Top 21 Tips For Mobile Learning

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The eLearningGuild recently released a great resource “158 Tips on mLearning: From Planning to Implementation”. Very interestingly, in the introduction Chris Benz says – the big question last year was “Should we do mLearning?” The question this year is “How should we do mLearning?” It’s a fantastic change – one that we’ve been looking forward to a few years now.

While the report features some of the mobile learning gurus I already follow, it pops up some new ones to follow. I’ve listed below the 21 that appealed most to me. No surprise that some of these have been covered on this blog too earlier. I encourage you to take a look at the whole set of 158 tips as there are some real gems (beyond these handpicked 21) in there.

  1. Start lean and iterate. You don’t need to launch a perfect app for your first ver- sion. Start with a minimum viable product and go from there. Get user feedback, and grow your feature set based on the response you get from people actively using your experience. Combine this with analytics and you have a powerful one- two punch in understanding what people expect from you. The most important thing you can do is ship your software. Don’t let unnecessary features hold up launch dates.– Chad Udell
  2. Always ask questions and observe. Don’t be afraid of research because you assume it’s expensive and complex. You can get surprising amounts of useful information by simply watching end users in their natural environment, or care- fully asking questions about how they work and what they do. If you aren’t used to research, don’t directly ask what they want – and avoid focus groups because people don’t consciously know what they want and the group dynamic is hard to handle and influences the results. Do show off your design ideas as early as you can. People will suspend their disbelief and act like your paper sketch – or a mockup on the phone – is real, and react in telling ways.– Steven Hoober
  3. Two fields that are about to converge are mobile computing and adaptive-learn- ing software. Companies will use “big data” collected from massive numbers of learners to predict the kind of learning materials a specific learner needs to see next, and what kind of activities and assessments will advance learning based on the learner’s characteristics and responses. – Gary Woodill
  4. Consider the context in which your users work. Not just the default answer that mobile is active, but very specifically. If users are on the factory floor, or in a re- pair shop, are their hands too greasy for reliable touch, or is it too loud for mobile sound to work? A good way to think about this is to consider accessibility needs; we all become “temporarily disabled” when we can’t touch, look at, or otherwise use our devices normally. Then you can use existing knowledge and technologies to meet the real needs of your actual users. – Steven Hoober
  5. When designing for multiple devices, think “intelligent responsive.” Consider op- tions such as simplifying content when needed and adding extra content when it makes sense, changing what is displayed or how it is displayed depending on the accessing device, and you’ll produce training that is effective and impactful no matter how it is accessed. – Paul Schneider
  6. Think about your mobile learners as contributors, not just consumers. Your mo- bile learners often know a lot about their part of the organization, and enabling them to share can satisfy their desire to create and contribute. Enabling content generation also allows you to harness your learners’ knowledge. – Lauren Bonnet and Ben Bonnet
  7. Help your learners feel productive. The psychology of your learners will play a big role in how they feel about your learning content. We know that people like to feel productive, particularly when they are at work. Design your learning con- tent so your learners can feel like they are checking off items on a checklist. – Lauren Bonnet and Ben Bonnet
  8. Start with pencil or pen and paper. Sketching is a vital part of the design process for mobile user interface and user experience design. Use a grid notebook and sketch at the appropriate aspect ratio for accuracy. For maximum effect, use a sketch template to assist you with scale and user-interface elements. – Chad Udell
  9. Every day we talk to and work with others. Multi-user experiences are how our world works, and so how our digital experiences will function whether we want them to or not. Allow for things like arbitrary sharing, over email, SMS, MMS, Facebook, Twitter, or whatever is available. Flexibility like this, which is easy to build into mobile apps at least, allows the user to weave your digital product or tool into the way their life already works. – Steven Hoober
  10. “M” is for multi, not mobile. When thinking about mobile eLearning design, re- member how and why people are going to use the content. Different devices and screens can support different types of learning more effectively. Smartphone de- vices are great performance support tools for example, while desktops and even tablets generally handle deeper, more complex learning well. Sometimes creating courses that you design for each device and that complement each other is the best route to go. – Paul Schneider
  11. Too much that you’ve heard of about designing for touch is wrong, outdated, or personal opinion. Even OS guidelines like the 44px Apple size is a little too small and over-simplified. Instead, follow the research, and design for what we know about how people work with capacitive touch:
    1. Touch targets must be big enough to be contacted by users’ fingers and detected by the touch sensor. Make them at least 17pt (6mm) and prefer- ably 23pt (8mm). There’s no need to make buttons, lists, or other such items larger than about 43pt (15mm) in the smallest dimension.
    2. Make sure your users don’t hit the wrong target by spacing out the targets enough. Measured from the center, make sure nothing else is inside a circle at least 23pt (8mm) across, and if at all possible, 28pt (10mm).

