The first week of Spring 2012 played host to an elearning event focused on forward thinking organisations who are making mobile learning work for them. Kate Graham of Ascot Communications went along to find out the details.
'Mobile gamification'. If there is a phrase to sum up the current trends in elearning, then this would surely be it. But what does it really mean? Around 90 attendees from a range of private and public sector organisations gathered at the Forward Thinking event, hosted by Epic, to find out. Mobile learning is on the agenda for most of these organisations and it was encouraging to meet a number who are already successfully implementing it.
Forward Thinking concentrated on inspiring its attendees. The event began with a look at the GoMo mobile authoring tool where the presenters created a mobile learning app in 15 minutes. After watching this live challenge (which was successful) attendees seemed excited about the potential to easily create their own mobile learning. Graphic, image driven Moodle sites then showed that an LMS can be visually engaging. Case studies from the NHS, a number of universities and the publishers Collins demonstrated how mobile learning is already working in practice.
Here's Lars Hyland on some of the examples of mobile learning
Mobile gamification: The reality
Sam Taylor, elearning manager at Barclaycard and director of the eLearning Network, provided further inspiration and an explanation of 'mobile gamification' in her presentation. And the reality is exciting. She's developing a replacement for classroom training that is already games based and will now be redesigned for staff on mobile devices. Given the context of the risk averse financial services sector it's pretty ground breaking. Most of the elearning in Barclaycard is mandatory, but this new game will be an optional part of their induction programme with a 'pull' not a 'push' approach. Taylor hopes it will harness staff enthusiasm for personal smartphones and tablets so they are motivated to try the game for themselves. She's deliberately chosen a topic that carries low risk in terms of security and commercial sensitivity to help manage the internal challenges of sign-off and buy-in. Ultimately she hopes it will help shift perceptions about elearning and development within the organisation.
Listen to an interview with Sam on the project
Mobile learning basics
The sessions highlighted several key considerations when it comes to the basics of mobile learning.
- Agility is key. Jonathan Satchell included a sensible word of warning in his opening address; the future of mobile is an uncertain one. Usage patterns are changing almost as quickly as the technology itself. Blackberry use is declining, Android is up and Apple remains popular. And who knows with Windows mobile?! Taking an agile approach and considering multiple platform publishing is important.
- Mobile isn't always the answer. Marcus Boyes emphasised that we should only use mobile content if it fits the need of our particular project or learning requirement. This was refreshing to hear as mobile isn't necessarily right for every learning intervention.
- Substance over style. Boyes stressed that mobile content shouldn't be too image or media rich so the user experience is not compromised. Navigation should be at its most simple with an almost minimalist approach. If the screen resolution is only 240 x 320 then there's no need to over complicate the visual impact of the learning.
- Consider your LMS integration. Some mobile learning does not require any tracking. But if it does, can your content use be tracked in your LMS? Also, a seamless experience would include bookmarking so learners can pick up where they left off on any device. Can you facilitate this? These are considerations to address from the outset.
Here are some thoughts from Marcus Boyes on getting started in mobile learning
The main message of Forward Thinking was that mobile learning has moved out of the ideas phase. There are going to be a few twists and turns with both the technology and how we best use it for learning, but it's exciting that these ideas are now becoming reality.
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Kate Graham is director of Ascot Communications. For more information on future Forward Thinking events, visit www.epic.co.uk