Why travel to a huge campus bustling with students, far from other amenities when you can simply carry a classroom in your jeans pocket? There are three key statistics that suggest to us that the environment and time is absolutely right for mobile learning.

Firstly, average mobile screen size increased from 3 inches in 2012 to about 5-6 inches today, meaning users can have an effective user experience on a mobile device, which couldn’t be said in the past. Secondly, high speed mobile via 3G or Wi-Fi hotspots is now available to nearly all mobile users, whereas three years ago the situation was quite the opposite. And thirdly, 70 per cent of people currently access the Internet via mobile device and 90 per cent will do so by 2017.

This is why many learning designers will be focussing on their mobile learning strategies, and we thought it was a good time to set out four hot design tips for mobile e-learning platforms.

1. Focus on bite-size learning.

Understand where your mobile learner is likely to be doing their learning. They may be in a hotel lobby, on a train/bus/plane, coffee shop, between meetings etc…, and may not be available for long, undisturbed stretches like a desktop user. In this case, design your mobile learning so it’s in bite-size, manageable units, which users can stop and resume easily at a later date, without concern of losing their learning to date. Remember, mobile learners are pressed for time and distracted, which means that content should be concise, precise and to the point. 

2. Incorporate user interaction types.

You’re all comfortable designing e-learning devices for desktop users, where users can engage in complicated interactions. But, you are no doubt aware that the tap and slide interaction of mobile users is far more limiting, making it hard for mobile users to do complicated interactions like drag and drop. Some mobile users may not even be using touch screens. So, as a rule, minimize the number and frequency of interactions needed. Keep navigation simple and automate transitions as much as possible. Limit scrolling. Use small chunks of text.

3. Use audio rather than words as much as possible.

The modality principle, part of the cognitive theory of multimedia learning, based on research by Clarke and Mayer, suggests learners learn better from audio narration rather than text, especially when the material is complex for the learner and fast-paced, which can of course be said of the mobile learner environment. So, focus on audio narrative, keep narration short and provide headsets to learners as part of your mobile learning platform design.

4. Personalize where possible.

Clark and Mayer’s personalization principle suggests that people learn better when the narrative is in more of a conversational style than formal style, and with a standard accented voice rather than a machine or foreign accented voice, and with a virtual coach. Don’t try to squeeze in a virtual coach on a mobile – as it will take up too much screen capital, but an audio coach will still be very effective. Give users a range of standard accents to choose from, perhaps a male and a female to enhance the learning experience. 

We’d love to hear what problems you’ve faced when designing mobile learning systems and what solutions you have deployed to over come them.

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