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Honey, I Shrunk the eLearning to BYOD mLearning!

MJ Plaster
by on August 21, 2014

to-byod-or-to-not-byod

“Honey, I shrunk the eLearning!” Is that your strategy for designing eLearning for mobile devices—shrinking eLearning to mLearning? Before you design a mobile eLearning module, consider the following cultural influences:

  • TED talks vs. 45-minute presentations
  • Infographics condense reams of statistics and make them understandable to mere mortals
  • Text messaging and Twitter as forms of conversation

What can we infer from these observations? We have a miniscule attention span. On the plus side, learning-on-the-go, when executed properly, can be more effective than “traditional” butt-in-seat eLearning that drags on forever. In addition, it can be cost effective.

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)—Tablet vs. Smartphone

Cicso’s BYOD 2013 Insights reported that 90 percent of Americans use their smartphone for work. On-the-go mLearning implies a smartphone. Few people carry a tablet in their back pockets, but no one leaves home without a smartphone. When you design for the smartphone you reach the tablet audience, but the converse doesn’t necessarily apply.

On-the-go mLearning usually takes place as an independent learning moment, not a learning moment that coincides with a performance moment.

Design Do’s and Don’ts for On-the-Go mLearning

You can’t just “shrink” your eLearning and call it mLearning. If your goal is effective learning, you have to design for the device. If you’re an experienced PowerPoint creator, chunk the content per screen down a little further, and you’ve got the idea. Keep the following in mind when designing for mLearning:

  • Short and sweet – On-the-go implies “hurry up and wait,” lines, doctors’ offices, etc. Keep your mLearning to 10-15 minutes.
  • Design for cross compatibility.
  • Use relative pixel size rather than defined dimensions.
  • Scrap scrolling – It’s difficult on smartphones.
  • Design mostly for landscape view, except…
  • Infographics usually require portrait view. Late-model smartphones use a G-sensor to accommodate for changes in orientation. Simplify infographics for smartphone use.
  • Place interactive text fields near the top of the screen.
  • Audio and video – compress, optimize and keep it short. Avoid Flash.
  • Use bold, simple graphics without text and png format for best color and lossless compression.
  • Use bright, bold buttons and interactive features. Size hotspots for easy selection with fingers. Subtleties used for larger presentation get lost on the smartphone screen.
  • Keep quiz selections to three choices.
  • When including gamification, use quiz-style games instead of complex games.
  • Optimize file size.

And, finally: test, test and test some more. Put yourself in your learners’ shoes to remove annoying factors that don’t translate well from eLearning to mLearning.

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About the Author

MJ Plaster

MJ Plaster

MJ Plaster has been a tech writer, instructional designer, trainer, magazine editor and writer for more decades than she will admit.