Monday, October 08, 2012

M-Learning or just Learning?

Photo of HP Tablet PC running Windows XP Tablet PC Edition. - Author Janto DreijerCall me a contrarian (people in my family do), but I think a statement like the following as the lead in to ASTD's Mobile Learning Certificate program does a great disservice.

The growing presence of mobile devices worldwide has resulted in a dramatic change in the way people learn.

The problem I have with this statement is that it's hyperbole at its best. Are they suggesting that people are:

  • Turning more often to tablets and smartphones rather than other sources for learning?
  • Deciding to learn just at the moment they need to know something?
  • Opting not to follow the more traditional routes of gaining knowledge?

People have not changed the way they learn over night. What they may be doing with their tablets and smartphones they did in the past by asking people for information or picking up tablets. By making this dramatic statement, ASTD - like others in the industry - are doing the devices and the learning that can be obtained by review content on them.

There are new rules that have to be understood for developing content and interactions for these devices, but I think these rules can and have been applied to other learning environments. The plethora of short You Tube videos demonstrating how people can perform tasks ranging from how to bake a souffle to how to change a tire demonstrate that learning can be quick once you strip away the window dressing.

Similarly, the oldest form of m-learning - should we consider m-learning as something obtained at the time needed in a succint fashion - would be the first caveman to ask another caveman to explain how to make a tool. 

Bottom line: I think knowing how to use mobile devices to transact learning (both deliver content and provide a link with others to discuss the topic and ask questions) is important, but lets not oversell it like we did with e-learning.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

It's all about the chunking

I've been thinking about mobile learning a lot lately. More specifically, how learning will occur on tablets and smartphones. (Ironically I initially wrote "will be delivered" where "will occur" in the previous line - many proponents do not think learning in this environment will fully be a "push" effort, but a combined "push-pull" effort.

Screen capture from the main Power Searching with Google course page.
I do believe that video will be a major ingredient, with links to other resources. I recently completed a Google three-week on-line training program called Power searching with Google. It consisted of six classes, a midterm exam, a final exam and two opportunities to "hang out" with the instructors.

Screen capture of class 2 topicsEach of the classes consisted of a series of videos between 4 and 9 minutes in length followed by a series of questions or exercises that allowed you to test your understanding of the materials presented. Some of these activities required posting to a forum where others taking the class could review your work.

This, I think, is the model of training going forward with topics chunked to be no more than 10 to 15 minutes, including activities, in length that learners can take in increments with an understanding that they must complete all increments within a specified time period to receive credit.

Screen capture of the links to the narrative text and slides used in the video presentation.Other things I think Google did right with this class was to provide not only the video, which was closed captioned so you could view it with the sound muted, but also links to a text version of the presentation as well as a link to the slides used by the instructor. They also maintained a forum for asynchronous discussions and three live "hang-outs" where Google experts answered learners questions.

The old model of "delivering" training needs to be reconsidered, and Google is demonstrating the approach that needs to be followed.

Just in Time Performance Support

It occurs to me that performance support, or what is really electronic performance support, is applicable for skills that are not frequently exercised by a person. Another way of referring to this is just-in-time learning.