Friday, November 30, 2007

Future of mobile learning

The closing session of the eLearning Guild's Strategies and Techniques for Implementing Mobile Learning session was presented by Brent Schlenker, a research and emerging technologies evangelist for the eLearning Guild. His topic was the Trends and the Future of m-Learning. Rather than focusing on individual elements of mobile learning Brent looked at the bigger picture and had the participants thinking about the implications of information transfer to mobile devices.

Hinging his talk on the appreciation that technology does not stand still, Brent noted that "yesterday" technology (i.e. the internet) was about consuming – the read-only internet. Today we can interact with our cellphones by sending messages, sending images and video, etc. In the future a server will send information that it thinks we need.

This last concept is one that was touched upon in one of yesterday's sessions, a new "push" learning concept. I suppose the one area that scared me came from the chat pod where people were suggesting a workaround to the small screen in most mobile devices would be projection technology. The question is will businesses want their people to project their information in public? Does that then defeat the purpose of mobile technology? do we want to risk projecting the wrong kind of information in public? Do we want to be inflicted with other peoples videos? Its bad enough that we have to listen to their cellphone conversations.

Selling the Value of Mobile Learning

The second session of today's e-Learning Guild's Strategies and Techniques for Implementing Mobile Learning today was titled Selling the Value of Mobile Learning presented by Joshua Byrne of Adayana. The main message that Joshua delivered was twofold: 1) make sure that the learning opportunity you are proposing to address with mobile learning is an appropriate venue for mobile learning, and 2) It's easier to implement if you are only creating for a consistent (which I take to mean a single) platform.

He talked more about the shortcomings of m-learning, such as:
  • the difficulty of deploying to multiple platforms because of their inconsistency in how they render the end product
  • need to keep visual elements to a minimum and time to interact with the learning short because of the difficulty of staring at the small smart phone screen for a long time.
The key to selling m-learning is to identify the "killer app" that will make learners migrate to using mobile learning. He defined killer app as that element of a technology that people will adopt because of its convenience. Examples he offered included spreadsheets within the desktop computer environment and the ability to make phone calls anywhere drove people to quickly adopting cell phones.

And when you recognize that killer app you have to be sure it solves an important problem; and then you explain the solution using an anecdote that will make it understood. He also recommended having a proof of concept so that the person you selling the idea to can actually try it. Not only does this demonstrate the usability of the m-learning tool, but it allows the customer to see the hardware that would deliver the learning in action.

Day 2 of eLearning Guild's m-learning forum

I started the second day of the eLearning Guild's Strategies and Techniques for Implementing Mobile Learning forum by sitting in on the Anita Rosen's of ReadyGo, Inc., session on "Effective Mobiel Learning User Interface Design" and it was an intriguing cold shower in the warm glow of mobile learning juggernaut. Anita put it in perspective by noting that m-learning is the "bleeding edge" of learning. She noted that her success story revolved around her customer "Telefónica" which is a telephone provider and so they had the technology in place.

She cautioned that you really have to be sure of what you want to do and what your goals are because there are a number of limitations that must be overcome especially if you want to send your learning engagement out to a range of smart phones. Limitations include:
  • Different operating systems support different levels of html and streaming animation
  • Consider the environment that the learner will be taking the course it will be probably in a public area where there are distractions. Will the learner be able to stay focused
What she said works best is limited graphics and the graphics you do use should not have any embedded text because it will not be possible to read it. She cautioned against embedding too much audio or animations because of download speeds which she argued was around 19kbps. I found that a bit dubious and googled smartphone data transfer speeds and discovered that newer smartphone networks now boast of data transfer speeds equal to low-cost DSL connections.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Session 3: Learning at large: Mobile e-Learning Design

The final session for the day: Learning at Large: Mobile e-Learning Design presented by Clark Quinn. Clark was encouraging us to think outside the traditional learning paradigm and think about m-learning as performance support.

Things that he said that struck me as important:

M-learning is all about Learner's rights
  • The right information
  • to the right person
  • at the right time
  • in the right place
  • in the right way
  • on the right device

This was not original Clark Quinn, he was quoting Wayne Hodgins. He did offer some good advice when approaching m-learning beginning with "It's not about learning" it's about performance improvement; it should be brief and delivered in incremental amounts not a brain dump.

