m-Learning and Single-Sourcing Aren’t The End of the World

Does anyone remember all the hype about 13 years ago about how life as we knew it was going to be destroyed merely by the fact that most of the computing machines running around the world weren’t programmed to go beyond the year 2000 because it would reset itself to start back at 1900 again? Do you remember the mad rush to make everything “Y2K” compliant?” I do, and remember being in the thick of it. I even remember secretly bracing myself mentally, just in case Armageddon did happened. Nowadays, people are thinking about this supposed Apocalypse that will happen on December 21, 2012– about 8 months from now. Is it going to happen? And what does this have to do with m-learning and single-sourcing?

Here’s my take on it, having lived through that time from an IT perspective: nothing happened, and nothing will happen. Well, nothing catastrophic happened or will happen. If anything, the Y2K crisis brought to the world’s attention (or at least the IT world’s attention) that details are important when creating and developing software and web development. Y2K made the IT world take notice that it had to get its act together better, and if the world needed reliable, safe, easy-to-use products, then that attention to detail has to be put in from the beginning. The same thing happened with the tragedy of the attack of the US on September 11th, 2001. There was a realization that email and other digital means of communication could be used to circumvent security, and it caught everyone’s attention enough that the IT world had to step it up.

Think about how many strides have been made in since that 2000-2001 time period in the digital world! Smartphones and tablets were developed and constructed over this decade or so, and now we are a much more mobile society than before. I mean, seriously, in 2001, could you imagine yourself walking around with a tablet in your messenger bag just to read a book, do your email on the go, write papers, watch a movie, have video chats with friends around the world, or just to instant message/text friends that quickly?

When I had my first cell phone around the time of the turn of the century, it could do simple SMS messages and make phone calls, but nothing more. My iPhone is WAY more sophisticated than even my first desktop! We’ve actually gone beyond the imagination of what the Dick Tracy wristwatches of yesteryear intended to do– and then some!

We are in a really critical time in the development of the digital world right now. It’s as if nothing is impossible, especially with the huge chances that made us think about all those details around us. But that’s also the point– we have to make sure that we actually pay attention and heed the warnings of the past to make sure that all those details are included.

This brings me to m-learning. Right now, we are in a very exciting time with m-learning due to the great strides that have been made with technology in recent years. We have huge opportunities to reinvent the way things are done in e-learning on mobile devices, mostly because the medium is different than anything we’ve had before. It’s not just putting up pages and pages of content, but reformatting and rewriting to make it accessible to a wider audience. Cloud technology and wireless technology makes m-learning not only something that is portable due to device size, but accessible anywhere, anytime. Think about it– it’s a big game changer.

This brings me to the idea of single-sourcing and m-learning. It’s something that’s been on my mind lately, because as I try to learn more and more about m-learning and getting involved in m-learning, I realize that flexibility is something I need. In other words, while I am attached to my Apple products for my digital mobility, there are others who are strong devotees of Android products and there will be those who will be signing the praises of the Windows 8 mobile system soon enough. In the end, it’s three of a few of the different OS systems that will need to be able to receive the same information, but be able to communicate to each other clearly and cleanly to each other as well.

Many years ago, the Portable Document Format or PDF was invented by Adobe with the intention of inventing a common format that any OS system could read with the proper viewing tool. Today, PDFs are still used, and additional single-sourcing formats such as MP4 and MP3 for video and audio and ePub for publications are coming to the forefront. Heck, even as we speak, Flash is starting to slowly retreat in favor of a more common HTML5 format, even if all browsers and devices are not completely on board with that. I attended a great seminar the other day put out by Adobe and hosted by Maxwell Hoffman about how to use the Technical Communicator Suite–especially, in this case, RoboHelp 9 to help create ePubs for mobile devices like tablets. The main idea behind this seminar was to help users of Adobe’s Tech Comm Suite see how they could get on-board with this idea of single-sourcing through the creation of e-Pubs using the TC Suite.  Even though I don’t really know how to use RoboHelp at all yet, it was evident that this was a hot topic from the way it was presented and the questions being asked. I felt empowered to get started on trying to master this piece of software, because Maxwell made it look so easy to do, and his emphasis was not only on any particular device, but rather that this tool would be good to help develop for just about any device. Understanding how to create ePubs is an excellent stepping stone to bigger and better things! I’m sure that other companies are also realizing that single-sourcing is the way to go to connect with as many users as possible.

m-Learning is about reaching as many learners as possible in a way that’s user-friendly as well as compatible with the technology, while still being engaging. There are so many devices out there, that it’s really important that programmers and developers, as well as instructional designers and other technical communicators really take the time to care about those details so that we can truly have single-sourcing. Even just between my iPad and iPhone, I don’t always feel that apps available have the same functionality as they do on my laptop, and vice versa. Going between devices–whether mobile or stationary–should be seamless. It’s been mentioned that some companies are already on the right track with this thinking, such as Kindle. You can open up a book at one spot on your phone, then switch to where you left off on your Kindle device, then pick up again where you left off on your laptop. Much of this is done through the cloud and wireless connections. This is definitely the right idea, and going in the right direction. For me, it’s even the functionality. My Twitter doesn’t work the same way between my iDevices and my laptop, and that’s not right.  It should work the same exact way on all my devices, and Android users should have the same experience as I do. This is a really important concept for m-learning. You want to make sure that the deliverable presented is the same for everyone who comes to a course, and that’s a tricky thing to do right now.  This is why discussing and creating new standards for m-learning are so crucial. The single-source perspective is truly needed in e-learning and m-learning universally, so that the same quality of content is delivered to ALL universally.

So will I be jittering in my boots when December 21st rolls around? I don’t think so (unless there’s news of an asteroid bigger than the moon is hurtling directly towards us). If anything, I’m thinking that December 21st will be a day when it will start a new age of enlightment, and m-learning and single-sourcing will be a big part of that. We are already on our way, but perhaps there will be something on that day that will be a big boost towards a positive path.

www.startrek.com

Maybe that day will be as monumental as First Contact Day.


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