When to design for the mobile device

The following blog post will discuss when you should consider developing instruction for the mobile device. Developing for the mobile device presents several challenges that differ from the PC. Currently, there are not many best design practices recommended in the research, usability is different, and compatibility is a major problem. However, this post will not discuss those issues, I will do so in others posts but instead will focus on when to consider mobile learning in your training solution. Why are we currently developing for the mobile device? Well in some cases we are just doing it for the sake of doing it, not when it is actually warranted as noted by our instructional analysis. The reason I bring this up is because mobile learning is a ‘hot’ topic right now. However, the best uses for mobile delivery are only a very small portion of training but many are trying to use it for all training solutions.

Before developing instruction for the mobile device, I recommend making sure that mobile delivery of the instruction fits into your instructional objectives and strategies. Are you trying to develop for the mobile device so that employees have a option to view this on their iPad or mobile phone? If so, I would develop for the PC. Most instruction that is meant to be viewed on the PC cannot be repackaged for the mobile phone because the instructional objectives just are not meant to be delivered in that medium due to the significant differences in screen size, usability, design options, time for delivery, etc. The mobile device is NOT meant to deliver the same training that the PC can. If you are trying to develop training for both, and both have the same objectives/strategies – then you are cutting corners somewhere and sacrificing quality. They are both used for different reasons and it is these reasons, which are identified in your front end analysis, that mobile based instruction should be considered.

I would develop for the mobile device when employing instruction that is real time – i.e., happening while on the job or on the go. For instance, it is a great way of delivering job aids and real time how to’s.  It is also great for delivering training that is mobile, such as training in remote areas (with no wifi) or training solutions that require being on the go. An example would be a child at the zoo – where each animal would reveal information about the animal. A laptop or PC would not be convenient to carry around but a mobile device would work well with this type of instruction. Another example could be a soldier out in the field who needs to learn how to perform a task that they might not be skilled in but needs an immediate solution. It is here that mobile delivery shines. However, normal 1 hr computer based instruction will not shine on the mobile device – it is meant to be viewed on the PC. So you really need to ask yourself: What device makes the most sense for this instruction? If it’s mobile, then develop for mobile; if PC, then develop for PC. However remember that objectives/strategies for each medium will be different and if you are developing using the same objectives/strategies for both you are cutting corners and sacrificing quality.

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