Preparing today's LMS and CMS applications for the mobile revolution.
With the recent boom in smartphone and tablet ownership, mobile learning is fast becoming the norm. To be successful, a learning management system (LMS) needs to adapt to changing student needs.
A mobile revolution is truly underway. There are already more mobile devices than people in the United States, and mobile market information firm CCS Insight predicts that mobile devices will outnumber the population of the planet by 2017. Not only that, but according to a report by comScore earlier this year 37 percent of total Internet time is spent on mobile devices.
There is no doubt that this trend will affect if not totally change, the process of education. Students are increasingly using mobile devices in and out of the classroom to access learning materials and this trend will continue to grow: a recent study by Pearson showed that more than 90 percent of U.S. elementary through high school students believes that mobile devices will change how learning happens. Mobile learning is also poised to be a tremendous transformational force in workplace learning (check out this article on advantages of mobile training by Sameer Bhatia, the founder of online learning company ProProfs).
In a chapter from 2012 book Information and Software Technologies, Daniel Ivanc and colleagues noted that despite the increasing demand for mobile access to education, “most existing computer-based learning management systems still do not have advanced access support for mobile devices.” LMS vendors will need to respond to the mobile trend, and that means more than just making sure their interface looks okay on a smaller scale. Mobile devices have some limitations (e.g., smaller screen), but they also have some enhanced functionality (e.g., touchscreens) that educators can take advantage of.
So what do educators and students need from a mobile LMS?
Mobile-Integrated, Not Just Mobile-Friendly
Gary Woodill at Float Learning Technologies has developed a five-level spectrum of mobile Learning Management Systems. On the low end are LMS software not ready for mobile and those that have been graphically redesigned, but nothing else. In the middle are LMS systems that integrate mobile apps for functions like receiving notifications and accessing course content. Finally, on the high end are fully mobile LMS systems; either standalone mobile or fully integrated with a traditional LMS.
The bottom line is that full integration is the only way mobile learning can truly live up to its “anytime, anywhere” reputation as learners have the option to complete their entire educational experience without having to login via a desktop or a laptop.
Functional Across Multiple Mobile Platforms
Many universities and businesses use iPads; however, Android devices owing to their affordability are more popular with students. Others may want to access their courses using Windows phones or Blackberries. Add to this, the fact that individual learners may use multiple devices running on different platforms (e.g., iPad at school or work, Android phone at home). To meet the needs of this diverse group, mobile LMS systems need to be fully functional and integrated across all device platforms.
Access to Multiple Content Types
Students don’t need to be limited to sending and receiving messages and reading PDFs on their mobile devices. They want to read all course resources, see the course calendar, do interactive activities, undertake assessments and receive feedback, and participate in social learning. Mobile LMS software must be able to combine all of these functionalities and more into a seamless learner experience.
Easy-to-Use, Intuitive Navigation and User Interface
This characteristic is not unique to mobile LMS software. In fact, confusing navigation is one of the most common sources of frustration in online courses. Online courses usually incorporate various types of elements, including chapter-based designs, multimedia content, social learning activities, assessments and feedback, progress tracking, and so on. As courses become more complex, it becomes even more crucial for navigation and user interface to be intuitive, especially for standalone mobile LMS software. Mobile LMS systems that are integrated with a regular LMS should have the same look and navigational tools as the regular LMS to provide continuity no matter how the students access the course.
These are just a few preliminary considerations for the development of mobile LMS software. Mobile learning is actually just taking off, and as it transforms education, new functions and capabilities will undoubtedly arise. Smart LMS vendors will need to start thinking about these issues now so they can be prepared to respond to the future demands of this growing market.
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