Mobile devices are overtaking desktop computers, and the trend looks set to continue.
Last week Cisco, the global networking company, predicted that in 2012 the number of mobile devices will outnumber humans! (link)
By 2016 it’s predicted that there will be 10 billion connected mobile devices in the world. The trend follows last year’s news that smartphone sales surpassed PC sales for the first time, and nobody expects this trend to reverse. In fact, Tim Cook (CEO of Apple) also predicted in the last earnings call that the tablet market will eventually be larger than the PC market too.
Some of this growth is from people owning more than one connected mobile device, perhaps a personal and business mobile phone and a even a tablet too! There is also rapid growth in smartphones in developing countries. ‘Basic’ and ‘Feature Phones’ have been the mainstay of the growth in developing countries, but with lower cost smartphones (in particular on the Android platform), these ‘mini-computers’ are now taking over. We are almost at a time when anybody, anywhere, can access the internet through a connected device!
So, what does this mean for eLearning professionals, and the industry? Well, of course the first thing that comes to mind is ‘M Learning’, which focuses both on the mobility of the learner, and them taking advantage of mobile devices. As an increasing amount of people get a smartphone, or tablet, M Learning becomes a possibility. This could be tailored specifically for learners who are remote and have difficulty accessing a desktop PC, or mobile learning could be used to enhance other blended or e-Learning solutions.
In future blog entries we’ll go into more detail on the things to be mindful of when attempting to deliver learning via a mobile device. But, in short, the main issues you face are screen size and resolution, and connectivity. There are a myriad of different screen sizes and resolutions out there for non-Apple devices. In fact the fastest growing platform, Android, is now available on hundreds of different devices around the world; each of these with a slightly different specification! Apple, of course, have attempted to standardise their offerings, but with 5 different models of phone and 2 tablets (and a third to be announced in the next few weeks) still in use by many people, it’s getting as difficult as other devices. As for connectivity, this could be through WiFi (which makes it easier to deliver rich content), or though a mobile data connection which can be anything from Super-fast HSDPA+ (used on 4G networks in the USA) at 84 Mbit/s to something as slow as a GPRS connection at 8 kbit/s (approximately 10,000 times faster!!) (link)
At eLearning Studios we’ve been working hard on our mobile offering. We created our first app last year to help learners of British Sign Language (BSL). The engaging app was developed in partnership with Sign Solutions, a training and interpreting company. The app is a handy way to practice your BSL alphabet, and uses videos from the side and front view to demonstrate each sign. As a past learner of BSL (some 15 years ago!), via a more traditional method, I would have found this tool invaluable as I could use it anywhere when I have a few minutes to practice my signing. You can download the app for free(!) in the Apple Appstore and the Android Marketplace. Of course, if you’ve got an idea for an app then send us a note, or call the office!
For the Apple owners you’ll notice that you see a tailored ‘mobile-friendly’ version of our website. Often ‘mobile friendly’ versions of sites are little more than a page or two, which is fine if you can get the information you need, but we like a bit more functionality than that. We’re testing it with other platforms so that you get the same level of functionality, but in an easier to access way.
You may also have noticed our Social Learning Network( SLN)? (Why not click the link on our website and sign up for free!). This is a great way for learners to engage with each other, and with trainers. So much so that we’re installing a mobile version of the SLN so that learners can access content and interact with other learners anywhere! We’ll tell you more about Social Learning in future blogs, but sign up now and check it out for yourself!
The move to mobile devices, and more mobile learners in fact, is an ever increasing trend and something that all learning professionals need to be aware of and incorporate into their work.
Next week’s Blog will look at mobile learning in more detail, and the Nomadic Style of Learning.