But that isn’t enough anymore. It is becoming apparent that desktop-based training isn’t appropriate for all learners, and that is why mobile learning is becoming more sought after.
So, let’s delve into mobile learning. In this article, Netex explores the benefits to mobile learning, and some design considerations which instructional designers should be making when creating it.
What benefits do you get from mobile learning?
Smartphones have changed the way we communicate, consume information and interact with the world. Mobile learning is tapping into the conveniences that smartphones and devices reward us, bringing with it many benefits.
Flexibility and ease of access
Training designed for smartphones will also take into account other devices, such as tablets and laptops, which means it provides more ways for learners to complete their training. This makes it ideal for learners who don’t have easy access to a desktop, or who prefer to use their phone. Whether that is learners who work in retail, hospitality, construction – any job which isn’t desk based – or learners who want to catch up on training whilst they are away from their desk.
Mobile learning is usually a lot more digestible. As users don’t sit for hours on a mobile in the same way they do a computer, the training is usually bite-sized, short and easy to determine the key points, which makes it a lot easier to navigate and understand.
Improved learner engagement
It enhances the learner experience. Accessing the training is the first hurdle that learners face, so if it isn’t easy, that negative experience will affect the training itself. They’ll be coming to it potentially frustrated, irritated or impatient.
And that is why flexibility, ease of access and length of training is so important; because if the learner experience is a positive one, then the learners will be more engaged and motivated to complete the training from the get-go.
A greater pool of learners
Apart from the learners who gain easier access, it also appeals to a new generation of employees, the ones who are just starting to enter the workplace. This generation use their smartphones for everything. If a task can’t be completed on their phone, then they’ll likely take longer to get around to it. So, mobile learning is ideal for them. They’ll be able to dip in and out as they want, wherever they are, and get the training done with more ease. And that, for learners, is really the key. Mobile learning has taken ‘learn any place, any time’ to new levels.
Lifelong learning is becoming a much talked about topic, and one that many businesses, as well as their employees, are eager to embrace. With ease of access, and digestible content, mobile learning is the ideal approach for lifelong learners.
Increased business’ reputation
As for the business, it’ll increase its reputation. It’ll show learners that not only do they take learning seriously, but that they take the learners’ needs seriously too.
What do you need to consider when designing mobile learning?
Designing learning for mobile devices is a different bag altogether. Think about websites you’ve tried to access on your phone, ones that have attempted to re-size leaving them incredibly frustrating to use. Now imagine if that’s what happened if you were doing some training, you’d give up straight away.
We asked Sabine De Kamps, our Learning Experience Co-ordinator, what she thinks is important when it comes to the design of mobile learning, ‘To begin with, mobile phones are especially well suited for shorter bursts of learning, and, when it comes to design, I think the main thing to keep in mind is that the screens on mobiles are pretty small. So, we have to keep slides fairly simple and uncluttered and all interactive elements must be big enough so that the learner can still use them on a small mobile screen.’
It's clear that mobile learning must be considered in a different way. Here are some tips to get started.
Think about how people use their smartphones
Consider how your learners use their smartphones and why. What are they expecting from them? How long are they expecting to stay on them? How do they digest information on a phone? How do they navigate a phone?
All these questions will feed into how the mobile learning should be designed. From their answers, you’ll likely learn that they don’t expect to stay on their phone for hours at a time, that they usually scroll or swipe to navigate content, and they don’t want to have to wade through reams of text and detailed graphics, they want content that they can easily read and digest.
Smartphone users are usually accessing their phone at in-between moments so keep this in mind when considering the length of your learning. It needs to be bite-sized. It can’t be like accessing it on a computer, where you can sit at a desk for a while; learners will expect shorter bursts of learning.
Thinking about the density of the content will feed into this. Even though e-learning shouldn’t be as dense as a textbook, it’s probably wordier than you’d expect to have on a mobile. Users prefer to skim read on a phone, so think about the structure and where you place the important points, and how you use graphics. Graphics which are too detailed or unreadable on a phone won’t be very helpful to the learner.
Touchscreen usability and layout
Smartphones use touchscreens, and their layouts mean that we scroll or swipe to navigate any content. So, consider this in your design. Make sure that the layout is a simple one, that it’s easy to scroll and you don’t have to jump around a lot.
But, also, make sure the navigation doesn’t become tedious or repetitive. Constantly scrolling through repetitive designs and layouts can help a user switch off. You might consider different colours, fonts and font sizes, and break up information with icons and interactive activities - variety is definitely useful in mobile learning.
And remember, designing for mobile learning has to be much more that re-sizing, it is best if it has a responsive design so it can effectively adapt and adjust to the device.
Speed is key on a phone. Whilst on a desktop the learner might be more forgiving if a website doesn’t load straightaway, but on a phone, users expect things to load instantly. Make sure your content is designed as such; for example, avoid graphics or content that take forever to load.
Don’t forget to test your content on phones with different learners. By having learners with different abilities and familiarities with mobile learning, you can get a real idea of how effective and intuitive it is and make adjustments accordingly.
With their LMS, which has its own mobile app, Netex are no strangers to mobile learning. Find out more about their learning technologies here. And to learn about how it works in action, check out their award-winning mobile learning for Häagen-Dazs.