Insights: Organisations need multi-device learning solutions

This post continues my commentary to the Learning Insights 2012 Report produced by Kineo for e.learning age magazine. The fourth of the ten ‘insights’ in the report is that ‘Organisations need multi-device learning solutions’.

It used to be that mobile learning was thought of as something quite separate from e-learning – a parallel path for learning technologies. The experience that millions of people have had over the past few years of working with high resolution mobile devices (my third generation iPad has the same resolution as my 27″ iMac!) is that you can do most of the same things when you’re on the move using a touch screen device as you can on your desktop PC. True, you only tend to get one window on screen at a time, but as far as learning is concerned that’s a big advantage. Whatever you call them – desktops, laptops, tablets, smart phones, even games consoles – they’re all computers and increasingly they work in very similar ways.

Buyers of e-learning services don’t care about the technical difficulties involved in building content that works across all these platforms. And, quite frankly, why should they? It is quite reasonable that they ask that any content that’s developed should work on any device currently available or likely to arrive in the next few years. Not that many employers are yet using mobile devices that much for learning. But they will, if only because the early adopters – of tablets in particular – in most organisations, are senior executives. It is absolutely de rigeur that they carry an iPad when on the move, and there’s always a chance they’ll want to take a look at the latest corporate e-learning programme, if only to check how they look in the introductory video. If they find out that it won’t work they’ll demand solutions.

So how do e-learning developers respond to this demand? One way is to use an authoring tool that will output to HTML5, which in theory at least will work on most devices (although not if your organisation is still using IE6). This may mean you end up with different versions for different devices, which is not quite meeting the objective.

Another solution is to create content that intelligently adapts to the device on which it is being viewed, something that Kineo itself is pioneering. Responsive HTML is now quite common for major websites, which format content according to the screen size, but certainly not usual for e-learning. One of the interesting side effects of this is the need to move away from the slide show model and to embrace scrolling pages (see my post on the return of scrolling and why this should not be a cause for concern).

Having recently advised that e-learning is (nearly) dead, I’d have to admit that m-learning is going the same way. Our customers don’t acknowledge a difference, so why should we?

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