Meet the future: Optimize content, design and assessment for m-learning

For the past several years now, there has been a rapid move towards mobile device adoption. Most mobile phone users check their phones as much as 150 times daily, and 13% of millennials use their smartphones for over 12 hours a day.

The world of e-learning is no different. Online learners are moving mobile first, too.

The difference between m-learning and ‘traditional’ e-learning

When creating content for m-learning, we need to remember that:

  1. When compared to personal computers, smartphones have smaller device screens.
  2. Arguably, they offer better user experience as learners are used to the highly responsive touch screen.
  3. We use our phones very often but tend to have short attention spans on any single app

That means that when creating design, content, microlearning and assessments for m-learning, they need to be different from what is developed for larger devices.

Responsive design

Since the device screen size is so small, it’s important to test all pieces of content, especially images, font sizes and videos, on devices of a range of sizes.

  1. Use responsive design to allow your LMS to auto-adapt to suit multiple device sizes.
  2. Fonts should be large and easy to read.
  3. To the extent possible, avoid buttons to move to the next slide; try scrolling or swiping instead.
    1. When using buttons, ensure that they are large enough to click easily.
  4. Avoid in-app typing.

Easy-to-consume content

Incorporate ‘searchability’ in your content wherever possible. Digital natives are used to searching for keywords and phrases and returning to concepts later. While this is not ideally suited for game-based learning and video content, these are two great content formats for mobile learning as they are the most engaging and have the highest chance of holding our short attention spans.

  1. Minimize the amount of text per screen; use shorter text content and bullet points. Break up the text with relevant, colorful images and icons.
  2. Opt for high-quality, zoomable images. If the user’s mobile internet is weak, images may be slow to load. Ensure that the content is still visible without the graphics.
  3. Avoid very long or very heavy video files.
  4. As video on smartphones is often watched on mute, include subtitles if necessary.

Game-based learning and Microlearning

The most effective modes of delivering m-learning are through game-based learning and microlearning. 

  1. Game-based learning
    1. A mobile game with vibrant characters, unlockable achievements and a leaderboard has a very high chance of delivering great learning outcomes.
    2. Avoid nuanced role play to the extent possible. This is better suited to e-learning than m-learning.
  2. Microlearning
    1. Studies show that users may prefer twenty micro-courses of two minutes each rather than one thirty minute session. M-learners are using their devices on the go. For these reasons, bite-size modules of content make sense.
    2. Use short videos, assessments, games, flashcards or short data delivery in any other format to deliver microlearning.
    3. You can utilize push notifications from your m-LMS to encourage users to log on or to deliver short, impactful key learnings.
    4. Using microlearning, m-learning can become a supplement to traditional e-learning – either as a reference tool, delivery of ‘tips of the day’, playing educational games or similar informal study tools.

Gamification and micro-assessments

Mobile phones are small and often used for short periods of time while on the go or doing other things. That means that your learners may not be able to give your content their full attention. In that context, avoid heavy assessments that need focused, uninterrupted time.

Remember that, especially when on mobile learning, learners are likely to be in the company of others and using other devices in parallel. This gives rise to scope for distraction, and also. Prioritize assessments which are not impacted by cheating, such as fun games.

You can also consider micro-assessments at the end of each module to boost learning and retention.

Each medium of delivery is unique. Just as you wouldn’t deliver e-learning in precisely the same way as traditional learning, you need to adapt e-learning practices to suit m-learning delivery, too. If you’re interested in moving from traditional e-learning to m-learning, or to a hybrid e-learning and m-learning approach, do contact us. We’d love to help you with your next training project.