Tonight i’m presenting a webinar on mobile learning, which means it’s time for me to think about what i’m going to say… One of the core themes is technology versus experience. I like to think of these things separately, to differentiate between ‘technology’, which delivers the messages, and ‘experience’, which is how we receive them.
Typically what happens is that organisations procure technology, but want to deliver an experience. This would be ok, except that technology in itself won’t deliver a high quality experience. It will facilitate it, but that’s a different matter.
To really develop great quality mobile solutions, we need to consider the overall learner experience, what is it like to learn from mobile. This will be a combination of the methodology, understanding how we demonstrate concepts on mobile, how we explore the learning and how we asses learning, all delivered by a technology that needs to run seamlessly.
When we start thinking about delivering learning to mobile, the first question should not be ‘how we will do it’? It should be ‘why are we doing it’? Understanding if we are going mobile because it will deliver a different learning experience that actually adds value, is more effective, or if we are simply doing it because it’s the cool thing to do. The reason we need to understand this is because our starting point will affect what we deliver. If we are going mobile because we think it’s cool, which is a perfectly good reason that i can get right behind, then we’d better be sure that what we deliver is a truly cool solution. If we use the technology to deliver a decidedly second rate solution, then we’ve failed.
If we want to do it because it adds value, or is more effective, then we need to think about how this is the case. It won’t add value all by itself. Being mobile, in itself, may add value, but only in certain contexts, for certain materials, for certain people. In other cases, it will actively detract from value. In either case, we need to consider the everyday reality of the learner.
Sure, technology is cool in itself, but primarily it’s cool in social ways. It’s great as a consumer experience, it’s great for playing with Facebook and taking photos, but it does not have the ability to osmotically transfer it’s native cool to anything it touches. It you look in the App store, there are a wide variety of poor quality Apps that deliver poor experiences for every good one that delivers a great experience.
Learning experiences are build around workshops (usually half a day or a full day), a book or an hour of e-learning. Sure, there are variants and flavours, but each experience is different, and that’s what I want to explore further. Mobile learning will not simply be one of these existing experiences transferred and delivered to your Blackberry. A book on screen is not good if the screen is small and an hour is a long time to be staring at it. Mobile learning needs to mature fast. Better to deliver a first experience that is great, rather than poor.