With the advancement of mobile technology and hardware in the last decade, mobility of learning has also become increasingly popular. While traditionally, technology-aided learning existed only within two separate spheres: classrooms and at learners’ residents but now the availability of technology is perpetually available. Therefore learners have the opportunity to learn constantly and as per their perceived need, be it at home, at school, on public transportation, at work, and, even in bed.
The popularity of mobile learning is growing rapidly, especially amongst young learners, pointing out to us quite directly: the way, future generation would prefer to learn. The good news is that design principles for mobile learning development do not have to be created from scratch. M-learning has much in common with traditional forms of face-to-face and online learning with respect to both: its pedagogy and its use of technology. Instructional design principles developed for other forms of learning, can also be helpful in designing m-learning applications, accessible to the largest possible audience from the simplest of devices.
1. Mobile-learning content should have equitable use.
Mobile learning content should be accessible to people with diverse learning abilities and in diverse locations. It is then best to deliver content in the simplest possible formats. For instance, SMS or texting technology is cheap and its high levels of penetration are almost universally accessible. That is why it has been one of the earliest implementation of m-learning. Developing primary content using SMS can be a simple yet elegant way of ensuring that diverse learners have access to required materials, in short learning bursts. Also keeping the limited memory capabilities of mobile devices, it is a good idea to use cloud-computing file storage and sharing sites for access to reading resources or assignments. Using external storage sites can enable students to save more information, develop more complex projects, and engage fully in learning.
2. Mobile-learning content should have flexible use.
Mobile learning design should also accommodate a wide range of individual abilities, preferences, schedules, levels of connectivity, and choices in methods of use. M-learning has the potential to bring the learning out of the classroom to remote students. SMS or other Text-based solutions may often be more than adequate for this but will require significant adjustments. For best mobile learning delivery, it is a wise decision to package content in small chunks. If utilizing the SMS route, with its limited characters, course content is automatically brief. The lengths of other in-depth textual resources needs to be considered in download speed and related costs. It is also good to consider unconventional assignment options such as the inclusion of multimedia options like audio-casts or videos that learners can create and share. Using phones with cameras or video recording capabilities, students can also capture their own learning material and instantaneously send them to other students or instructors to upload it for storage or other purposes.
3. Mobile learning content should also be simple and intuitive.
Unnecessary complexity should be avoided in mobile learning content. The best mobile learning content is which keeps the learners’ interfaces simple. It should be ensured that they only contain information that can fit comfortably on the smallest of screens. Using HTML to create content will provide a simple and relatively accessible content delivery system with useful features including the ability to link between other resources or sites. Use of simple coding minimises file sizes, increases download speed, and is better supported on feature phones that may not give good support for cascading style sheets and other advanced programming functions. Developers can also use open-source products, which simplify access to content as well as access to m-learning development tools.
4. Low physical and technical effort.
While developing content for online learning, m-learning should also be developed requiring a low technical and physical effort. The physical effort related to inputting text into devices should be kept in mind. The challenge associated with inputting text data into mobile devices should encourage developers to create inclusive forms of assessment like multiple choice or yes/no questions. Text-to-audio tools can be included within the content to help learners who prefer to learn in the auditory way or who are studying while driving. Similarly, a clip-on magnifier can easily be attached to increase font size and visibility.
5. Community of learners and support
Community support for learning should be facilitated through the development of groups and support from mobile-enabled social tools. Instructors or learning managers should encourage multiple methods of communication like SMS, e-mail, instant messaging, social media groups and voice communication in developing relationships with and support for one another. They can support one another in working collaboratively to learn and solve real-world problems. Learning managers should also group learners according to technological access or preferences. In the development of inclusive m-learning, it is likely that diverse learners will have differing levels of access to and interest in multimedia technologies. It may be preferable to combine learners into groups along these lines. For example, if some learners only use SMS text in a course, they may prefer to work together rather than with other learners who have access to Internet. Grouping students in such a way may reduce the feel of “missing out” on specific delivery features.
Mobile learning appears to have the potential to provide inclusive learning for all. Mobile technologies offer excellent opportunities to open up education to many who have long been excluded from it. However, this effort involves continuous development of creative techniques and design of universally accessible educational material. Intensive research is ongoing for find the ways in which appropriate technologies and solid pedagogical approaches will remove barriers to educational diversity – which will clearly reflect the way mobile learning delivery will be done in future.
Reference and suggested further reading: Universal Instructional Design Principles for Mobile Learning by Tanya Elias (Global Mobile Learning Implementations and Trends)