Thursday, August 25, 2011

Mobile Learning and Interactivity

Does mobile learning need interactivity? Even more so, says Janhavi Padture, one of the invited speakers at Washington Interactive Technologies Conference, hosted by SALT (Society of Applied Learning Technologies). I talked to her to get her take on the subject.

Mobile content is short-duration, small-screen. Why bother making it interactive?
JP: There is inherently a greater chance of distraction since the learner is on the move. So the need for delivering engaging content is even greater.

Give us examples of interactivity on mobile devices.
JP: Real time polling, games, interactive diagrams.. there are several more.

What are some of the technology challenges in mlearning?
JP: Course designers must understand the differences in the various mobile devices, operating systems and browsers. There are many implications. For instance, the languages for native app development differ based on OS, iOS uses Objective C, while RIM and Android both use Java, but different SDKs of that! Or for that matter the media supported by browsers is different. Firefox doesn’t support H.264 format, while Safari will only support that, and Google introduced the new WebM standard but supports both WebM and H.264 formats. So then comes the debate of whether Native or Web apps and Flash or HTML5.

So, is there a ‘right way’ to design interactive content for mobile devices?
JP: There is no right or wrong. The best method is to come up with a checklist of requisites for your mobile learning interactivity. For instance, is this a performance support job aid where internet connectivity cannot simply be assumed? If so, native app makes sense. If you would like to develop once and deploy on multiple devices and desktop, you are probably better off with HTML5 web apps. Or if you must have stunning visual effects probably Flash is the best option today. As one attendee rightly pointed out, in order to be compatible with old versions of desktop browsers they decided to go with Flash. I presented this decision process as a simplified visual aid as we talked through each scenario.

What are the ideal characteristics for mLearning interactions?
JP: Best mLearning courses are modular, interactive and non-linear. There is the ability to selectively render content. There is a good balance of text and media content. Performance tracking is supported (with SCORM). Flash and HTML5 options exist for web apps.

What tips did you share for developing mobile learning interactions?
JP: We talked about Edumercial, i.e. extending the concept of commercials to education, and how that is so relevant to mobile interactions, because just like commercials it needs to be short and it needs to stick.

We also talked about videos & animations make great interactivity components for mobile as long as used effectively and not excessively.

Thanks and hope you enjoyed the conference.
JP: Indeed. Not surprisingly Government sector representation was the highest among attendees. It was good to interact with them and exchange views.

1 comment:

  1. The handouts for Mobile Learning and Interactivity can be found at