The appetite for mobile learning is growing. Revenues in this sector are forecasted to reach $2.1 billion by 2019. But how well does mobile learning work on tablets and smartphones, and how can learning and development professionals improve the mobile learning experience? As Adobe Flash technology is increasingly superseded, many training professionals face a major challenge in converting outdated Flash content to HTML5 content, which enables effective mobile learning.
In August 2016, Google announced, “Going forward, Chrome will de-emphasize Flash in favor of HTML5. Here’s what that means for you. Today, more than 90% of Flash on the web loads behind the scenes to support things such as page analytics. This kind of Flash slows you down, and starting this September, Chrome 53 will begin to block it.”
Many companies are taking the sometimes complex and challenging pedagogical and technical journey from Flash to HTML5. Here’s some advice on how to handle this conversion and use it as an opportunity to transform learning.
Seismic Mobile Learning Shift
Replacing Flash-based learning content with HTML5 is not simply a technical exercise; it is a major technological shift demanding an entirely fresh approach to content design and delivery. These days, learners expect to access learning content on tablets rather than cumbersome laptops. HTML5-based learning content is mandatory to reach those learners.
For many years, Flash was the only way to enable rich audio and video content on the web, and it is still widely used. In the mobile space, however, device providers and manufacturers have opted for HTML5 as the future. HTML5 video content is easier on battery life than Flash and supports on-demand and live video streaming sources effectively.
If training content providers simply convert their Flash courses to HTML5 with no adaptation and no adjustments, they will lose a valuable opportunity. Whether Flash content was designed 10 or even three years ago, this conversion is a chance to review pedagogy and redesign and rethink content, taking into account the new expectations of learners.
Here are five tips to make mobile learning relevant to learners in your organization.
1. Set a 20-minute maximum for learning modules.Ten years ago, the duration of a typical e-learning module was up to one and a half hours. Five years ago, it was 30 to 45 minutes. Current thinking is that mobile learning is most effective in 20-minute chunks. This time limit reflects the reality of tablet use; learners spend less time on tablets than they do on laptops or desktop computers. Learners accessing content on the go often do not have the capacity to spend more than 20 minutes on that content. In fact, it’s a good idea for content designers to split each 20-minute unit into five-minute segments, enabling learners to dip in and out of the module to suit their working pattern.
2. Do not use smartphones for learning experiences exceeding five minutes. The benefit of using smartphones for learning delivery is that most people have one. However, their small screen size limits the interactivity that is key to effective learning. It’s difficult to translate features that work well on a tablet, such as drag-and-drop or clicking on elements, to a phone.
3. When designing new HTML5 content for tablets, introduce more opportunities for interactivity. Learners value high levels of interactivity. The more users interact with learning content, the more effective the learning process is. Tablets lend themselves well to interactivity and activities such as quizzes and “click-and-reveal” interactions, which allow learners to drill down from the initial screen to answer questions and discover more information.
4. Use videos with care. In a YouTube world, the use of video for training is growing. Videos can be a great training aid to help learners visualize situations. However, watching a video is a passive experience at best and, at worst, a distraction to learners, who may be sidetracked by anything from a representation of an unfamiliar culture to a character’s passing resemblance to a friend or relative.
Embedding video within training modules makes localization or customization more difficult as well. Some training suppliers simply provide subtitles or dubbing for different markets. However, subtitles do little to cross the cultural barrier for a learner in Brazil, Singapore or Dubai viewing a training video made in the U.S. It may be more realistic to consider creating a new illustration for each region rather than reshooting entire videos.
5. Tailor navigation to work well on tablets. The biggest difference between a tablet and most computers is the touchscreen that enables “swipe” interactions. However, it is only possible to tap into this feature if no one will be using the learning module on a computer. Another tablet feature is the ability to view content in portrait or landscape, and some content providers develop a “magic square” approach that works well in either. When developing tablet content, it’s also important to provide a global overview of the content at all times. Feedback from users indicates that they appreciate being able to understand the context of each module and their progress.
The potential of mobile learning technology to deliver effective learning is evolving all the time. Once-futuristic technologies such as virtual reality are becoming mainstream. HTML5 will also underpin richer learning experiences by making it easier for mobile learning content providers to offer complementary bolt-on modules that include anything from expert interview videos to assessment modules.
These features are particularly important when it comes to delivering training and development in soft skills. There is a growing recognition of the importance of soft skills to the success of an organization, alongside a perception that it may be too challenging to deliver this type of learning on a mobile device. However, in the interactive world of HTML5-powered tablet learning delivery, it’s not only possible – it’s already delivering successful results.