of Tapworthy: Designing Great iPhone Apps, most people don’t know about the more obscure gestures that work on some mobile phones.

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
W3C
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

What is MLearning?

by Noleen Turner, Marketing Manager

Mobile devices

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
  • Laptops
  • Tablets eg. iPad
  • PDA (personal digital assistant)
  • Kindle
  • Ipod
  • 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).
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