To e (learn), or not to e(learn), mobile learning is the question.

[Updated 3/15/12 to include link to the webinar video.–TCGM]

Alas, poor Yorrick, I thought I knew m-learning well…

I attended a great webinar today hosted by Float Learning in which the subject of the webinar was, “Rapid Development Tools for Mobile Learning.” One of my favorite champions in the m-learning cause, RJ Jacquez, was one of the featured speakers, so I was anxious to listen and learn. During the webinar, while the hosts and featured speakers had their discussion–which I did listen to–there was also a very active chat session going on simultaneously. It was a challenge to keep up with it, but it was just as exciting, nonetheless!

Much of what the chat discussion talked about, as did the webinar, is how those who are developing m-learning materials really need to change the game, that going mobile doesn’t mean just converting regular e-learning courses for a mobile audience. As was said, who is going to look at a smartphone for hours on end watching PowerPoint slideshows go by? Nope, in this transition from e-learning to m-learning, it’s a real opportunity to rethink how e-learning is done for m-learning. iPad or the use of other tablets is not the same as using smartphones, just as mobile learning isn’t the same as learning from a desktop or laptop. As someone from the chat mentioned, with all the different phone and tablet formats, it’s almost like the height of the browser wars again. There are some great software publishers who get this, and some who don’t, understanding that there are so many formats to have to try to deal with, and again the idea of Flash dying a very painful death, this is really at the forefront of many whose job is to make these courseware conversions.

But it’s not just about converting things from Flash to HTML 5 friendly content. It’s actually about the content itself as well. A big point that was made was instructional design and content design are of equal importance right now. As I said before, no one really wants to watch a two hour lecture on their iPhone, do they? Not that it can’t be done, but it’s not very practical now, is it? Content design has to be rethought and redone–in some cases, from scratch–to convey the same information in bit size pieces that are more conducive to mobile formats for mobile devices.

The main thought was that as much as the world hasn’t completely caught onto this idea, e-learning professionals need to get on the bandwagon and truly promote what m-learning really is and “join the revolution”. Software tools are not there, and m-learning thinking isn’t quite there yet. Or at least, it’s not up to par as it should be in various learning arenas (traditional education as well as corporate education).

Or is it?

Shortly after attending this webinar, iTunes sent its weekly email of new and leading education apps. I usually just glance at it, but I noticed something that might have potential. When I opened the description, I couldn’t believe it. There was something there that could act as a model for exactly what those who were chatting in the webinar were talking about.

It was an app to learn Shakespeare’s Hamlet. (Click on the image below, and you’ll be taken to an iTunes webpage about it.)

Evidently, the company that published this app, Mindconnex Learning Ltd., is already on this, and understands what this is about. In this Hamlet app, the original text of the play is broken down into smaller, easier to manage pieces. There are sections that provide analysis and notes, character analysis…the works! It provides the unabriged text along with the learning guides needed to help understand such a complicated work in English literature. Mindconnex also has other apps for other works by Shakespeare, and not only has them created for iPad use, but also for iPhone use. How great is that? Mindconnex Learning has the right idea, and I wish them good luck as they continue to help set a standard for m-learning.

So, the next step seems to be that e-learning professionals have to get on board with m-learning formatting, which is just as much about formatting for the devices as it is formatting the instructional design to make it more usable on those devices.

Will this happen in the near future? Let’s hope so.

About TechCommGeekMom

Danielle M. Villegas is a technical communicator who has recently started her own technical communications consultancy, Dair Communications. She has worked at the International Refugee Committee, MetLife, Novo Nordisk, BASF North America, Merck, and Deloitte, with a background in content strategy, web content management, social media, project management, e-learning, and client services. Danielle is best known in the technical communications world for her blog, TechCommGeekMom.com, which has continued to flourish since it was launched during her graduate studies at NJIT in 2012. She has presented webinars and seminars for Adobe, the Society for Technical Communication (STC), the IEEE ProComm, TCUK (ISTC) and at Drexel University’s eLearning Conference. She has written articles for the STC Intercom, STC Notebook, the Content Rules blog, and The Content Wrangler as well. You can learn more about Danielle on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/daniellemvillegas, on Twitter @techcommgeekmom, or through her blog.
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