Mobile Learning should be more than converting Desktop eLearning to HTML5

Over the weekend, I was looking at the entries submitted to the Adobe Captivate HTML5 Contest, hosted by my former Adobe colleagues. The basic idea behind this contest is that Adobe Captivate 5.5 users create a project and then use the HTML5 Converter for Adobe Captivate to convert it into HTML5. The entry with the most votes wins.

First, I’d like to say that I applaud the idea around this contest because it adds some much-needed engagement to the Captivate community, however I wonder if Adobe may be sending the wrong message to users who are interested in mobile, regarding what mobile learning (mLearning) is.

In other words, while I think HTML5 will play a big role in how we develop and deploy learning and how our learners will consume those learning experiences on mobile, I think mLearning should be a lot more than just ‘converting’ desktop eLearning to HTML5.

Mobile experiences are radically different from traditional desktop experiences and thus it’s important to approach the transition to mLearning thinking that our mLearners are used to and expect different things.

Mobile requires a different strategy, a different way of thinking about content, navigation and how to best utilize the device’s real estate and built-in mobile features like gps, camera, accelerometer, etc.

I think the onus is on eLearning Tools Vendors (i.e. Articulate, Adobe, TechSmith, Zebra Apps, etc) to really think about this and make sure the next generation of their tools provides new and innovating ways of truly harnessing the power of mobile learning.

Luckily for all of us in eLearning, we won’t the first industry to make this transition to mobile and because many other industry have gone through, or are going through this same process, there’s a lot to learn from their experiences. I’ve been bookmarking and taking lots of notes recently on great examples I find of companies that are approaching this transition, and it’s my plan to share some lesson that I feel are important for us to emulate. Please stay tuned.

Until then, I leave you with a lively discussion I had on Twitter on this very subject and the replies I received from some of my followers who are also very excited about mobile learning. Let me know what you think about this by leaving a comment below:

  • I made this same mistake when AIR became available on Android. I had figured all I’d need to do was package some of my applications targeting Flash Player on the desktop to AIR for mobile and it would be the perfect solution. I *was* able to easily convert my Flash content to .apk and it ran great on Android… but the user experience was TERRIBLE in my initial tests simply because of UI and layout. There is such a huge difference between how users interact with a desktop application and a mobile application that go beyond even the obvious “these controls are so tiny”. You really need to target mobile from the get-go with many interfaces and not simply convert content.

    Thankfully, I was able to figure all this out before AIR for Android ever went public. Lessons learned 🙂

    • Anonymous

      Hi Joseph, you comment is so timely and it perfectly illustrates why we need to rethink our mobile learning strategy. Hopefully teams everywhere, focus more on the expectations of the mobile user and they have user experience at the top of their priority list. Thank You!

  • Unless Adobe, Articulate, etc. make an amazing ActionScript to JavaScript/CSS/HTML5 converter – these tools are going to lag behind for mobile training. It seems like there should be an effort to take a tool like Adobe CourseBuilder and modify it to use the JQuery Mobile/JQuery frameworks. There also needs to be access to OS functions like geolocation, camera, etc. 

    Of course you will need some amazing templates that will guide users on creating a performance support tool for the small screen – not a one hour course. 

    Are we there yet?

    • Anonymous

      Hi Josh, more great points. I think templates would be one of the easiest ways to add a positive impact toward better mobile content. However I’d also like to see these companies hire some outstanding mobile UI experts to help with the transition. Not to mention the fact that 15-18 month upgrade cycles just won’t cut it as things move way too fast these days. We shall see what happens. Thanks.

