By Priyanka Malhotra
Discussions on mobile learning solutions are typically driven by the devices supported, the resolution used, screen size, and the responsive design architecture. However, instructional design plays an equally important role in the overall effectiveness of the mobile learning solution. To recall what Steve Jobs once stated-
“Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.”
A flexible, responsive design framework needs to be supported by an equally robust instructional design and approach to develop an effective m-learning solution.
Like any other form of learning solutions, there are some key aspects to be considered when creating a storyboard for mobile learning solution.
- Define the Learning Need
This is the first question that should be answered before taking a decision to design for mobile devices. Is the learning requirement for new content or is it in the category of performance support? If it’s a new learning requirement or need for advance learning, you need to ensure that all components of the learning cycle are included in the design – strategies for grabbing learner attention, ensuring content relevance, building learner confidence and satisfaction. Therefore, you will need to create the context-setting examples and scenarios, gather examples and analogies to explain content, and create knowledge checks and assessments.
However, if the learning intervention is for reinforcement of learned content, understand the purpose of that learning. Do you need to provide a quick refresher to the learners on the go, then you could jump directly into content and present relevant content for quick reference and recall. If the objective of the learning is to provide practice on the learned content, you could design interactive practice exercises, quiz, and of course games!
Studies and experts indicate that since tablets and iPads have larger resolutions, these devices are more suitable to first time learning. Mobile devices work well for providing performance support and for reinforcement of the learning.
- Design Bite-sized Learning Components
The big design challenge in mobile learning is designing the content for point-of-use. When would the learner typically access this learning component – while travelling, during idle wait times, or when a quick refresher is needed. In all these scenarios, the learners have a small pocket of time where they will reach out to the learning component before their attention is taken up by something else.
Translating this into design means breaking down your learning into small, to-the-point, bite-sized components. This calls for special focus while chunking the course structure into Lessons, Topics, and Pages. The clarity and completeness in defining the Terminal and Enabling objectives goes a long way in establishing this structure. Yes, the basic sound principles of Instructional Design still stay the same regardless of the devices or the medium used.
- Adapt Your Design for a Consistent Learning Experience Across Devices
Responsive e-learning design is an approach to design that ensures a single version of an e-learning course can provide a consistent viewing experience across a variety of different devices, from desktop monitor to smartphone.
Therefore, after the course structure is in place, visualize how these Lessons, and Topics, and Pages would appear to the Learner on the tablet or Smartphone. A basic understanding of the responsive design framework helps in mapping the course structure to it. For example, the open source Adapt responsive design framework chunks all content into Articles, Blocks, and Component structure. So you’ll need to breakdown and map the Lesson-Topic-Page structure to the design structure supported by the eLearning authoring tool in use.
While designing the detailed interactivities for the course, it is important to know the kind of templates supported by the chosen authoring tool. Some points to consider are:
Avoid interactions like drag n drop that aren’t best suited for small screens of mobile devices.
Avoid designing heavy graphics, videos, and animations that might create a problem while streaming.
Review the need for voiceover critically. Unlike a regular eLearning WBT, each page or component need not be supported with an audio.
Balance push versus pull learning components to give the learner more control and choice in the learning. For example, designing essential learning components that the learners must take, as part of the push strategy; while creating additional components, such as videos, cheat sheets, and quizzes that are accessed by learners on their discretion, as part of pull strategy.
Explore the templates that work specifically well on mobile devices. For example, the Accordion and Narrative templates of Adapt framework allows you to build engaging interactivities for mobile learning.
- Cater to Short Attention Span and limitations of ‘Learning on the go’
Learning recall and retention can be a challenge in case of mobile learning programs because as opposed to regular desktop eLearning, here the learners are looking at the modules not from the comfort of their work desks or homes, but most probably while travelling and waiting for other appointments. Therefore, there are bound to be distractions, interruptions, and sudden closure leading to short attention span from the learners. Additionally, there is problem of continuity. The learner might not remember what they had read last when they return for a new session. As such, each nugget of learning needs to be short, relevant, precise, and most importantly focused on one learning objective, each existing as a standalone component.Instructionally, this requires a design approach same as used in the Learning Object model. Each component needs to be focused on one Learning Objective and created as a single information object. The object should map to one information type. For example, if the objective was to introduce the Adapt framework to the users, you would break down this information into multiple components. First component would probably present some facts related to the framework, next is focused on explaining the concept of the framework, another is used to present example of the framework, while yet another lists the steps to use it. The information should be well supported with crisp, instructionally sound graphics and visuals to enhance engagement and knowledge retention.To be able to do all this successfully, it is necessary that points #2 and #3 are performed diligently.
- Using the Appropriate Style of Instruction
Last but not the least, the writing style for the mobile storyboards needs to be adapted, considering the special requirements and limitation of the medium. Some simple guidelines to be followed are:
Use strategies appropriate for mobile platform, for example, a crisp graphic, statistics, a question would work as an attention grabber but heavy splash animations with background music might not work well for mobile learning
Using the correct user instructions matching to mobile terminology, such as appropriate use of ‘tap’ and ‘flick’ instead of ‘clicks’
Write scan able content that can be easily assimilated even while just browsing through it and doesn’t require focused reading
Writing crisp, short, and precise sentences instead of paragraphs of text
Use visual images, infographics, and animations, where possible, to convey message instead of writing sentences
Avoid cross-referencing, that is, do not use transition text typically used in WBTs that refer to previous topics or content learned, this will ensure each component remains standalone
Provide links wherever more depth of content is needed
Creating effective storyboards for mobile devices is not difficult, just different. And it becomes easier as we continue to explore the capabilities of mobile devices and their authoring tools.