Wednesday, January 27, 2010

How Will the iPad Change Interactive Learning?

One of the things that has always bothered me about m-learning is the small form factor of a smartphone device. The key idea of e-learning is engagement, and the more you can immerse the learner in an online experience the better. The optimal balance of screen size and handling convenience has long been elusive. Now the iPad shows a ray of hope. You get a good size screen that you can hold and carry around easily - just like the Kindle. And it seems capable of doing much more than the Kindle - although it lacks the glare-free e-ink of Kindle.

Sporting a 9.7 inch multi-touch screen, the iPad is supposed to revolutionize the way we surf the internet, watch television and movies, read books and newspapers. Can it revolutionize the way we learn?

As learning professionals we will need to design learning applications that effectively exploit the new capabilities iPad offers. We will have a lot to learn from app developers. It will be interesting to see how app developers render richer applications for iPad - it is almost certain that they will be different from laptop browser apps and smartphone apps. There is a new unlearning and learning curve waiting here for app developers. They need to take advantage of the larger size and touch capabilities while reducing the dependence on keyboard.

With devices like iPad and its competition, which will soon follow, I see the potential for a sea change in interactive learning. If these devices are affordable and ubiquitous, you get a cruicial new property to host learning experiences. The handling experience mimics a book - something learners are familiar with. Two or more learners can easily work together with such devices - with better off-angle display capabilities. Intuitive touchscreens and accelerometers make it easy to allow interaction. Being connected at all times will mean the opportunity to embed social learning experiences in structured learning.

Nearly all advantages of m-learning will be available to users of these devices. No need to be near a laptop, greater mobility, easier access to learning at the point of performace, to name a few. All this without the limitations of screen size. What a blessing.


  1. But is this really M-Learning? A 10" device is hardly something that fits in your pocket! You need some way to carry it, probably a bag, which is probably going to be the same bag that your laptop currently goes in. I for one cannot see that companies will splash out on iPad's AND laptops. Given the limitations of the iPad, they will stick with laptops.

    I agree that the "app" nature of things is going to be a big part of mLearning in the future, but for this first generation iPad, I think the impact will be minimal.

  2. What an informative and positive post Vikas,

    I agree with you that we have a lot to learn from App developers, as an elearning developer I am definitely trying to stay ahead of the curve by evaluating the SDK and Adobe CS4's App format publishing.