The mLearnCon Conference & Expo takes place June 10 – 12 in Austin, Texas. There are a number of reasons why people look forward to mLearnCon each year. The “Why I’m Looking Forward to mLearnCon” series invites members of the Guild Community to share what it is that makes mLearnCon special and what they’re looking forward to exploring at this year’s event.
In this post we welcome Joe Ganci of eLearning Joe, as he shares why he views mLearnCon as the most important conference of the year.
Mobile learning. Hardly a day goes by anymore that someone doesn’t ask me about mobile learning. I tend to give several interviews a year regarding eLearning and hardly five minutes will go by before I’m asked, “Yes, well, what about mobile learning?” I teach it online and in my classes and every year it has become more and more popular.
The reasons why are hardly surprising. Mobile devices have become ubiquitous. Most of us feel naked if we don’t have our cell phone in our pockets when we leave the house. We tend to curl up on the sofa with our tablets rather than sit in front of our laptops after a normal workday. Our devices have become more and more powerful and our internet connections have become faster and faster. So, yes, it’s natural that we are using our devices to browse the web, answer emails, play games, watch videos, listen to music, and of course to learn something new.
One of the more common questions I’m asked is, “How is mobile learning different from desktop learning?” The answer is, “Quite a bit.” I follow that by explaining what you can do on mobile devices that you can’t do on desktop and vice-versa. I talk about HTML5 and how crucial it is to mobile delivery, and how HTML5 is becoming more and more to desktop delivery as well. I talk about how to enhance learning by using some of the unique features of mobile devices, including geolocation, the accelerometer, gestures and more.
Another question I am often asked is, “Do I have to create two different versions of my learning, one for desktop and one for mobile?” The simple answer in the past would have been an emphatic yes. Mobile devices, especially Apple’s, would not support Flash, and almost every authoring tool published to Flash. On the other hand, desktop browsers didn’t support HTML5 very much, so at the very least we needed tools that would allow us to publish to both HTML5 and to Flash. Several tool vendors, in fact, built that option into their tools, not an easy feat for some of them, and continue to make those options available: you have the choice of publishing to HTML5 or to Flash or to both at the same time. Expect that sometime in the future the Flash option will disappear, but not just yet.
Today, however, we have a new twist on delivering mobile learning: responsive design. Most major websites now include this feature, including the eLearning Guild’s site, www.elearningguild.com. Navigate to the site and you’ll see that the contents of the site will elegantly adjust themselves as you make the browser window narrower. In fact, what you’re seeing is responsive design in action. It automatically moves and changes the contents of the site to the width of the browser in a very elegant way rather than forcing you to scroll left and right or just shrinking the contents. When viewing the site on your cell phone, you’ll still have a rich experience, though the contents will have rearranged themselves to fit the cell phone’s dimensions.
So it is now with mobile learning too. More and more tools, among them Adobe Captivate and gomo Learning’s Suite, give you the option to create your learning and deliver it to multiple platforms, though the two are very different authoring tools. Other tools are following suit soon because the demand is rising for elegant learning solutions on all devices, not just on desktops with mobile being somewhat of an afterthought. In fact, I’m starting to see some of my customers wanting me to focus on mobile first and have the desktop as a secondary option because mobile dimensions and a lack of a mouse make us think harder about how to design properly for mobile, after which we can add features for the desktop version. In other words, it’s usually easier to start smaller and then expand rather than start large and have to scale down.
It’s clear that the desktop and mobile are different in the ways I’ve mentioned but they are also different in another important way: we tire more quickly of staring at a small screen when learning than on a beautiful and large laptop screen or monitor. Therefore, we must take care to build lessons that are shorter and more focused, what we sometimes call just-in-time learning, micro-learning or performance support systems. It’s fun to watch short YouTube videos on our cell phones but most of us would prefer to watch a two-hour Hollywood movie on a larger screen. So it is with mobile learning. Keep the lessons short and sweet. Break up long modules into shorter ones. Learners will feel a sense of accomplishment more often and will be able to rest their eyes more frequently too.
Lastly, mobile learning has changed over the years in another big way. The first vendor offerings allowed us to create very simple lessons on mobile devices, typically free of interactivity and most media. They were heavily text and image-based, both because the devices were a bit underpowered and because our connections were not very fast. Now that both of those situations have been remedied, we are free to have much richer experiences on our mobile devices, with audio, video and animations. We also can now have learners touch their screens to respond to options or to be tested, to drag and drop items across the screen, to zoom in and out, and more. Some tools are now letting you use the built-in webcams and microphones to let learners answer questions by recording themselves and uploading their recorded responses to a facilitator to review, automatically. Cool stuff is happening, but more importantly, better mobile learning experiences are starting to come to pass.
We have been experiencing exponential growth in mobile devices and their capabilities. Not coincidentally, we are also seeing better and richer mobile learning possible as our authoring tools have grown to meet the needs of delivering to mobile devices. Every year mLearnCon has grown by leaps and bounds and it’s about the only place you can go now to learn and experience what you need to do to meet the mobile needs of your learners today. It started small but has now become the most important conference of the year, especially if you are now or in the near future going to be tasked with designing and delivering mobile learning. I can’t wait to see what it has to offer this year!
Learn more from Joe at his full-day workshop and the sessions he’ll be leading at the mLearnCon Conference and Expo this June:
- Take the Plunge into Mobile Learning Design and Development (Full Day B.Y.O.L. Workshop)
- B.Y.O.L.: Best Practices for Mobile Learning Development in Articulate Storyline (B.Y.O.L. Session)
- Comparing mLearning Development Tools