Recently, I came across Articulate’s outstanding white paper outlining their stance on Mobile Learning. In it, Articulate’s CTO, Arlyn Asch, makes a strong case against slide-based ‘responsive’ mLearning, saying ‘slide-based eLearning wouldn’t make sense if objects changed position or simply disappeared to fit smaller screen sizes.’ I strongly agree with Articulate’s stance; here are a few of my key takeaways from the article.

Web technologies are best for building mLearning experiences across platforms

Asch says that Adobe’s reimagining of responsive design ‘fails to meet the critical requirements learners, organizations, and course authors have around multi-device, slide-based eLearning.’ Despite what Adobe would have you believe, using Captivate’s methods to create a multi-device design for slide-based eLearning content is actually very manual and time-consuming for developers (especially when edits and updates are needed). Instead, Asch advocates for use of standards-based web technologies that dynamically adjust content based on which device the learner is using. This allows developers to create once and publish everywhere (and easily manage/update content when needed).

Of course, this approach requires L&D leaders to think about the skills and abilities they are developing on their teams. And that’s OK! Start hiring designers/developers who have experience in responsive web design & development to help address our learners’ increasingly complex multi-device needs and expectations.

To be clear, I’m not recommending that we completely abandon Captivate or Storyline in favor of web technologies like HTML5. I believe both Captivate and Storyline are incredibly powerful tools…but they aren’t the best option when building learning experiences for cross-platform delivery and consumption.

What I do recommend is that we (as Learning professionals) start to develop and expand new skills outside of the ‘old favorites.’ A great place to start is (free with your library card in many areas!).

Learn from other disciplines

I love that L&D leaders are starting to recognize and address the huge overlap between Instructional Design, Web Development, and Content Strategy & Management. Getting into mLearning requires a new approach to the full cycle of analysis, creation, management, and delivery of learning content.

I strongly advocate that L&D teams learn more about web design/development standards (and how they might be applied to learning content). Here are a few great (short) reads from the A Book Apart series to get you started:

Additionally, Float Mobile Learning has put out a few gems specifically focused on Mobile Learning.

Think information design over slide design

One of the critical mental shifts when going from eLearning to mLearning is letting go of the need for slide-based, linear content design. Let’s face it, we’ve all built a lot of ‘click next to continue’ eLearning, and we can all agree that this type of learning experience generally isn’t great on a mobile device…right? Consider how Facebook’s mobile usability and user experience would be impacted if we had to ‘click next to continue’ instead of scrolling…. Yikes.

Consider the following when designing information for mobile:

  • Learner context: Where are they trying to access your content? What’s going on around them? What device are they using?
  • Learner motivation: Why are they accessing that content at that moment?
  • Learner expectations: What do they expect to find? How long are they willing to search and/or wait for it to load?
  • Information design: How is your information organized? Is it aligned with what we’ve come to expect from mobile design? Is it easy to read/navigate? How are pictures or videos enhancing your content?

Design for your smallest screen first

As you see in the examples Asch shares, designing for your smallest screen is critical. If you’re building for multiple devices, it’s a good idea to design for your smallest screen first. This is especially important if your learners primarily access your content on a small screen.

Approaching mobile design in this way helps you narrow your focus to only the most important content, clear the clutter that often appears in eLearning courses, innovate with layouts and navigation, and ensure you’re delivering a meaningful experience to your learners in their moment of need.

I was extremely impressed by Articulate’s white paper outlining their stance on responsive design. I hope you found this post useful; I’d love to hear about your current challenges around mLearning. Post your questions and comments here!


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