Instructional Design Challenges for Smaller Screens

Posted on : April 30th, 2012
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Mobile learning is fast gaining pace as a popular medium of imparting knowledge amongst the new-age learners of today. Most of us carry (or at least aspire to carry) a high-end mobile device – be it a Smartphone or a tablet. This proximity to the device, at all times, creates a huge opportunity to make learning material available to the learner – anywhere, anytime. This opportunity has been tapped for corporate learning and, according to a report, 50% of those who have implemented m-learning have already begun to see positive results*.
*Source: E-learning Guild Report – Mobile Learning and Trends by Clark Quinn

So, while that’s the good news, mobile learning comes with its own set of challenges,especially for instructional designers who lay the foundation of the learning content.

  • The biggest challenge in mobile learning is, unarguably, the limited viewing space available. This restricts the inclusion of exhaustive text or documents. Also, the viewing space changes for every learner, as every one of them may not carry the same make or model of the mobile device.
  • Another major concern is the lack of a common development platform which renders content across all mobile devices – be it Android, Blackberry or iPhone. Also, mobile devices have lesser processing capabilities than desktops or laptops. Therefore, heavy video files or media rich simulations might not render properly or be compatible to the screen size of the device.
  • The biggest measure for the success of any learning course is to garner if it was able to capture the attention of the learner and retain it. For mobile devices, this is a difficult task. The primary use of a mobile device is that it enables the user to make or receive calls as well as send or receive text messages. This can be seen as a deterrent to achievement of the overall learning objectives, especially when distractions like this cannot be avoided.

So, while some of these challenges cannot be overcome in a day, designers can work around them. Here are some ways how –

  • Mobile learning content needs to be concise and ‘bite-sized’.
  • When designing courses, codes should be written so that the content can automatically adjust as per the dimension of the learners’ mobile device.
  • In a bid to make mobile courses more interesting and appealing for learners, images or graphs can be used to convey as much as words would.
  • Audio can also be extensively used to support text. To lessen text, only an introduction or gist can be presented through words while the rest can be presented through audio, to which the learner can listen to and learn.
  • Simple animations (like external SWFs) or Page change animations can also cut through the visual monotony in a course and increase its visual appeal for the learner – even within the constricted space.
  • Most mobile devices provide access to the Internet. This provides an opportunity to include streaming media in mobile courses, instead of embedded audio or video files which are bound to make the course heavy. Live or recorded sessions can be made part of a course, using streaming technology, and can liven up a mobile course to make it more interesting for the learner.

G-Cube prides itself in being involved with mobile learning from the early days of its inception. There is a lot of scope for newer kinds of learning through this medium, and we look forward to enriching our experiences with this medium and sharing them here. Click to contact us about our mobile learning solutions.

Arunima Majumdar

Arunima is the Marketing Head at G-Cube. She loves exploring and blogging about innovations in training & learning for the new-age corporate sector.

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