  • Refco27

    Interview with @elearningcoach reminds us to be mindful that mobile devices are used in short bursts, so best use is performance support and micro-learning (love that term)…”just-in-time.” Love one example, envisioning something like construction workers about to operate new tool can point phone at tool;,safety features display overlaid on the tool. Really “thinking different.” Story here: 

    • I was about to make a similar comment. Part of the whole thing that creates the distinction between mobile learning and “regular” e-learning is not only how it’s accessed (meaning by device), but also how the learner accesses the information. Studies were done years ago with cell phones before they were known as the smartphones that we know today, where courses had to be redesigned to accommodate SMS delivery for the content, or use only the tiny text-only screens to deliver the content. Times have certainly changed as far as the richness of content, but the accessibility of it hasn’t changed much at all. Tablets certainly make mlearning more friendly, again since more rich content can be displayed, but it’s often more a matter of how the learner uses the tablet and studies with it. I’m a grad student myself right now, and if anything, I use my tablet more as an e-reader when I’m doing homework than the sole machine to do my homework. Sometimes I’ll access my Moodle connection through my iPad, and sometimes I’ll work on my weekly essays on the iPad when not at home, but I still primarily use my laptop at home for homework. In time, as we are starting to see, that dynamic is going to change because learning tools for the learner are getting better, just as much as the design tools are getting better too.

  • Thank you for your post. I’ve made similar experiences. The discussion about mlearning isn’t a  new one but ’til now I haven’t seend much good examples of real mLearnings.
    But must customers really say: Does this WBT also run on the iPad – not taking into consideration that the usage of the mobile devices is a different one than on a PC.You’ll use the material outside of your office (as you have your PC in the office) and you want to use all the extra features available on the mobile device in your learning content – and this doesn’t mean to regularely click on the next-button.
    After seeing the contest I also thought that this would give the mLearning a new “boost” – but after seeing the first examples (most of them were buggy or didn’t work well) I was back on the floor again.

    Hope to read more of the mlearning topic from you soon. I’m really anticipating any new information on this topic.

  • genefer s

    I am exicited about
    HTML5 but Flash can do all these things html5 can do in a
    better way.Creating slideshow in HTML5! wow! what, flash did that 10 years
    ago! It is very easy to create a flash animation, for example a ball bouncing
    in flash professional in less than am minute. Javascript is a mess when
    compared to AS3.

  • Dhall

    Mobile Learning, in my opinion,should be reserved for JITT (Just-In-Time-Training) methods. The cognitive requirements during eLearning, ILT, or Lecture Lab are very different and emersive than mLeaning.

    An Example is where we had taken a Lectora lesson and simply converted it to a mobile format. It was not nearly as interesting and, in fact, was very bothersome because we had ot pan around, zoom in / out, etc. This was after we reformated it for the iPad.

    Our example was a very interactive, simulation based course related to aircraft operations and once we had canvased a few testers, their responses were far less than satisfactory because more of their retention had to do with having to navigate the course template than the content.

    We discovered a very good use for mLearning, however, the JITT had to do with checklists, procedures, and supplemental information related to the eLeaning. This is where mLearning paid off big time. The right information presented at the right time to the right audience.

    • Anonymous

      Hi Dhall, many thanks for your comment. There are many things I like about your comment, namely the fact that by observing your audience you proved that indeed a simple conversion from the Desktop to mobile does not yield a great experience. Mobile require a different way of thinking, and as you mentioned above a whole new way of presenting content and navigation. I also agree with you in that JITT is the most obvious application for mLearning, however I also feel that’s just the beginning, and over time we will innovate beyond that and create extremely compelling learning experiences on mobile. Even better than those we are accustomed to on the Desktop via eLearning. Thanks a bunch for stoping by and commenting. I really appreciate it!

  • Hello, guys! As for me I support all innovation concerning mobile technologies. New applications appear all the time and I think it is good for us. May be we will be able to use even 

    pdf viewer download on our mobiles.

  • Kstagg

    Hey RJ! Just got a new job where they will be developing eLearning content with Lectora X. I’ve used an earlier version of this before a few years ago. What are your thoughts on this tool, and what are your thoughts on its capabilities to export to iPad (which I know they are using to develop to iPad here but I don’t know much about the program). Dang, I’d love to get in on that.

    Anyway – fight the good fight – and keep up the great work.

    Your number 1 fan -@kstagg

  • Esra

    I am looking elearning courses which have a different design for web, tablet and smartphone. Can you recommend me any course like that one?

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