Tuesday, January 28

Future of Mobile Learning - an interview with Geoff Stead

What's the future of mobile learning? Which trends should we be watching, and which ones are nonsense? What about NFC / iBeacons / Geofencing? How to get started with m-learning?

I recently did an interview with Learnnovators, an energetic and enthusiastic learning tech company in Chennai, where they asked me these, and similar questions. Here are a couple of extracts, or check out the full interview on elearningindustry.com
Q: We see a lot of promise in capabilities such as Mobile Augmented Reality, Near Field Communication (NFC), and QR Codes holding for ‘contextual mobile learning’. What are your thoughts?
Mobile Learning can offer 2 very different things:
1) mobile, and flexible access to learning you were doing before: (like e-learning, looking up information, phone calls, etc.)
2) new ways to learn, very often connected with your context. The ability to find out critical information at the precise moment of need
These new ways to learn start getting really exciting when you add contextual information. Where is the learner? What are they doing? What do they need information about? This bringing together of Real and Digital is really empowering, but needs some form of connector to join the two together. The technologies you mentioned are all ways to do that (NFC / AR / QR-Codes / iBeacons / Image Reco / GPS, etc, etc.).
I am excited by connecting Real and Digital, not for the technologies themselves, but for learning possibilities they offer us!

Q: How will smart phone capabilities such as Geo-location and Geo-fencing evolve further to power up Predictive Personalization? How do you think learning will benefit from this feature?
This is another example of connecting Real world to Digital / Virtual. Geo-fencing lets you define a physical area (using GPS, or similar) that can act as a trigger on your phone, when you enter that zone. Qualcomm develops an open source toolkit called Gimbal that lets you extend these to inside a building too.
To test this out in a meaningful activity, we used Gimbal to create a mobile tour guide, adding contextually relevant information into our Qualcomm Museum.
We placed small Bluetooth LE beacons (similar to iBeacon) around the museum, and developed an app that allows visitors to get extra information on their phones as they walk around the exhibits. The response has been awesome and we are now talking to several public museums who want the same thing. This may feel futuristic, but the cool thing is that the technologies are all already there (and cheap!)
See worklearnmobile.org/articles/mobile-museum-tours-apps-and-indoor-positioning for more details.

Q: As we know, m-learning is not e-learning on a mobile device. Learning designers who have been masters in designing e-learning interventions for years are facing a major challenge with transitioning to mobile. What would be your advice to help them to detach from the traditional mindset and relearn new strategies?
I’d say “Break it up!” and “Hand over more Give up some control”.
Break up longer courses into shorter interventions, and recognize that you need to hand over navigational control to the learner. One of the skills in creating e-learning courses was the story-telling dimension. This changes with mobile. You can no longer control the narrative in the same way. Learners have less time, and may want to jump straight to chapter 3. This needs to be supported, and woven into the narrative.
There still is a space for mobile versions of e-learning, but it is dying out fast, as mobile learners discover more effective ways to find out what they need to learn.

Q: What would be your advice to organizations who wish to integrate mobile learning with their e-learning strategy to improve productivity?
  • Just do it! Start small, iterate and evaluate.
  • Don’t be constrained by how you currently use PCs. Rather start from what mobile does best, and think how that could benefit your employees.
  • Work with your IT team to make sure you get the optimum balance between security and openness.
  • Look up to the leaders in your sector: High performing organizations are twice as likely to be doing mobile learning already. Learn from them.
My team at Qualcomm are sharing what we learn on at WorkLearnMobile.org

Do you agree? What are your thoughts? (see the full interview on learnnovators and  elearningindustry.com)

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