Mobile First eLearning DevelopmentThere is a shift in the web development community from designing an application for the computer first to designing it for the mobile device first. This shift is due to how people are consistently and increasingly using their mobile devices (e.g. smart phones, tablets, TVs, etc.) first instead of using their computer.
I believe that the same shift will occur in eLearning.
Most people are increasingly using their devices as their only means of consuming content, apps and media on the web. Their entire lives are on their device. This means that, for many of them, when they think about learning something new, they use their device instead of their computer.
As eLearning designers and developers, we have to rethink how we develop and present our eLearning experiences. Learning on a device presents many challenges (and opportunities) for both consumers and developers of content.
As a consumer and developer myself, I see many areas which we can improve on when delivering eLearning experiences.
Know Your Audience
Does your organization track analytics on the viewership of your eLearning experiences? Make sure you know your audience and what devices they use to watch your content. If the majority of the users are on tablets or smart phones, then your designers and developers should start designing for mobile devices first.
Designing A Mobile Friendly Experience
Today you can create eLearning experiences that are responsive, which means, they adjust themselves depending on which device a viewer is watching from. Normally, from a design and development perspective, we always start designing the desktop version first. We should reconsider this and perhaps start with the mobile device first, keeping in mind presentation and functionality that is device friendly. For example, a particular button may make a lot of sense in the desktop version of the eLearning experience, but may not make sense when they are learning on a mobile device. Also, because mobile devices tend to have smaller screens, you may have to adjust how you show your content. You may have to zoom in more, use larger font sizes, highlight particular areas with different colors, etc. If the eLearning experience will be watched via devices mainly (or only), then you should consider creating an actual mobile app (e.g. iPhone or Android app).
Context Is Key
Using a device is all about context. What’s the weather like in my area now? How long will it take me to get to XYZ location from this location now? Can we apply this same functionality in the eLearning experience? Can we present different types of content or in a different way based on their location? What about based on the time of day they are watching? Are there other sensors in the phone we can take advantage of to present content in a different way for the user? For example, is the user running while trying to learn something (e.g. on a treadmill), and if so, how can we use that data to custom tailor the content?
Online vs. Offline
If your eLearning experience requires online connectivity and your users are in remote areas that offer slow connectivity (or even no connectivity at all), how will your users learn? What about people that commute on buses or trains and they want to watch and learn while commuting? We should keep in mind “offline” options for our learners.
As developers, we should be testing our eLearning experiences in at least as many devices as our user base uses. If your organization is mainly a Windows computer with Android mobile devices, then you should be checking your experiences in those devices.
The above is just a sample of items we should keep in mind when designing and developing eLearning experiences. Ultimately, it’s not about using the latest technologies for the sake of using them, but for enhancing the learning experience for our users.