I’ve spent most of my working life in the learning technologies field, but even I’m surprised by the speed of progress of mobile technology and the impact it has made.
The changes have happened fast – very fast – and, of course, there is no way back. My phone doubles as an internet workstation, a camera, a video camcorder, a dictaphone, a satnav, a fitness tracker, even a torch. The list goes on and will only get longer. These changes have fundamentally altered the way people interact with technology and the implications for us as educators is far too important to ignore.
With advances in the delivery and tracking systems and ubiquitous mobile devices, the recent Learning Technology Research (LTR) Project focused on how we can best harness mobile technology to improve the training and support we give our people.
I’ve been reviewing the LTR Project Report and it makes fascinating reading.
"Smartphones and tablets have given us portable computing power, changing habits and consumption patterns significantly in just a few years. Advances in the technologies available to host, manage, target and track content usage have provided us with a range of new capabilities. But these fundamental changes in the digital learning landscape have combined to raise questions on the best way to utilise them effectively." LTR Project, May 2017
The research is interesting because it looks at a real live learning programme with a large number of real live learners, all delivered using existing technology to native Apps on learners’ phones and tablets. It then examines their behaviours, experiences and preferences in detail.
These are the three big learning points we can extract from the research:
#1 Ease of use is everything
For me, the biggest surprise coming out of the LTR Project was the overwhelming emphasis learners put on the attractiveness and ease of use of learning delivered on mobile phones and tablets. Obviously, the quality and relevance of the content itself is vital. However, the key thing here is that LTR Project participants viewed the ease of use of the technology, the ease of access, the attractiveness of the interface and convenience when accessing materials to be even more important than the content itself. Whether the user is accessing your system in the traditional online way from a desktop or tablet, or via Apps on a tablet of smartphone, the point is the same – the quality of the user experience is crucial.
Why is this?
Learners are typically used to clunky, boring online LMS systems. By contrast, they are also well accustomed to slick social and commercial applications available online or on their mobile devices. In this new world, educators have to match these for visual appeal and ease of use, or else you are dead in the water and many people won’t even bother looking at the content.
#2 Choice rules
The next surprise is the importance of flexibility. The research showed that people had many different working preferences – some learners preferred to work in the office, others liked home working, some preferred to study when travelling, some liked to learn at weekends, others in the weekday, some in normal office hours, some in their own time, some on a tablet, some on a phone.
Interestingly, preferences were quite strong. For example, even if a small percentage of the overall total liked to work whilst travelling, those who did liked it a lot and it was important to them.
The big lesson here is to put the learner at the centre and give them the choice of working in whichever way suits them best – time, place, online, offline, phone, tablet, desktop. These criteria can all be easily accommodated by the latest technology platforms and, with some thought on the way learning programmes are structured – for example, using microlearning and personalisation of content – you can meet the widest range of user preferences.
#3 Not just for millennials
The third big surprise? Mobile learning is not just for millennials. The make-up of the research participant audience included a very healthy percentage of people who might be considered conservative or reticent in their use of mobile technologies. In fact, 68% of participants were between 40 and 60. Younger audiences may have grown up with these mobile technologies and be totally used to them, but older users are enthusiastic about them too.
Take a look at the full report at www.agylia.com/ltrreport.html
The Learning Technology Research Project was undertaken at the end of 2016 and examined the learner preferences and the educational impact of a programme of training delivered to Apps on people’s mobile phones and tablets. The programme was delivered at spaced intervals as a set of multi-media microlearning pieces from the Agylia learning management system. User behaviours, experiences and preferences were studied by researchers from Agylia and the University of the West of England. Download your full copy of the report. If you would like to find out more about the LTR Project or the technology used, please email email@example.com
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