Mobile E-Learning Development: Three Important Questions to Ask

After attending the recent DevLearn 2012 conference and working with clients on mobile e-learning development, I’ve come to believe that the questions you ask (or don’t ask) can be much more important than the solutions you develop. Here are the questions I find most important to ask when working with a client on a new mobile e-learning course.

1. What device(s) will your users be using?

This question looks deceptively simple. The standard answer might be “The company issued tablet/smartphone.” But you need to dig a little deeper. What about the new Windows RT tablets that corporate is thinking of purchasing? Will the users try to access content on their personal iPad, even if it isn’t officially supported by the company? Or on their spouse’s phone? Or their children’s gaming console attached to the TV? Users have an expectation for accessing content important to them on any device anywhere. Your client needs to be aware of that fact, and decisions need to be made up front about what kind of device support is expected. Also keep in mind that this question is not just about hardware. What operating system is in use? First generation iPads don’t have iOS6, but later models do. Which browsers are being used or supported on each device? When you ask about devices, remember that software can be just as important as hardware.

2. How big is the pipe?

No, this has nothing to do with plumbing or smoking. What kind of connectivity will users have when accessing the course on a mobile device? Will the “pipe” be at work, on the road, or at home? In the U.S. or abroad? Wi-Fi or cellular data? We recently built a mobile course for the iPad which worked great on my office Wi-Fi or over cellular data on the road. I demoed that course recently at DemoFest at DevLearn (Diane demoed another of our courses and won an award. I did not. Grrrrr….) On the hotel conference center Wi-Fi, the course at times experienced some degradation of performance. Different pipe, different results.

3. Is there any legacy content we need to include?

Make sure to ask this question early and often. Your client will often have Flash video, audio recordings, or who knows what in a potentially wide variety of formats. You will need this information in order to plan for the cost and time it will take to integrate this material into your new course. You don’t want to be a month or two into a project, having already selected an authoring tool and output format, when you hear, “By the way, we have this….”

Of course there are many more questions to ask, but these have been most important to me lately. What questions do you think are most important to ask when starting a new mobile e-learning project?

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  • http://twitter.com/aohanian Ara ohanian

    Rod, I agree that “solutioneering” is a terrible way to develop mobile or any other kind of learning. Going out with a solution in mind is no way to guarantee success. But asking the right questions does put you on the right path. The three questions you ask are absolutely right and there is a fourth to consider too: who is paying for the data? If you are reliant on cellular data access to deliver high bandwidth e-learning no matter how spectacular the solution is, employees will baulk at paying for it and employers are unlikely to foot the bill either.