Technology & Resources
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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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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!
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
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…
| 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.
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
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.
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!
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
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.
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.
Urban Planet: https://mobiledevelopmentintelligence.
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 email@example.com