The State of Mobile Learning - Part 2
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The State of Mobile Learning - Part 2

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Published in AITD (Australian Institute of Training and Development) Training & Development magazine June 2013

Published in AITD (Australian Institute of Training and Development) Training & Development magazine June 2013

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  • 1. Technology & Resources | 024 | JUN 13 | TRAINING & DEVELOPMENT In Part 1 (April 2013 Training & Development), we revealed significant statistics that demonstrated the effect mobile technologies are having on our personal lives and how this is influencing our interactions with our work processes. Based on the indisputable impact of mobile technologies, the question was posed: is mobile learning going to be the great disruptor to education that eLearning never achieved? Part 1 of the article also reviewed common areas where mLearning initiatives were evident, including indicators that the diversity and range of innovation was positive. Our research, however, uncovered some common barriers to adoption. After being put through our reality versus myth filter, it was revealed that many of the cited barriers were based on an uniformed perspective that could be effortlessly addressed by a strategic mindset. In this second part, to provide further context, examples of mLearning initiatives will be reviewed against tips for successful implementation. And finally, to the future – a challenge to anticipate and prepare for the ‘what’s next?’ phase of mobile learning. Before reviewing some examples, it’s a timely reminder that the definition of mLearning being used in these articles acknowledges and emphasises the nexus between mobile devices (smartphones and tablets, but not laptops) and the occurrence of learning that is situated, social and facilitated through interactions with people. Tips for successful implementation: People – Purpose – Design Consider your favourite mobile apps. For me, these are FlipBoard, HootSuite, Evernote and LinkedIn (iPad or iPhone app). Consider the design elements and how you interact with the app. What do these all have in common? Brilliant user experience design, interoperability across the user’s different access points and seamless interaction with others. Smarter, simpler and social. All these apps have considered the user – the real person – they’ve conducted research to gain a deep understanding and empathy with what is important for the user, in specific contexts, on a mobile device. The apps are not just elegantly designed, they’re useful and add value. The design of mobile apps is about location, context, interaction and engagement. Augmented reality is a situated experience1 , not an eLearning click through module, nor a training session that simulates a context – it’s real and sensitive to the time and place where the information is needed. People don’t turn pages, they don’t click – they swipe, they tap and move items with their fingers in a tactile way that has no relationship to computer keyboards or pen and paper. The worst mistake you can make is send me a PDF file to read on my iPhone (particularly by email)! It’s just not going to happen – wrong time, wrong platform, wrong interaction and wrong user experience design. The state of mobile learning – Part 2Anne Bartlett-Bragg 1. Augmented reality is a layered view of a physical, real-world environment where elements are augmented or enhanced by onscreen information. For an outstanding example, try the Commonwealth Bank’s Property App.
  • 2. Technology & Resources TRAINING & DEVELOPMENT | JUN 13 | 025 | Mobile learning design is all about the learner’s experience; it’s also about reframing traditional design and pedagogical frameworks to consider critical elements: 1. Time and place Where are they going to be accessing the content? What might they be trying to do at the point of accessing the learning materials? 2. Relevance Relating directly to context: time, place and business needs. Context-aware data can be activated by GPS and automatically provide immediate access to valuable data or other people. 3. Collaboration Connecting to others – sharing experiences is a key component for engagement with mobile learning apps. Camera functionality enables cataloguing or sharing real scenarios – a valuable opportunity for immediate feedback or assessment loops. 4. User control and personalisation Focus on the user experience – individuals want to personalise what they want to do and when. The infographic ‘Four critical success factors for enterprise mobile app design’ on the previous page, is our interpretation of a model developed from a research project conducted at the University of Technology Sydney, in the Faculty of Education where I was fortunate to be a member of the advisory team. In search of best practice At this point in time, we are still waiting to be wowed by an mLearning case study that addresses the core design principles. None have been forthcoming from Australian educators although we acknowledge this does not mean they don’t exist! Instead, we have evaluated publicly available case studies and apps. Each example will be reviewed based on the criteria in the infographic – how well does it address the key design areas? What else could be added to further enhance the learner’s experience? Example 1: Urban English Device: compatible with 95 percent of mobile devices Urban English has been selected based on the principles of making quality educational content accessible to lower income users in developing countries. English lessons are made available by subscription through local mobile network operators. Each day, embedded audio lessons are sent by SMS (smartphone users can receive video). Since the program was launched in 2010, there have been approximately 100,000 daily users across Asia, the Middle East, Africa and South America. Once the basic program level is achieved, content is segmented to meet specific users, for example, taxi drivers, restaurant workers and business professionals. The biggest challenge for Urban English in these emerging markets is convincing both the mobile network operators and the users that this is a valid learning opportunity. Evaluation: This is not a typical organisational learning initiative; it’s a much larger, more complex mix of local and global partnerships to provide access to those who would not typically have these opportunities. The key design elements that Urban Planet (the developer of Urban English) have executed across complex relationships is understanding the end user, designing not only to their specific needs but also considering the device they have access to. SMS is the lowest common denominator, but never rule it out as an option to reach people in remote areas of access or without smartphones. A level of collaboration, locally based, would enable small groups of learners to share and learn together; however, that may be an opportunity for local educators to organise, not Urban Planet. Example 2: US Coast Guard Device: Tough Android tablets The US Coast Guard has adopted a new maintenance support model that distributes maintenance procedures via Android tablets. The user first logs the maintenance procedure on their device (where they can add photos or videos), and then synchs them to the main on-board computer at the end of their shift. The main computer, when connectivity is available, synchs back to centralised systems in the organisation. A simple yet highly effective version of mobile performance support has received widespread endorsement from all users, with significant cost savings. The next step is to consider options of a more interactive nature; however