Mobile learning FAQ
22nd July 2015
We've collected the mobile learning questions we get asked most frequently and given you up to date answers so you can understand how to really benefit from mobile learning.
From mobile security to responsive design, we’re going to give you all the essential information you need to help prepare your mobile learning strategy.
What is mobile learning?
Mobile learning simply means using a mobile device to access learning. It involves allowing your learners to access training on their phones and tablets as well as their laptop and desktop computers.
Why use mobile learning?
There are several reasons to use mobile learning as part of your elearning strategy.
- Future proof your learning – creating training that can be viewed on any type of device helps prepare for changes in technology. This is especially important with long lasting courses
- It works really well for performance support situations, when learning needs to be accessed in the situation it will be used. By making it available on the device your staff carry with them they’re never left without access to the training they need
- Bite sized courses lend themselves well to mobile learning, so you get the advantages of chunking your courses like higher completion rates and better retention
- Familiarity – younger staff are already using mobile devices more than ever, and with millennials taking their place the workforce it’s only going to increase in the future
- Self-paced learning is much easier when you don’t need to be at your desk to access it. Reap the benefits of a more autonomous training system by making multi-device elearning
- BYOD, CYOD and other schemes help encourage using mobile devices in the workplace for learning. If you’re already running a scheme like this then mobile learning helps to make the most out of the devices
- If you design appropriately the course can work on any device, one course with all the benefits of desktop and mobile
How does mobile learning compare to desktop learning in terms of cost?
Not too long ago the costs of developing mobile learning had to be added on top of a regular desktop learning package. The tools and techniques that are available now mean that one course can be designed for all devices, making it much more affordable to offer a multi-device solution.
If you need to develop a bespoke app for a specific device and have it use non-standard technology then the costs will increase. For the majority of elearning offering a mobile friendly course no longer means a significant increase in financial commitment.
- The costs of the devices themselves are also becoming less of a factor especially with more businesses encouraging staff to bring their own devices to work. BYOD schemes can offer annual savings of over $3,000 per employee according to a Cisco study.
Does mobile learning present any security risks?
Well-made elearning does not introduce any additional risks over every day work use of a mobile by an employee. If your staff already use mobile devices for work then the existing security measures will work just as well for elearning content.
Even if you don’t already have a mobile security plan in place there are no risks in an elearning course that can’t be overcome with sensible precautions.
What are responsive design and adaptive design and how do they differ?
Responsive design essentially means one course or site can be displayed in a way that’s different and most appropriate for the type of device used.
Adaptive design can mean a couple of things, in terms of web design it often refers to designing content which is aimed at specific devices and their capabilities. For example, when a page is being displayed on a phone with an accelerometer it might allow you to shake the phone to activate a navigation feature.
Adaptive learning is a technique of automatically tailoring your course to the learner’s ability. For instance you might have a knowledge assessment at the start of a course which then sends the learner on the course with the most appropriate level of difficulty for the remainder.
When we’re talking about mobile learning you’re more likely to encounter it in the Adaptive design sense. Responsive design is fast becoming the standard for mobile learning courses.
Do we need to create a different course for every device?
No, if you create your courses using modern web technologies like HTML 5 and use responsive design techniques it’s possible to create one course which you can view on any type of device.
Recently this kind of development has become a lot easier. Many of the leading authoring tools allow you to output content in HTML5 and there are solutions which have been designed from the ground up to provide this functionality.
Adapt was built to produce responsive HTML5 elearning content, so although it's still a relative newcomer to the authoring tools market it has some of the best capabilities for creating truly responsive courses which work on any device.
Adobe knew that elearning providers need to offer responsive content which will work on mobile. The latest version of their Captivate software has been redesigned to allow users to build a course for desktop, tablet and mobile in the same interface, and whilst there are reportedly some bugs with the process it's a promising sign for mobile responsive learning.
Can I show different content on different devices for the same part of the course?
Yes, if a course is designed responsively it will automatically detect the screen size that the learner is using and can then display different content from the course accordingly.
This is particularly useful because different screen sizes often mean different input methods. You’re not usually using a mouse and keyboard with your phone, so you might need different instructions to carry out a task.
You still only need one course, it just holds all the text and images that a user will need, whatever device they access it from.
Can learners use their personal mobile devices?
It’s up to you. Although to get the most out of mobile learning it’s usually recommended to let people access the course from any device. With some systems it’s also possible to limit access to a set of work devices only, or even to individual phones and tablets using their unique identifying serial numbers.
Security can be dealt with outside of the device itself, so there’s no reason for an elearning course to be less secure if it’s accessible on any device.
Are some mobile devices just too small to support effective learning?
Possibly. It’s a good idea to test your course on a variety of devices, as part of the design process a decision will be made on what size of device to support. This step is often overlooked and can make a huge difference to the usability of the course for your learners.
A well designed responsive course can be viewed and consumed on any size screen. But you can only ensure the learning will be effective by considering the small device sizes from the outset and preparing content appropriately.
Can I track the course results like I can with a regular course?
Yes. It’s possible to create courses that are responsive which use the same tracking standards as a desktop only course.
Most courses will be SCORM compliant and many authoring tools now offer Tin Can Api support which gives you even more information from the people taking the course.
Tin Can or xAPI is designed to record even small interactions with the course, not just the results. This lends itself to mobile learning where it’s possible to create types of interaction beyond the usual assessment.
Can the course be used when there’s no internet connection?
It’s up to you. This is an important consideration for areas with poor mobile signal. It’s possible to make a course that can be downloaded and launched from a mobile device. In this case the results can be automatically uploaded to the LMS for tracking when the device reconnects to the internet.
One way of making a course available offline would be to package it as an app.
Can I turn an elearning course into a mobile app?
Yes, but you might want to do some research to see if it’s the best option.
If your users are all using one device, perhaps you supply all your learners with an iPad, then creating a dedicated app could be a good idea. However best practice is usually to create a responsive package which can be accessed via a web browser on the target device, whichever platform its running.
- You only need an internet connection when downloading the app, then it’s available offline
- Elearning courses can be easily packaged into an app by software like Adobe Captivate, however apps created this way are not optimised for a specific device and the same tool allows you to create a responsive HTML5 course as well
- As they’re designed for a specific Operating System they can take advantage of features like cameras which are not always available in a desktop environment
- Getting it into the Apple app store requires a developer account, and deploying without an app store download needs extra investment for hosting, so it does add to the costs
- The content is not as editable or future proof
- Needs to be installed, one extra step to take
So if you’re in a controlled environment where you can manage the devices your learners are using it might offer a good way to get the learning out to everyone. Likewise if you want to take advantage of a specific feature of the device it’s a good choice too.
If you’re in a situation where employees have a variety of devices it’s often more effective to use a responsive design approach to cover many different devices in one go.
Do courses still meet the accessibility standards we require?
Yes, most of the major authoring tools have added accessibility standards support for their mobile friendly course output.
Gregg Vanderheiden, Ph.D
“Disabilities do not change, technology changes” -
Accessibility is important for all elearning, and with 92% of disabled people responding to a 2013 survey using a mobile device, it’s especially important for mobile learning.
The World Wide Web consortium (W3) doesn't differentiate between mobile and desktop accessibility in their guidelines. This only reinforces the idea that building one, accessible elearning course for all devices is often the best option.
We use a variety of authoring tools and learning management systems at Sponge to create engaging elearning that works for everyone. If you’d like to talk about creating a mobile ready elearning course get in touch.