It’s A Post PC World
“When we’re talking about the post-PC world, we’re talking about a world where the PC is no longer the center of your digital world, but rather just the device. We’re talking about a world where your new device, the devices you use the most, need to be more portable, more personal, and dramatically easier to use than any PC has ever been.” - Tim Cook, Apple CEO
According to IT consulting firm IDC, 2011 saw “shipments” of nearly 1 billion “smart connected devices.” By 2016 the number will grow to just under 2 billion.
Tata Interactive Systems has been at the forefront of the mobile revolution and is currently engaged in creating cutting edge mobile learning solutions for delivery on tablets & smartphones for clients across the world. Our engagements in various countries with clients cutting across business sectors provide us with invaluable experience and unique insights in the development of mobile learning.
What’s Stopping You From Adopting Mobile Learning?
Most companies are still hesitant to adopt mobile learning for the sheer reason that they are not sure if mobile learning is here to stay or not. In my opinion we need to only look at the explosive sales of smart phones and tablets as compared to sales of PC's. It is clearly not a question of whether to adopt mobile learning but when.
Challenge #1: Technological Challenges
Up until last year flash was being used predominantly for mobile learning, on PC's and certain smartphones. HTML5 has now emerged as a strong contender for a cross platform flash solution even though it is not a designated standard by W3C yet.
Challenge #2: Device Diversity
Mobile learning today needs to be made compatible with iOS, Android & Windows operating systems running on a plethora of devices. HTML5 has been widely adopted and is supported by most of these devices.
Challenge #3: Legacy Content Conversion
A lot of companies are currently sitting on hundreds of hours of existing learning content and want to port this to mobile devices. As part of this conversion there are several cost implications to be considered. Maintenance and hardware costs - if mobile devices need to be supplied to the workforce - may be daunting. Also creating multiple variations of the same learning course to run on different gadgets will multiply the cost.
Challenge #4: Design – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
It is important to understand that the instructional design for legacy learning programs may not be optimized for mobile platforms & smartphone delivery. Creating learning for delivery via smartphones will also throw up several user interface design challenges and it will be important to bear in mind the following points:
- Becoming conscious of screen real estate and as a result focusing on the most critical navigation elements on screen
- Designing learning in smaller chunks allowing users to jump in and out as required
- Getting rid of frills and the tendency to add things just to fill up space
- Designing one or two column layouts to become more adaptable to different screen sizes
- Using less animation unless absolutely necessary to aid learning
- Making visuals more sleek and minimalistic
- Including additional links to allow for social interaction
- Adopting infographics to say more with less
- Maximising the use of gestures like swipe, pinch zoom and seamless scrolls
- Gamifying navigation when content lends itself to it
So What’s The Best Solution?
I have spoken about how your shift to mobile learning will be influenced by the proliferation & diversity of devices, reuse of legacy learning content & cost considerations in executing a conversion.
Is it possible to overcome these obstacles and turn them into opportunities to deliver learning that complements your increasingly mobile & geographically dispersed workforce?
Until recently the choice of authoring tools to create HTML/HTML5 content has been limited to products like Rapid Intake, Adobe Edge, Adobe Captivate 5.5 and Claro.
The big challenge so far has been that of device diversity - one version of a course would not be able to run on every mobile device & platform. The authoring tools mentioned above allow authoring & publishing courses for some devices but for other devices there has had to be a compromise in the design & development process.
Our focus at the Mobile Solutions Centre of Excellence at Tata Interactive Systems has been to create a complete mobile learning ecosystem - one that can effectively resolve the challenges of device diversity, HTML5 authoring & instructional design for mobile devices. This product suite is called LEARNow™. Learning content authored in HTML5 using LEARNow™ features “Fluid Resolution” which adapts automatically to the display size of any device like Apple, Blackberry, Android OS devices etc.
Platforms such as LEARNow™ seek to facilitate a fundamental shift in making mobile learning a reality while keeping adoption costs low.
Nitin’s Top Tips
(If you have questions or would like to discuss mobile learning with Nitin, join us on Twitter @tatainteractive or visit our YouTube Mobile Learning Channel)
The first question to ask yourself is - “What should be converted?” A three-course meal for breakfast is just as inappropriate as a tub of popcorn and large soft drink for lunch. Winning candidates for conversion, both from a visual & duration perspective are:
- Short nuggets—created just for mobile platform or excerpted from existing courseware. Restricted to a maximum of 5 mins duration.
- Video and audio (remember, phones were originally just audio devices).
- Knowledge-checks, including those with extensive feedback to reinforce learning.
- Quick performance support tools.
From the above table we can see that a conversion from PC to Tablets with the original course being in HTML is a likely candidate for conversion to mobile learning. Where Flash courses are involved, converting from PC to Tablets has a greater degree of effort on the visual design and technical design fronts. Finally converting from PC to Smartphones involves the highest degree of effort owing to the small form factors of these devices.
Finally: Testing your masterpiece
Don’t forget to test your masterpiece on the actual targeted device. Not just today, but on every update/upgrade of the target device/browser/platform/OS. Remember, HTML5 is still a candidate and not yet a ‘standard’ designated by the W3C. Hence perfectly working courses/nuggets do tend to break on new upgrades and might require continual monitoring and repair.
[Nitin heads the Mobile Solutions Centre of Excellence at Tata Interactive Systems (TIS).
The six ‘Centres of Excellence’ at TIS foster thought leadership and core expertise for differentiated products & service offerings.
Videos from these Centres of Excellence are available on YouTube]