Considerations for Going Mobile

I had the pleasure of spending the last several days at Elliott Masie’s Learning 2013. Elliott Masie shoots to make it unlike any other conference in the Training & Development world, and I love it. Great content + great people = great time! In this and several future blog posts, I’ll share some of my takeaways from the event.

How many of you are working toward going mobile with your e-learning development? OK – everyone’s hand is raised? Wonderful! Below are several questions to ask when beginning down the mobile path.

Do you have IT support?

With any initiative that involves technology changes, having IT on your side is a good idea. Make sure you have their support. One suggestion for doing so – produce several short help-desk videos that will help cut down on their call volume. This will free their time up to help your project and will save them headaches in the long run.

What devices will you use?

Pick a mobile device and/or group of devices (iOS platform devices, for example) that you will publish to. And pick a way that you’ll share your content – mobile-only or mobile-and-desktop. Deciding to go all mobile and then changing that decision later on can mean a lot of re-work.

It’s very helpful to consider operating systems and devices individually. To get very specific, you can publish a list of supported and non-supported devices and operating systems.

While you’re developing your device strategy, plan for technology changes, too. Having iOS7 come out in the middle of your project’s timeline can throw a wrench in your plans. If you can prohibit learners from upgrading to the new operating system until your team can test, that can save you a big headache. But if you can’t, it can cause everyone to need to scramble to find out what works and what doesn’t work.  Having a plan in place for how you’ll handle changes like these can be extremely helpful.

Right now, iOS 6 and iOS7 display Storyline courses differently.  And based on this widget that shows adoptions across iOS platforms, you can’t ignore iOS7.

Will you use video?

Video presents several interesting advantages and disadvantages. Video can be extremely engaging, high quality, and quick for learning transfer. But large videos can take forever to download, can eat up your data plan, and can present interesting development challenges for your e-learning production team.

For example, one limitation of HTML5 on the iPad is that only one media file can play at a time. If you have two audio files or two videos (or a combination of both), you must combine them outside of your authoring tool before inserting into your course.

If you do use video, keeping the videos short alleviates many of the disadvantages to using them. Using short videos also allows for quicker content changes later on. It’s easier to remove two small five minute videos from a larger group and replace them than it is to re-record/edit a thirty minute video.

Will you allow learners to BYOD?

BYOD (bring your own device) is when the company does not provide devices for the learner to use. Each person must provide/bring their own device. It can mean much smaller investment in your mobile initiative.

But it can also pose security risks.  If your content is secure, putting it on an employee’s device can allow it to be shown easily to people outside the intended audience.  Sending learning to a personal device can cause wasted time (texting, Facebook, etc.) that you might be able to limit on a company-provided device. Decide how you’ll handle this up front.

How will learners find your content quickly?

Mobile courses can be easily used for performance support, so make your content searchable so someone can easily find what they want at the point of need. Create an easy-to-use table of contents, index, or menu to help learners find what they’re looking for quickly and easily. And, if you have the ability, make your content searchable.

Thank you to Steve Schuller, CPLP, from JCPenny for a great session on mobile learning challenges and for providing the inspiration for several of these points.

What are you doing to make your courses mobile?

Nick Elkins

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