29 May m-Learning with GoMo
If you are involved in e-learning then you will know that customers already have high expectations that any ‘courses’ or ‘courseware’ you develop will also be accessible on mobile devices. Now this sounds simple from the viewpoint of the customer – a mobile device is simply another screen (even if it is sometimes short on pixel real estate). However as someone who has lived for a while with the web and the myriad of devices, operating systems, middleware and applications software it fills me with trepidation. Accessing learning content on mobile devices is ‘non-trivial’.
In practice we can’t simply re-purpose existing learning content to run on a mobile device (see my previous post ‘M-learning or E-learning?‘). What we need to do is to consider the mobile device as a delivery channel in its own right.
What is a mobile device?
The vast majority of mobile devices are smartphones (some are smarter than others) but tablets such as the iPad are also classified as mobile devices. Paradoxically laptops or netbooks, no matter how ultra light and slim they are, are NOT classified as mobile devices. Why is this? Probably because they run a desktop OS and software that is designed primarily to be used in a static location either physically connected to a network or via a secure WiFi. In the context of e-learning the key difference is probably that mobile devices are always on and are used for shorter periods of activity.
Recognising that we can’t simply re-package existing e-learning content for mobile devices we need to consider what content will be appropriate on a mobile device and then develop this as part of our ‘courseware’.
What courseware will work well in m-learning?
Quick and convenient access is key but the ability to handle audio and video seamlessly is also a big advantage of mobile devices. Here are some learning activities that work well on a mobile device:
- Quick reference guides
- Job aids
- Quick overviews/introductions
- Diagnostics (e.g. survey or questionnaire)
- Short videos
- Audio files
- Short quizzes
I am focussing on courseware/content here. Mobile devices are also very good at collaborative/communication based learning activities (see ‘It’s Not Learning on a Phone‘ by Connie Malamed ) but this is trickier to implement and involves the idea of a ‘cohort’ of learners to be successful. I’ll look at this in more details in a future post.
Developing Content for Mobile Devices
Producing the stuff on the list above should be relatively straightforward but there are surprisingly few tools that do the job. Conventional e-learning authoring tools are aimed squarely at the big screen and use technologies that don’t work well on mobile devices (e.g. Flash).
Existing tool vendors are rushing to fill the gap but in many cases the environment is so different that it’s a struggle to develop content for mobile devices that will also work on existing PCs. The idea of ‘single source’ publishing is a tough one to crack in view of the vast numbers of devices.
The most successful approach so far is that taken by tools like GoMo which are designed specifically to develop content for mobile devices. GoMo is so far the ONLY authoring environment that really has been built from the ground-up to develop e-learning type content for mobile devices.
GoMo is designed to deliver content on both smartphones and tablets. It adopts a cleverly simple solution for dealing with the extra pixel real estate of a tablet compared to a smartphone – it uses the left hand side of the screen on a tablet to display the content menu (see illustration below).
Using a demo version of GoMo (thank you @craigtaylor74) I was able to build my first demo app in less than an hour. Of course like any e-learning development project all the real work is done in the storyboard – yes you do need to storyboard for m-learning.
The GoMo user interface is reasonably user friendly with ‘smartphone’ sized screens helping you to think about the layout challenges of a small screen device. You can create main menus, with sub-topics and you can also create simple topic branching.
GoMo’s most useful feature is its question and feedback capability. It includes either a ‘one answer is correct’ option or ‘many answers are correct’ and provides appropriate feedback depending upon whether the correct or incorrect answer is selected. You can also branch to topics based on the feedback so simple scenarios are possible. There is also an assessment mode enabling to you set a scored quiz and to capture the results via SCORM.
GoMo also supports video and audio enabling you to easily incorporate video and audio podcasts into your learning content.
GoMo can publish either as a native app or as a web app. If you publish to a native app then you will need to go through the publishing process to get your app onto an app store (Epic can do this for you at a charge of £595 per publish). In practice most e-learning users are likely to publish as a web app and provide access through an LMS. This option also provides SCORM tracking functionality.
GoMo comes with three standard ‘skins’ but you can develop your own or get Epic to craft one for you. The skin is important because it gives your content some personality. I can see most customers wanting their own ‘branded’ skin which would then be re-used across a range of m-learning courses.
I like GoMo. Hopefully other m-learning authoring tools will follow but for now GoMo does a good job of creating m-learning content.