post to Learn-Learn-Learn 02/09/2013


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post to Learn-Learn-Learn 01/28/2013


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post to Learn-Learn-Learn 01/22/2013


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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.

Posted in instructional design, mobile learning | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Mobile context


http://www.flickr.com/photos/stephangeyer/3501272881/ I have had conversations with folks where I mention the need for an instructional designer to understand the context for a mobile experience. Here’s what I mean …

Example 1:

I’m standing on the grocery store checkout line. I take out my smartphone to look over my shopping list one last time to make sure I got everything. Perhaps I’ll then check a game score (because I’m standing on line rather than watching the TV at home). And if this line is quite long and moving slowly, I’ll send a text message to tell my family that I’m probably going to be running late.

Example 2:

I’m in the doctor’s office waiting room and will probably have about 10 minutes, at least, before I get in to see the doctor. I take out my smartphone to “check in” via some social application (such as Foursquare, or Facebook, etc.). It’s in the morning, so I’ll then check my email inbox for any important messages.

Example 3:

My friends and I are waiting in a theater lobby. We’re talking about the different shows we like; and there is a disagreement as to whether or not a certain actor was in the original Broadway cast of a show. We all take out our smartphones and search – some may use Google, others might use Bing, and others may go to Wikipedia. We all discover that our friend is correct … this actor was in the original cast.

Some key things in each example …

  • 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.
  • I am likely in a public space or a space with lots of distractions
    • There is plenty of noise (ambient, other people, TV or radio, etc). There are also other people or other store displays that draw my attention as well. If something seems to be more interesting then it’s going to get my attention – or my attention will split into much smaller bits as I look at my smartphone, then glance at a magazine rack, then back to my smartphone, then to listen to the music playing, back to my smartphone, and so on.
  • I’m using my smartphone to accomplish some task
    • Since I’m taking advantage of the time opportunity – and I’m pretty sure it won’t be a lot of time – I use my smartphone to do something quite specific … the review a list, to see a game’s score, to send a text message, to look up a fact, to ‘check-in’ via a social app.
    • This task, by its very nature, is short and simple to accomplish. It doesn’t require my reading or reviewing lots of text; it doesn’t walk me through some type of “how to use” orientation or overview.
    • The task I want to accomplish may or may not be related to my location. It makes sense (to me, at least) to double-check my grocery list before I get to the cashier. That’s location specific. Yet other tasks are not necessarily tied to my location – I’m just taking advantage of the time opportunity to read something on my Twitter stream or to check the game’s score.

All of this is the context … the when? where? how? why? questions regarding the use of a mobile device. And these are the types of questions to ask and considerations to take into account when designing a mobile learning experience for someone in my organization.  And I’ll be developing this idea in future blog posts.

… so, stay tuned …

photo credit: Stephan Geyer via photopin cc

Posted in informal learning, mobile learning | Tagged , | 1 Comment

A conversation about HTML5 tools


All the buzz … find an elearning authoring tool that can convert a course into HTML5 with just the click of a button. Voila! Not only do you get a Flash-based course for desktops/laptops, you get the same content all nicely transformed for mobile users on tablets or smartphones. … … … Ummmm … … … a bit of a problem here. I had a conversation with someone about this just the other day.

Colleague: “Okay, so it’s a bit kludgy. But it has a lot of promise. Being able to create a course that will work in the LMS and on mobile devices is a ‘win.’ This is probably going to be the way things are done in the very near future.”

My response was that although I understand the wish to have a tool like this, it really is going to set us up for some bad experiences – particularly when it comes to offering elearning courses on mobile devices. The reason is that mobile learners DO NOT (and will likely not want to) take courses with their small-screen devices. I know that I don’t. And I think that I’m probably a typical user.

As a mobile user / learner the times I pick up my smartphone is when I need to know something right away. I’m looking for a quick answer to a question or situation that I’m facing. I want something that will allow me to get the information I need easily and quickly, and then I put the smartphone down to continue with my work or task at hand. Maybe – just maybe – I’ll want to go a little more indepth into a topic, process, procedure, or whatever. And when I do have that hankering I’ll appreciate being able to explore the topic at my own pace, in a self-directed manner and not dictated by some linear approach of, “click next to continue.”

HTML5 offers a lot … but having it just be the output of some Flash-conversion of a formal elearning course isn’t what makes it useful or exciting in the world of mobile learning.

And if we go down this path without really examining HOW mobile learners use their devices, then we’re going to turn off a whole bunch of people.

It’s not so much the tool itself; it’s how we design (or don’t design) for mobile learners in the context of how, when, where, and why they pick up their devices to learn or to get something done.  Sure – it would be great to have the ability to offer Flash-based courses for mobile learners … but that shouldn’t be the primary reason for using HTML5. It’s a matter of DESIGN … designing for the mobile experience, which is different from the desktop/laptop experience … designing for the mobile learner’s needs and expectations, which are different from those who use a desktop/laptop.

And it really bothers me when a vendor makes bold statements about how their HTML5 conversion option is THE ANSWER to solving mobile learning development. It bothers me even more when someone buys into the idea that an HTML5 conversion tool or option is going to solve all sorts of problems and get us onto the track of accommodating mobile learners.

I’m looking for a tool that will help guide the process of design for a mobile experience … a tool that addresses the context in which a mobile device is used. And then it can spit out all the HTML5 it wants because I’ll be more confident that it is intended for mobile learners – addressing what they want in a manner in which they want it.

Posted in HTML5, instructional design, mobile learning, tools | 1 Comment

post to Learn-Learn-Learn 12/16/2012


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