Before you can begin designing successful mobile
learning programs, you need to decide if you are developing content
or applications exclusively for a mobile platform, a specific set
of users, or a wide range of devices. As you continue to develop
content for the desktop, you should consider thinking about what
would happen if this content were to be accessed from a mobile
device. Would it work? If your answer is no, then you need to
rethink your program and consider the impact of adding mobile
support as well as the primary desktop support.
1. Will it function as the ideal delivery
2. Will it fail and not work at all, partially
work, or be fully supported? For example, if your content is
primarily Flash-based, iOS will not play the content at
3. Can you design the content to support and take
advantage of each platform? This is getting easier if you are using
HTML-based frameworks for your content, because they will work via
any browser. If you are concerned about the size of the browser
window or the physical size of the device, consider using CSS3,
learner is using and automatically adjust the UI (user interface)
to optimize for that device.
If your organization does not currently support
this concept, you will want to look at what would be involved, and
plan to update your LMS, CMS, or platform so that you can support
most platforms and devices.
Go native or develop web
After defining the scope of your strategy
(audience, hardware/software, timetable, budget, and so forth), you
need to determine whether you plan to develop a native app or web
app? A web app is accessible from any device, on any operating
system, be it a desktop or smartphone, created with
A web app is an
application or site that is delivered via the web browser. Using
to create sites that can behave as an application.
A native application is a
bundled program that you have your users install or you pre-install
on their mobile devices.
Is easy to update.
deployed to desktops, mobile devices, and product with a
HTML5 continues to grow in adoption and features
to allow for more powerful features.
Allows for unique experience.
May provide for improved hardware/software integration on
Promotes improved utilization of mobile
Testing may be required in multiple browsers and
platforms to support feature set.
take advantage of all hardware features.
Is harder to update.
require delivery via store or enterprise solution.
Requires longer development times.
Requires custom packaging or programming per
Is costly to support, update.
Development Process and
Average development time is one to two
Average development expense is
Developer expertise required is one to two
Content experience is fair.
System security is basic.
Access to core functions is nominal.
Overall experience is serviceable.
Average development time is 12 to 16 weeks or
Average development expense is
$75,000 or more.
Developer expertise required is three or more
Content experience is polished.
System security is high (mil spec).
Access to core functions is fully
Overall experience is exceptional.
You also need to choose a single OS (operating
system) or attempt to support as many as possible? Based on your
organization and audience for learning, you need to determine if
you will support one or multiple platforms. If you are working with
learners who can choose their OS or use home devices, then you will
need to take a more general approach to be able to deliver to as
many platforms as possible. If you choose an OS, you need to
consider how often the company updates the OS, how often the
hardware changes, and how they may affect your web or app
Usability issues to
You should also consider who your audience is, how
they will access the content, when they will access the content,
and how much time they will spend with it during each session.
Usability should always be a priority in development, but it is
extremely important when it comes to mobile devices. They come in
all shapes and sizes, so an aesthetically pleasing yet simple
display is essential. Along with simplicity comes ease of use. The
screen is most likely going to be smaller than that of a computer,
so try to keep a clean design that does not require much
explanation on how to use it.
The user should be able to figure out what to do
just by looking at the screen. The interface should have an
appropriate display layout, simple menus and buttons, and varied
media support. Another important thing to consider is help links
and files. If a user is having trouble understanding how to
properly use the interface on their device, there needs to be a
quick and easy way to find the solution. Along with a "help"
button, a search option is an additional way for users to find what
they are looking for.
Tools for mobile
The following tools can be used for mobile
development, and choosing a particular tool should be based on the
level of experience you have as a developer and what you want to
offer with your mobile program.
Native Programming Language: Each
platform (Apple, Google, HP, Microsoft) offers a suite of
applications that are designed for programmers to build and
Web HTML: One recommendation
would be to learn the syntax and then use an authoring tool to
build custom HTML and CSS to provide the best and cleanest code. If
you are new or starting out, you may want to look at a tool like
Adobe Dreamweaver, which provides a drag-and-drop visual interface
and allows you to view the code as you design/develop or flip back
and forth between modes.
Flash: Using Adobes Flash
Professional CS 5.5 now allows you to create applications from your
Flash content and bundle them into an application for delivery on
Apples iOS and Android platforms. For experienced teams or
programmers, this may be a great way to speed up delivery and offer
the ability to customize for each platform quickly.
Two amazing tools to consider for game development
GameSalad Creator: Currently only
available on the Mac OS platform, this drag-and-drop interface
provides an amazing interface to quickly develop games and
interactions with content. You can currently export to HMTL5 and
iOS platforms as well as to Mac/Windows browsers, which use a free
plug-in to playback (http:// gamesalad.com).
ANSCA Corona: Provides a Mac and
Windows development environment for coding games using a
powerful suite of APIs. The gaming engine is fast, and delivery
is available for iOS and Android markets.
You should be considering mobile learning for your
workforce because it is a critical factor in delivering the best in
learning experiences. You can start small, adding components and
continuing to evolve as your organization adopts mobile devices.
With an enormous growth in mobile devices across the board,
reluctance to adapt to the evolution of technology could leave your
company behind and scrambling to catch up. As the newer generations
grow up using these devices in all aspects of their lives, why
should learning be left out? Access to mobile devices will change
the future of learning.
Note: This article is adapted from the Mobile Learning
Infoline Issue 1110 (October 2011). To learn more, go to
Nick Floro will be presenting at the LearnNow: Mobile Learning workshop in Chicago, October 22-23, 2015. Learn more.