Steven Hoober

  12. Context is all about when and where learners will use your app. This can be difficult to determine, but it is vitally important. It’s not enough to just assume that because your users are mobile, they are in a rush and only want quick access to limited information. Eighty-four percent of us use our mobile phones while at home (source: Don’t as- sume you know where your users will use your application. Get out of the office (or hire someone) and do some testing. If you make assumptions based on when and where you think your users are going to be using your app, you’re bound to disappoint. – Tim Todish
  13. Before choosing a development tool for an mLearning project, you must weigh the requirements of the project. Will your app use the device’s camera? Will you need geolocation? How about the accelerometer? A lot of popular mobile devel- opment tools (minus the native languages) have varying degrees of support for the native APIs of mobile operating systems. Realizing, in the mature stage of a project, that you need access to one of these native APIs and it’s not available can be enough to send you back to the drawing board. – Perry Bennett
  14. Tame your mLearning video assets! Remember the mobile context – interrup- tions, connectivity issues, screen size, browser limitations, etc. Recommenda- tions include chunking segments into clips of less than five minutes, keeping file sizes smaller for download (around 4 MB), publishing to a compatible file format such as MP4, testing to find the best bitrate for the video size and resolution, and leveraging the “interactiveness” of mobile. Curate your searchable video so that learners (and you) can find it when needed.– Candice Herndon
  15. Own the performance support world. Sometimes instructional designers think of themselves as providers of training and assume that performance support is someone else’s job. Mobile learning is all about supporting the learner at
the point of need, which is the realm of performance support. All instructional designers should embrace this new role as performance support providers – or someone else will.– Lauren Bonnet and Ben Bonnet
  16. The easiest way to deliver engaging mobile performance support is via short one- to two-minute videos. MP4 (MPEG4) video is consumable on 90 to 95 percent of mobile devices. – Josh Cavalier
  17. Think of tablets when the mobility requirements aren’t too onerous, when you need screen real estate for data display, or when users will share the screen with others. Or – perish the thought-when you’re actually going to try to give users a course on a mobile device. – Clark Quinn
  18. Build once, deploy everywhere, is a myth. For the last few years, people have been claiming that technologies like HTML5 offer the opportunity to build once and deploy everywhere. The truth is this is rarely the case. Except in the cases of very simple applications, you will almost certainly need to tailor your designs forthe various devices you are targeting. This doesn’t mean one design per device, but it does mean you will need to create a few different versions of your designs to account for varying screen sizes. Responsive web design is a nice way to solve this problem, but it is not as simple as the build once, deploy everywhere myth might lead you to believe. – Tim Todish
  19. You cannot assume mobile users sit down and engage with your digital tool for any amount of time. They get distracted, and interrupted, or decide to complete tasks later when in other locations or with other devices. They expect their data to follow them, so be prepared to save data entered, and even scrolled-to posi- tion and searches. Let all that feed into the display of any other channel when users resume. Have messages and notifications remind users to finish tasks, and set up your success metrics and analytics to track across platforms so you can re- act to the way people actually work, and not panic at all the users leaving a single channel, if they come back later or in another channel. – Steven Hoober
  20. Plan for measurements and metrics. You’re going to need to adjust the ways
you measure success. While your LMS may have some measurement options for mLearning, there are a lot of other options out there. Integrating in-app analyt- ics (Flurry, Google Analytics, Omniture, or others) is a must. Creating a landing page at your site (internal or external depending on your needs) for the app store or MDM/MAM (mobile device management/mobile application management) traffic is a basic requirement. And even using simple eCommerce-like conversion tools like promo codes and integrating a social-media-measurement platform like Hubspot, Hootsuite, or could all be smart things to do. This approach will show you who is sharing content out of your app, and more importantly, behavior patterns that your users are exhibiting while in your experience.– Chad Udell
  21. Marshall McLuhan, the 1960s communications guru, wrote, “We look at the present through a rear-view mirror. We march backwards into the future.” That is why each new technology tries to use the content and methods from the previ- ous technology. Version 1.0 of a technology is mostly about the ideas of the past. Version 2.0 starts when someone starts to develop new applications that use the unique affordances of the new technology. Mobile learning is in Version 1.5. Ver- sion 2.0 is coming soon. – Gary Woodill

As I mentioned in the beginning, the report has some more gems in it, so do go and download the full report here.

158 Tips on mLearning From Planning to Implementation

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