the challenges of connectivity and firewall security need to be managed before this can be implemented. Evaluation: The initial offerings were essentially just pushing content to people in difficult-to- access locations. The further extensions into video and consideration of collaborative functionality makes the opportunities extendable into a highly engaging and valuable learning experience with direct impact for achieving business objectives. Example 3: A Midsummer’s Night Dream – Explore Shakespeare $14.99 from the iTunes App Store Device: iPad This is the most engaging way to learn about Shakespeare! There are visuals, commentary and audio performances from some well-known Shakespearean actors. The content is divided into three types of interactions: experience, explore and examine. Each area allows you to customise how you want to engage with the content. The additional resources provide ways of engaging with Shakespeare that weren’t imaginable even a few years ago! Evaluation: The content is brilliantly designed; it allows the user to create an individual experience and engage in a personal journey. What could be enhanced? Collaboration – being able to share and interact with others would extend this app into a sensational Shakespearean performance. Example 4: Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) – Brisbane Available free from the MoMA website. Device: iPhone/iPad and Android App MoMA has a selection of apps to address different devices and different contexts. The main app is your tour guide in a pocket! It is Mobile learning design is all about the learner’s experience; it’s also about reframing traditional design and pedagogical frameworks…
  • 3. Technology & Resources | 026 | JUN 13 | TRAINING & DEVELOPMENT a rich resource to plan and search collections, to learn about artists plus it contains other general information. It also taps into all the location-based systems and provides a guided tour of the gallery. There’s more… you can take a photo and send it as a postcard or create a playlist of your own music to listen to as you tour the Museum. And then, you can share it all via social media. Evaluation: Museums and art galleries have tapped into the four critical design factors with ease – to fully experience this app, I’d recommend a trip to MoMA in Brisbane. Be inspired and design all your future mLearning initiatives with this in mind! Example 5: Run that town – Australian Bureau of Statistics Free App from iTunes Apps Store Device: iPhone A late addition to our selection has just come in from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). It’s a game based on real data from the ABS Census that allows you to manage your local area (or any area across Australia). The light-hearted but engaging use of real data tests your urban planning skills (or not!). The App does allow you to share on social media, it also rates your town’s progress against others playing the game and local newspaper articles rate your popularity! Sean McAuliffe’s voiceovers add an element of humour; however I did have to mute the annoying and repetitive sounds. Evaluation: Clever and engaging way to interact with Census data in a scenario-based game. The use of real data and sentiment for projects is an interesting way to understand the local community. A collaborative element that allows multiple users to engage (like a local council) could add an additional level of challenge to the game. PS. You really have to give this game a shot – be warned, it’s highly addictive! Thinking strategically… These examples and case studies have been selected to highlight the variety of ways mobile platforms can be utilised for engaging learning experiences. The challenge is to integrate these opportunities into your overall learning strategies. To achieve this, you need to think differently. You need to think: Mobile first: apply the critical success factors for design and avoid falling into the traditional eLearning design traps. Integration: how will your mobile initiative integrate into your overall learning strategy? Scale: consider how you will manage multiple different mobile devices and operating systems. How will you manage multiple interactions? Prepare for the potential to scale – after all, your mobile learning initiative is going to be more popular than any other course you’ve released! Future-proof: devices are rapidly changing – make sure your design is flexible and adaptable to upgrades. And the future will include … At a global innovation summit held in February this year a number of predictions regarding mobile innovations were touted to become mainstream within the next twelve months. An analysis of these makes for some exciting new opportunities for mLearning initiatives. Here are our top 3 innovations and how to integrate them into learning experiences: 1. Wearable computing There’s a great of deal of hype surrounding Google glasses at the moment, when in fact, wearable computing is already being used! The technology works on chips embedded in clothing, wristbands, and helmets that has localised communication capabilities that can send data to your mobile phone or can be synched with a computer through Bluetooth or a USB stick. The best examples are currently being used in the fitness industry – have a look at the new Fitbit equipment or the JawBone wristbands. These devices track your activities, sleep, walking, stair activity, even sitting and layer that with a number of other factors to monitor your health and fitness. Similar concepts are already in trial in the health industry to monitor people with diabetes or chronic conditions. Imagine how this could be extended to different fieldworkers, healthcare professionals – the learning potential is exciting and almost unlimited! 2. Mobile gamification Gaming is not new, certainly not on our mobile phones! However, fully immersive, augmented reality, scenario and location based gaming takes the experience to an entirely new level of sophistication. 3. Connected screens Next generation mobiles are looking at inter-screen design that enables connected narrative across screens. The use of connected screens as control panels already exists, but taking the concept to allow seamless interactions is expected to dramatically alter how we communicate with friends and colleagues. The technology already exists; watch Corning’s “Day made of glass” on YouTube to understand the potential for connected screens. Conclusion The rapid release of mobile device enhancements is a given and they are expected to include further miniaturisation, increased sensitivity for enabling contextual or location-based activations, refined personalisation of apps plus new ways of interacting with others and our settings. These types of features are ideally suited for designing exciting learning experiences that address the critical design elements: time and place, relevance, collaboration, and user control and personalisation. The message is clear; you can’t just re-purpose existing content for mobiles – if we want to create meaningful learning opportunities we must re-frame our mindsets. New contexts for learning require new models of learning and new pedagogies. Otherwise, we risk further disconnect with the business and disengagement with the workforce. References: Urban Planet: https://mobiledevelopmentintelligence. com/insight#MDI_Case_Study_-_Urban_Planet_Mobile 2013 World Summit Awards – Mobile Anne Bartlett-Bragg is Managing Director of Ripple Effect Group APAC, a leading social business consultancy. She specialises in the creation of innovative communication and learning networks with social technologies. Anne recently completed her PhD which explored the development of social learning networks. Contact via annebb@rippleffectgroup.com