Given that smartphone sales are estimated to exceed PC sales by the end of this year, and mobile Internet users are expected to exceed desktop Internet users soon after, I have finally concluded that the time is ripe for mobile learning.
Heeding the advice of start small and fail quick, I have dipped my toe into the m-learning space by converting an existing online course into a smartphone-friendly format.
While I am no m-learning expert, I thought I’d share with you several tips that I have collected on my journey so far. I call them the 4 S’s of mobile design.
Smartphones have a finite screen width. The going rate seems to be 320 pixels, so making your course canvas that wide would be a good start.
I would also suggest maintaining a small margin on either side of the text to improve legibility.
While show/hide interactions and other bells and whistles arguably improve learner engagement in an online course, they are downright confusing on a mobile device.
I suggest ripping the text and images out of them and running with that instead. I know it sounds boring, but as Tom Kuhlmann said recently:
Learners won’t complain about the lack of interactivity
if the content is relevant.
I believe the primary benefit of m-learning is the very fact that it is mobile. To me, bells and whistles run a distant second to finding out what I need to know when I need to know it.
Besides, if you are relying on bells and whistles to engage your audience, there are deeper problems you need to address.
Yes I know Android sales exceeded iPhone sales last year, but the fact remains many of my colleagues own iPhones. That means I need to account for Flash compatibility.
Given the iPhone can’t play swf files, I have to make sure I either don’t use them or I use an alternative format – potentially HTML5.
Who knows… maybe Apple will do a backflip and start playing swf’s after all? And they might have to, given they are no longer top dog.
Other formats that should be considered in terms of cross-platform compatibility include audio (which I suggest is best delivered as mp3) and video (which I suggest is best delivered as mp4).
I’ve been reading quite a bit recently about the need to keep m-learning short. The general argument is that smartphone owners are a busy bunch who will accept only tiny snippets of information while they’re on the go.
I don’t buy it.
Sure, the mobile device is perfect for on-the-job, just-in-time knowledge and sporadic concept reinforcement – but that doesn’t mean it’s not convenient for longer content too.
For example, I wouldn’t mind working my way through a 30 minute course over two or three sessions on the ferry, especially when my boss lets me go home early to do so.
I rarely enjoy a clear half hour at my desk anyway, with the constant distractions of the office environment demanding my attention. So I might as well take advantage of downtime.
In any case, all e-learning content should be concise. Whether it’s mobile or not is a moot point.
So according to yours truly, m-learning should be slim, simple, swfless and short.
Do you have any tips of your own? Any that you care to share would be gratefully received – even if they don’t begin with an S!