You may have heard something like this concerning responsive design: “We want to develop a series of eLearning modules. Learners should be able to access them on computers and mobile devices.”

It’s true most rapid eLearning authoring tools, such as Captivate or Storyline, offer HTML5 publishing options which can make your eLearning module viewable on mobile devices. However, is this all you need?

“Mobile device” is a very big, yet very vague, concept. It includes a variety of mobile-enabled equipment: tablets, smart phones, wrist devices, or handheld game consoles. When we talk about “mobile devices for eLearning,” it is important to have a clear definition, especially when considering smart phone delivery.

Smart phones come in a big variety of screen sizes and resolutions, ranging from 3 to 7 inches. Even a smart phone with a 7-inch screen is still much smaller than your laptop monitor or tablet. Content becomes tough to read when a normal eLearning course is scaled down to a smaller screen and the navigation buttons might be too small for your fingers to touch. This is when we need to introduce the concept of responsive design.

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Responsive design is not new. Amazon and CNN, for example, use it to develop their major commercial and media websites. They program objects, such as text and graphics, to react to different screen sizes in responsive sites. Responsive design could be a layout change from multiple columns on a desktop to single columns on a smart phone. It could instead be a behavior change: from a regular menu banner on a desktop to an expandable “hamburger menu” on a smart phone. So the next question to ask is, “How can we create a responsive eLearning module?”

Most eLearning modules are developed with Articulate Storyline or Adobe Captivate, and each take different approaches towards responsive design. Storyline 3 and 360 both make navigation easier for smart phone users by offering a responsive player. However, developers will need to decide on a layout for content, graphics, and interactions to make sure it will work well on smaller screens.

Storyline comes with a mobile preview mode in development, which helps developers adjust objects for all screens. Captivate takes a blended approach to push the responsive eLearning a step further. Captivate 2017 introduces the “fluid box” concept for responsive projects. This feature allows objects to move to different locations dynamically, based on changing screens. In addition to Storyline and Captivate, there are a few new tools focusing on mobile-first approach, such as Adapt Learning.

Regardless of which tool you choose, you save a lot of time in creating responsive eLearning. Without these tools, more design thought and development time would be required, not to mention rather complicated testing processes.

How to deliver eLearning on mobile devices is not a simple question. You may need to balance your decisions based on the learning needs and learner analysis while taking these technical and cost factors in mind. Two questions to get you start on the right path are, “How much of my audience will access this learning on smart phone, and why?”

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