He also offered a new view of "push vs. pull" in that push is an intelligent learning engine supplying just-in-time information pro-actively to a learner in the field. He offered the example of a sales person who would automatically receive information on his cell phone or blackberry concerning the client he or she is visiting and the services they may already be buying or may be interested in buying.

Session 2: Investigating and Proposing Mobile Learning

So for the second session Investigating and Proposing Mobile Learning was ok, I guess you always have a little let down after the first session. The presenters – Andy Petroski and Sandy Hack from Highmark – were handicapped early on by audio problems. There presentation focused on their efforts to introduce m-learning capabilities into their company.

They seemed to be approaching m-learning from a traditional training view in which you have to make the learning interactive. As I noted in my posting after the first session, my observation is that if learning content is less than 10 minutes (and granted that is an arbitrary number not based on any research that I know of) it can be a passive presentation.

That said they provided a great laundry list of areas ripe for m-learning:
  • Current company or product announcements (video, audio, or email)
  • Product and inventory updates
  • Just-in-time training or practice
  • Any location-based and contextual learning
  • Text-based (or simple animation) simulations and games
  • Social learning
  • Spaced practice
  • Coaching or mentoring
  • Case studies
  • Job aids
  • Audio or video
  • Decision Support
  • Tests and quizzes
  • Charts and graphs
They used the phrase mobile learning library as a name for the repository for their m-learning content. It's a catchy name, that could catch on, although I think most content will end up residing in a LCMS so that it is accessible by both portable devices and computers.

They did note that challenges of initiating an m-learning initiative, starting with security. How do you deliver proprietary information to mobile devices in the field? If devices are distributed to employees preloaded with content how do you ensure they are not lost or stolen? While this is a problem with laptop computers as well as mobile devices, mobile devices being smaller can be more easily forgotten.

The other key issue is usability. Not everyone has great vision and the tiny screens on some multimedia cell phones could be a problem for people to view streaming video or text content. The duo did not have all the answers, but what they offered us was rough map of the terrain that the rest of us can use to explore m-learning in our environment.

eLearning Guild's Mobile Learning Forum

We just finished the opening session of the eLearning Guild's Strategies and Techniques for Implementing Mobile Learning forum and I wanted to record my thoughts before I enter session 2. The first presenter was David Metcalf from the University of Central Florida.

Dr. Metcalf provided a broad overview of the environment that m-learning inhabits with examples of how m-learning is being applied. There was a whole lot of information delivered in 75 minutes. The big concepts I came away with are:

Content is still king. Metcalf built his whole proposal around the concept that mlearning for learning purposes is an integral part of performance support. Knowledge needs to sit separate from learning modules and performance support systems so that both can pick and choose from that knowledge base.

Long and short of it. My thoughts during elearning sessions is that long learning interactions (more than 10 minutes) need to be interactive while shorter sessions (10 minutes or less) can be more passive because you are not asking learners to sit still for a long time.

Topics to follow up on. Transcoder as a device to send content to a variety of mobile devices in fashion that the device can read; and vXML as a programming tool to deliver mLearning.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Learning Must be Set Free!

Leave it to Larry Lessig to re-awaken (if only for a moment - I'm over 50 you know) my revolutionary zeal. But I challenge any corporate training organization to watch this video and still endorse the idea that training (and learning) be delivered via a learning management system.

LMS's represent the pinnacle of push training vs. pull learning. The learner can only access the material by registering for a course and getting permission. They cannot add or revise the materials that exist in the LMS, but must go underground and spread their ideas and concepts unofficially until they are either squelched or finally come to the attention of a management suit who likes the concept and adopts it as his or her own. That management type then takes the glory for an idea that was germinated by someone further down the organizational chart.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Second Life/Real Life

I know the learning world is slowly going ga-ga over the possibility of migrating learning to a Second Life environment, but I have to confess that I have my doubts that the environment is ready for prime time. But it is ready for lampooning. This video I think really hits upon what most people experience when they first enter Second Life.


Monday, November 05, 2007

Whither Goes eLearning?

This article by AP (PCs Losing Their Relevance in Japan) may bear watching and considering its impact on the future of learning via technology. We have already begun the discussion about how to position elearning for mobile systems, but perhaps we should accelerate the discussion.

I wonder if anyone has explored how the learning management systems that corporations use to track learner progress will play with these devices.