M-learning – be careful – a 7 point primer
Warning – market’s a mess
Anyone who says cross-platform, m-learning content development and delivery is easy, is lying. A wander round the Learning Technologies exhibition induced a rash of promises that were at best economical with the truth. Mobile leaning vendors seem addicted to the word ‘YES’ in answer to any question. It ain’t that simple. Walk into any mobile shop, such as Carphone Warehouse and witness a fragmented market. Latency, bandwidth, screen size, methods of display, methods of input and the lack of universally adopted or agreed standards – that’s your technical environment. A quick glance will reveal iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone, Symbian and Palm. It’s all a bit of a mess. So be careful about what’s phones are promised.
Early research on mobile learning showed something that is conveniently ignored by mobile learning evangelists. Attention and retention may be seriously affected by small screen size. Few watch movies, read entire e-books or perform long pieces of linear learning on their mobiles.More worrying is research by Nass & Reeves that shows that retention falls rapidly with screen size. This pushes m-learning towards performance support, recording performance and collaborative learning, rather than courses. So be careful about what type of learning you want to deliver.
How complex will your content be? The three letter word ‘app’ covers everything from a simple text feed to complex geo-location, camera integrated applications with serious internal logic, interactivity, games and media manipulation. This is not easy in web apps, so be clear about the exact functionality of the apps you want to deliver. You may end up with some very limited options.
Managing through LMS/VLE
You have to consider whether you want integration with your LMS/VLE such as Moodle, Totara or Blackboard? M-learning isolated from your LMS/VLE may be difficult to justify and participation in the LMS/VLE functionality may be desirable. Do you want SCORM compliance?
Do you want the device to control and record performance in more ‘learn by doing’ or vocational applications? This evidence may need to be fed into an e-portfolio. Do you want to use the camera or GPS as part of the learning experience?
Is collaborative learning required? Do you want to integrate social media into your app? Or does the device already do this through their normal phone activity?
Take these seven issues seriously and you’re in a position to make a serious decision about whether you want to enter the m-learning market. Don’t get me wrong, I think this is now happening and would encourage participation. But you have to think context as well as content. Mobile learning may be more suited to some target audiences than others, younger not older, mobile not static, vocational not academic. Go into this with your eyes wide open or mobile will simply mean they take your money and run.