Mobile context – Time Opportunity

In thinking more about the context for mobile users/learners, the consideration of “time opportunity” keeps gnawing at me. I started to think out loud via this post, and I’m continuing my lil’ ol’ self-dialogue in this public space.

I start off with:

There is a time opportunity
I didn’t plan to use my smartphone at a certain time. Rather, I find myself with just enough time to look something up or accomplish a specific task. I choose to take advantage of this opportunity.

When I have an opportunity like this, I make a quick mental calculation … how long do I think I have to wait? and do I have enough time to complete the task I want to? In this calculation I consider time as relative and rather general – “Gee, I’m going to be waiting here with nothing to do for a long time.” That’s all relative. I don’t think, “OK. I’ve got 12 minutes to wait on this line.”

Likewise I consider the task in a similar, relative timeframe – “So, I have just enough time to do X.” And thus the calculus, whereby I am considering whether or not to use my smartphone to complete some task, is quick … almost a ‘gut instinct’ approach.

If I believe that I will be able to complete the task, then I’ll take advantage of the time opportunity to do so. If, however, I think for some reason that I really won’t have enough time, then I’ll choose to not do that task.

What may be some mobile learning design implications?

The task needs to be short in duration. If I think that it’s going to take a long time to complete, then I’ll pick something else to do. Even something that’s 10-12 minutes in duration may be too long because I may perceive it to be too long to complete.

Part of my perception about the task is sensing how quickly and how easily I can launch the mobile experience and get to the information I need or want.

  • If I have to wade through a series of screens by clicking a ‘next’ button just to get to that one piece of information, then I’ll forgo the task.
  • If I am forced to view some type of “Welcome to this …” or “How to use this …” screen, then I’ll think my time is being wasted and go to do something else.
  • If, as I fumble through one or more screens and feel like I’m lost – I can’t really remember how I got to this screen, or I’m not even sure where I am within this mobile experience – then I’ll just close it and move on to something else.

Design the interface so that I can access the information without the need to go “next” … “next” … “next” … I want to be able to jump right in, get to the information I want, complete the task, and then exit the mobile tool.

Dispense with an orientation section – those “How to use this” and “Welcome” sections that are common in eLearning courses. Allow me to get right to the information I want or need. Besides, if you have to teach me how to use the mobile content then it might be wise to reconsider the design so as to make it more intuitive because I don’t want to feel as though my time is wasted.


About Rory

I make my home in the central part of the Garden State along with my family. When I'm not working as an Instructional Designer (focusing mostly on Web-Based learning ... and other eLearning technologies) or researching something, I'm found at home playing computer or video games. Among other things, I volunteer as a choir member and catechist for 8th graders at my parish.
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