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Mobile Learning: What is the Best Technology to Reach my Audience?

Mobile Learning Technical NeedsThis is really the most complex component of developing your mobile learning roadmap. And there are plenty of vendors out there who will try to sell you a mobile solution that will work on all devices and operating systems, that’s just not the reality. Mobile learning optimized for a tablet are not optimized on a mobile phone with a small screen, what I am trying to get at that is unless you are going mobile just of the sake of going mobile the user experience is vital to your choice of technology. The operating systems, and or browser versions for each device offer their own complexities in what functionality can be delivered. And then, of course, there’s our old friend Flash. If Apple products factor into your plan in any way, Flash is no longer an option without also providing an alternative delivery method, adding complexity and cost to your program.

There are vital components to consider when deciding on the best technology to use in your organization’s mobile learning development initiative. Choosing between a flash, html or native solution to the tablets of phones you want to reach are deliberate decisions.

The overall business objectives of training materials must be considered. Missteps in aligning your first mobile learning project with current and future business goals can quickly lose credibility for mobile as a high-impact training delivery method for future learning initiatives. (I’ll discuss this point more in-depth in my next blog). But an easy example is making a a prior decision that you need as a business to cover both the iphone and android based devices in the next say year or two.

Platform selection, LMS integration and localization needs must be considered before making a decision on the right technology for your audience. The media and material displayed on the mobile device, necessity of collecting data from learners and frequency for updating the training materials should be factored in your decision as well. Maintaining a mobile learning solution that has not been planned out correctly from the start will undoubtedly incur high maintenance fees that can be avoided by understanding and selecting the right options for delivery before the learning content is designed and developed. Adobe and others have come out with technology platforms that can port out to different phone or tablet environment so thankfully we see this becoming less of an issue in the future.

Common technologies such as HTML, CSS, JavaScript, Videos, etc… can be used across multiple platforms to create an engaging experience. Targeting specific platforms, we have also used both Flash/XML and HTML5 technologies for customers who want to provide the best experience possible for each platform device and still have the broadest audience reach. Traditionally Flash and HTML5 technologies have been used to create Web Apps but are now also viable options to create full or hybrid Native Apps that will play on multiple platforms devices natively. Allen is using and researching tools like the ones below to design and develop mobile initiatives that have garnered 7 awards in 2012:

Adobe Air to deploy Flash and FlashBuilder activities and animations to multiple platforms in the form of Web and Native Apps.
Adobe Edge using Animate and PhoneGap to deploy HTML and HTML5 to multiple platforms in the form of Web and Native Apps.
Adobe Digital Publishing Suite to create and design publications for tablet devices.
Sencha Touch: which is a JavaScript framework that can deploy HTML/HTML5 based apps to multiple platforms.
Corona SDK: Which uses Lua and OpenGL to publish games and animation to multiple platforms.
RhoMobile, WebMobi and many others..

From our experience delivering mobile learning for companies like CVS and JetBlue, the best options are to either go with an html tool that will work in the browser of most devices and try to address the variety of screen sizes and layouts through good design, or to focus on a specific device that is dominant with potential learners and optimize the design of your mobile learning for that device. The first choice is really the only choice for companies who rely on learners using their own mobile devices and, hence, have to go with the most flexible option possible. The latter path is ideal for companies who actually issue their employees mobile platforms, such as iPads, and can reasonably expect that the majority of the training will happen on those devices. This also provides the option to go with native apps that are far more robust than an html tool can be and vastly expand the type of functionality that can be delivered to learners.

We at Allen are very concerned that organization will spend too much time looking for the lowest technological common denominator and risk a less then optimal user experience. Accepting that technology has its limits we can and should design around it and with it to insure that the end user will enjoy, learn and adopt new behaviors as a result of our App or mobile website. Once again this is not farfetched and combining the right content with the right technology should give your training group a great WIN !

As we’ve said before, the path is wildly different for every company and the unique audience and needs that they face. But we’re here to help. You can read more about Allen’s Mobile Learning Roadmap solution, send us your questions or download some great whitepapers that explore these topics.