The innovation and migration challenge of mobile learning

| August 4, 2014

The most obvious step for learning organisations seems to be one towards mobility. Anthony Chung says we are only beginning to scratch the surface of the potential for mobile learning.

Migration is one of the key challenges we have to address when thinking about innovations in learning. Innovation happens at the bleeding edge, but at the bleeding edge, there can be pain. It is the pain of migration that leaders and I.T. departments have to deal with when they ask the question of “How will we migrate from ‘here’ to that innovative ‘there’?”.

For each innovation, there has been a migration. From paper to digital, mainframes to PCs and static websites to content management systems. The obvious next step for innovations in learning is a step towards mobility. Many would argue that mobility is not the new “next” but it is already here. If so, learning organisations to various degrees are either innovating in mobile learning or playing catch up. As with past migrations, innovation is accompanied with unique challenges for migrating to that next step.

For learning organisations, one of the key challenges for innovation and migration is improving the mobile user experience of how learners interact with their primary Learning Management System (LMS) (e.g. Moodle or Blackboard).

A learner’s interaction with the LMS is so basic it can be overlooked. The LMS is the system that learners need to access all of their course materials and readings. While learners might browse the organisation’s public website occasionally, the LMS is used with high frequency to access all of their learning materials.

Learning management systems are what Windows Explorer is to Windows OS and Finder is to Mac OSX. In its most basic form, the LMS is the file browser for learners and teachers. Courses are the “folders” of educational institutions giving structure and organisation to course materials. If organisations can improve the user experience of mobile learners at this basic level with the LMS, they will have improved the daily learning experience. However, the current experience of interacting with learning management systems on mobile devices is often a frustrating one.

Mobile learners often experience frustration as they interact with legacy learning management systems that were not originally designed for small screens on mobile devices. Navigating, reading, downloading and interacting with content is often difficult on mobile devices. This can leave the impression that the learning organisation is “out of date” rather than innovative if migration does not occur.

Here are three things to consider if you are migrating to mobile learning…

1. A key migration step that your learning organisation can make is to adapt the online learning system to become “mobile responsive”. This is an important and cost effective approach that greatly improves the readability and accessibility of websites on mobile devices.

2. Create mobile apps for your learners. Mobile apps have clear advantages over websites in the areas of performance, smoothness, native user experiences and especially offline support. Mobile learning happens on trains, planes and buses as learners are on the move. In these environments internet connectivity is often unreliable and mobile devices frequently go offline. Websites don’t work offline leaving learning management systems inaccessible. However, mobile apps can work offline. Learning should not have to stop when a student goes through a train tunnel or a professional hops on a plane. If learners want to learn offline, make sure “there’s an app for that”.

3. It is not always necessary to migrate to a new learning management system in order to embrace mobility. You may be able to continue to use your current learning management system (e.g. Moodle) and create innovative mobile apps that interact with it. This way you can pivot into mobile learning without the migration pain of requiring current staff to learn a new learning management system.

We are only beginning to scratch the surface of the potential for mobile learning. Learning mobility is ripe for innovation. Addressing migration is key to helping us get from here to the innovative “there”.

Global Mindset presented these mobile learning perspectives along with digital thinking, leadership thinking, global thinking, lateral thinking and an education technology Start Up pitch at the conference ‘Innovations in Learning’ on 13 August in Sydney.