Apr 22, 2013, 4:19 PM
What have we learned about creating/migrating training content to be used on mobile devices? With the advancement of mobile platforms (enhancements to smartphones and tablets), we are finding the power to harness information at anytime, anywhere, and at the touch of our fingers! While Web-based, desktop training or eLearning has been the traditional format for course deployment, an evolution in mobile computing is emerging that ushers in the realm of learning “on the go.” Thus, eLearning evolves into mLearning or Mobile Learning. Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL) defines mLearning as “Leveraging ubiquitous mobile technology for the adoption or augmentation of knowledge, behaviors, or skills through education, training, or performance support while the mobility of the learner may be independent of time, location, and space.” Whether we are looking for directions; in need of instructions; meeting through Facetime /Skype, or we are collaborating with our peers through social networks, information is conveniently at our fingertips.  Smartphones, mobile browsers, access to mobile videos, and social networks, put the endless possibilities at our fingertips when it comes to informing, performing, and accessing content on the go. Mobile learning is unique to traditional eLearning in its ability to offer formal and informal, highly collaborative, or individual engagement all at once. We can access and share information through mobile technology in a variety of ways: Social networking Web browsing Texting Video Camera Podcasts QR codes GPS and maps When it comes to training, all of the above features share a common thread–information access and collaboration.  While for the most part, training through mobile devices can be experienced as informal training, it remains to be seen the potential for formal training to be transferred to a mobile environment.  So where does traditional formal training fit into this scenario?  Most formal training through coursework is provided on Web-based platforms through the use of an LMS from our desktop computers.  Therefore, it seems as if eLearning would migrate seamlessly into mLearning deployed with an internet connection on a mobile device.  Sounds simple, right?  While great strides are being made in mobile training, there are still many challenges that need to be overcome and consistently addressed across platforms.  One size/design does not fit all, and many devices do not support the expressive content that can be obtained through the traditional Adobe Flash outputs.  The challenge is in the development of content that is highly interactive and compatible, consistently across all mobile browsers. Additionally, considerations such as touch screen enabling, video playback, and animated and interactive elements, including the need for mobile-ready LMS platforms and SCORM compliance, is still in development and not quite ready for prime time.  While great strides are being made through the initiatives of ADL and other research operations, we are not quite ready to make mLearning a primary choice for formal training. With the current mobile platforms including iPhone, Android, Blackberry Torch, and HP Palm Web OS, challenges exist in the development of training.  Desktop-based eLearning developed in Adobe Flash does not translate well to mobile-based learning environments because these mobile platforms, as of now, do not support Flash Player.  So, what is the best solution for development that provides the same engaging interaction that can be appreciated through Flash development?  The current solution to multi-platform mobile distribution lies within new programming technology found in HTML5.  While HTML5 is a viable solution for content that will present in all mobile platforms, perhaps the drawback to this solution lies within the compromise of reduced expressive content.  Additionally, Flash developers must use authoring tools that publish to HTML5 format, (Captivate, Articulate Storyline, for example) and they must learn to program and develop courses using newer, more complex  programming strategies to accomplish the same interactive tasks and end results of the intended design.  While HTML5 is still in its infancy, it is being steadily introduced into a variety of authoring tools and because of its open source attributes, other technologies have the opportunities to enhance their applications to work with HTML5 as well as offer up conversion enhancements.  Adobe is already doing this with Flash. Some known challenges with HTML5 development: Inconsistencies with video playback across all mobile platforms (support for ALL video components is lacking). Most of the eLearning content currently existing is developed and deployed with Flash technology which is not compatible with most mobile browsers and HTML5 converters are not consistently adaptable or readily available yet. Only a limited number of authoring tools are available to publish to HTML5. Learning curve to HTML5 development versus more control and comfort with Flash While HTML5 is compatible across mobile browsers and platforms, it is not currently implemented consistently across desktop browsers making development for complete and universal training solutions a challenge. While mobile learning provides a great opportunity for learners to experience convenient on-demand access to training, collaboration, information, the benefit of formal training that includes evaluation, certification, and reporting options are still best served in the traditional environment of the desktop and the laptop.  Here are three steps you can take to prepare for the transition to mLearning: Identify: How will mobile learning benefit your organization? Are their opportunities to offer support in the field for mlearning? How can your team use mobile technology for collaboration? Evaluate: What are your current authoring tools? Are there any updates or upgrades to your software that support mobile technology? Consider adding new mobile-ready products and tools to your existing authoring arsenal Experiment: Test your current developments on various mobile devices to observe firsthand the operability/inoperability of your current content. Experiment with HTML5 converters available and test. Many new mobile ready software programs are available with trial versions. Give them a whirl! The future of a total mlearning structure of training is right in front of us and being explored, tested, and is evolving…right at our fingertips.  For more reading on this topic, check out: ADL’s Mobile Learning Handbook From eLearning to mLearning: The Effectiveness of Mobile Course Delivery (Research by ADL with DoD training)
Apr 16, 2013, 4:19 PM
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