According to the Forrester report “66% of employees now use two or more devices every day including laptops, smartphones and tablets and a notable 12% percent said that they use tablets at work.” As there is drastic increase in the usage of mobile devices, organizations are now looking to develop eLearning courses that are compatible to all mobile devices. Not only eLearning courses, even the LMS has to be made accessible through mobile devices.
Earlier, to implement mLearning as a means of training their employees, organizations invested lot of money to provide mobile devices to each employee. This approach failed as it was not feasible to provide mobiles for each employee due to limited budget.
In the year 2009, a new concept called BYOD (Bring your own device) was introduced. This really helped the organizations to train employees without much investment.
On the one hand, BYOD is a cost-effective approach in terms of device availability. On the other hand it gives rise to many challenges, such as:
- Is it possible to develop an eLearning course that can be viewed on any mobile device?
- Is there any LMS platform that can host eLearning for mobile devices and desktops and track the learning progress?
Technology mostly grows when there is a need. I will share how technology improved to be able to deliver courses on mobile on the one hand and track the learning progress on LMS on the other hand.
HTML (Year 1991): Before courses were developed for mobile devices, the HTML format was recommended for use. As iPhone and Blackberry, the most widely used devices, do not support Flash player and so it is pointless to use Flash. Lectora is one of the most popular authoring tools, which deliver HTML eLearning courses in the HTML format; it is also used for developing courses with manual HTML programming, which take more time and cost. Technically, it becomes possible to view the courses on all the mobile devices, but the look and feel and user friendly was not up to the mark.
HTML 5 (Year 2010): To overcome the user-friendly navigation issue in the courses, a new version of HTML called HTML5 was released; this transformed the user experience on mobile devices. The popular authoring tools that can produce HTML5 format courses are Articulate Storyline, Lectora, Captivate, iSpring and many more. Courses were developed in two versions one for desktops and one for mobile devices as these tools do not provide one common version for all the devices. Due to two versions it became difficult to host and assign the learning activities on the LMS.
Device detection code (since internet browsers introduced): To resolve the hosting multiple version of course in the LMS, a new approach was used using mobile detection code. In this approach, two versions were developed one for mobile and one for desktop. Using the mobile detection code the respective versions will be displayed. Two versions will be included in a single package and hosted on the LMS. Mobile device detection will be done in the background and for the learner it will look like one course.
Responsive design (Year 2011): In the mobile detection code, it is required to develop various versions based on the different screen sizes of the devices. This approach may provide good user experience but takes lot of development effort. Even though HTML5 authoring tools provide HTML5 format which works on all mobile devices, user experience is not up to the mark. Users have to scroll vertically and horizontally to see the entire page. To make more devices independent design, a new feature called ‘responsive design’ was introduced. Responsive design really helped all mobile users to view the content clearly and without trouble. In this approach, eLearning content will reflow according to the device screen automatically and enhance user experience. It is very easy for developers to develop only one version which works on all the mobile devices.
There are some tools, which can develop responsive eLearning; especially LCMS where eLearning can be developed online using the available LCMS limited templates. Unfortunately, at present there are no authoring tools which can be installed on desktop to create and publish eLearning courses with responsive design. Most of the eLearning developers are developing the courses through manual coding. In future we can expect tools like Articulate Storyline, Lectora, Captivate and iSpring to include this responsive design feature.
Mobile compatible LMS:
As the technology advanced in mLearning, LMS service providers also upgraded their LMS to make it work on mobile devices. Currently, there are two methods to host and track eLearning courses on LMS.
Some LMS provider re-coded the application into HTML 5 with responsive design so that it can be easily viewed in all mobile devices. For example, Moodle an open-source LMS was coded in HTML 5 with responsive design. This type of LMSs is very cost effective and simple to manage for mobile users. Users are always required to have Internet connection to access the LMS and eLearning. However, there is no need of additional payment on the part of the organization, if the LMS itself is in HTML 5 with responsive design.
The other way of hosting and tracking courses is through LMS mobile apps which can be installed on any mobile device. Course assignment and tracking can be done in the LMS as usual. Users have to install and sync the courses with the server; then all the assigned courses will be displayed on the device and users can download them on the device and access whenever they want, even without the Internet. When there is an Internet connection, course and tracking information will get synchronized with the LMS. Organizations need to pay additionally for this app to the service provider and provide license keys to the authorized users. For example, PushCast, SumTotal, CellCast, etc., are providing such mobile apps.
We can now say that it is possible to create and host eLearning courses for all the devices. Using HTML5 with responsive design helps developers to create the courses once and distribute to all devices such as desktops, laptops, iPads, and all types of smartphones. Hopefully, soon the popular authoring tools may also add responsive design feature for the rapid development. If you have come across any other tools with the responsive design feature, do share such information with us here.