A typical eLearning program consists of 30 to 45-minute interactive sessions, with additional data provided for later references. Most course materials are delivered through audio, images, video along with a few lines of text. Aided by powerful interactive possibilities, the entire course is kept on track by a Learning Management System (LMS).
It would be obvious to any user of an iPad like device that an eLearning session on a tablet or a smartphone would be vastly different. A Mobile learning system is not an eLearning system slapped on a mobile device. It really happens to be in a different class altogether. Anyone who is thinking of creating or migrating to a mLearning system should recognize this crucial fact. This also means that the constraints and opportunities that are a part of the mobile ecosystem must be considered before attempting to design a new mLearning course. Let’s take a look at the common pitfalls or mistakes that can derail this process:
BYOD or not
First things first! Bring your own device (BYOD) is the current trend in mLearning. Justin Ferriman in his LearnDash blog says that 54% of corporations have formalized Bring Your Own Device policies. When a device is provided by the trainer, elements of uniformity, homogeneity and certainty are introduced to the learning environment. On the other hand, if the trainers do not have to provide a device, overall cost of the training program can be reduced substantially. It is therefore an important policy choice to decide whether to go with BYOD or not.
Thinking that mLearning is eLearning on mobile
This might turn out to be the biggest mistake when one is thinking of migrating from eLearning to mLearning. The great temptation of converting an existing 30 minute long eLearning course directly to a mobile device can completely ruin the initiative because it is just too long. It is entirely possible that some eLearning courses could run on tablets, but they must also run on smartphones and have properly designed content as discussed below.
Badly designed mobile app and course content
For a mLearning course, the delivery vehicle may be a native mobile App. The design of the App therefore is the key to success of the mLearning program. Some of the questions that need to be answered here satisfactorily are as follows: How is the content designed and built? How optimized is it for mobile delivery? How does the content get managed on a user device? Can it be used when the device is offline? Are there any games built in the content to retain learner interest?
Not providing a mobile learning platform infrastructure
Every mLearning system needs a mobile learning platform, preferably a cloud based one. This platform should be designed to ensure ease of deployment, cost-effectiveness, flexibility and scalability. Some questions that need to be asked in this process are listed here: How easy is it to distribute content? How easy is it to update content? How does a user get notified about new and improved content?
Not providing mobile app analytics
An analytics engine must be provided as a standard feature of the mobile learning platform. Unless this is done, the trainers cannot track the progress of the learner and effectiveness of the content. Analytics can provide answers to questions like who is consuming what content on which mobile OS? What content is proving to be the most popular? What content is rarely, if ever used? How do people rate the mobile learning content?
No built-in security or guided access to the training App
Security and guided access features need to be built into the app since the trainer has almost no control on the behavior of learners. It is entirely possible that a few uninterested learners may stray instead of staying with the program. Guided access locks may be necessary to ensure that the learners cannot bypass the learning App once logged in depending upon the requirements of the course.
Giving more importance to technology over methodology
Since a proposed mLearning system would invariably be created using cutting-edge technologies and hardware, there is always a risk that the shininess of the snazzy devices and their features might get predominance over their functionality. A creator needs to bear this fact in mind and ensure that fundamentals of instructional design are not overshadowed.
Not thinking of mLearning as a reference tool
When migrating to mLearning, it is important to remember that a mobile course often takes the form of a reference guide or manual. When we buy a new computer, we read the user manual to familiarize ourselves with features and functionalities. Later, it’s just used for troubleshooting. Similarly, information on a mLearning App is meant to be used only when some kind of help is required. It should help to remember that a mobile App cannot deliver a full-fledged teaching course.
Failure to provide sufficient training and support for mobile devices
An organization that does not follow the BYOD model might be tempted to buy mobile devices and distribute them to the learners without planning for the training and support needed to make the approach work. Trainers need to set up devices with appropriate apps that suit the needs of each learner. If this not done, there is a real risk that the learners might spend more time in learning about the device itself than the subject proper.
Launching mLearning system without a proper learner assessment method
Unlike eLearning, mLearning system is not directly interactive. The trainer does not naturally understand how his learners are performing due to lack of consistent interactivity. The system should, therefore, provide necessary pauses or halts where the learner and trainer can interact using instant messages or text messages before further training can commence. In addition, built-in testing needs to be used to measure the performance of the learners.
In a mLearning environment, the emphasis is on information rather than instruction. It becomes important that an effective user experience must be created by the system. Consideration of above points will help in achieving that goal.