Mobile learning essentially rides on the technological advancement in the field of information technology and communication. However, to harness the state-of-the-art mobile devices for the purpose of learning, calls for greater understanding between different stakeholders viz. the content providers, device manufacturers and application developers, and the end users.
“Begin with the end in mind” said Stephen R. Covey. The effectiveness of any mobile learning program depends on its planning premise. The ideas developed here are paradigmatic for any mobile learning scenario.
I. Paint the big picture: For the acceptance of mobile learning mode by the end-user, always project the value addition. For instance, an employee or student has to travel and attend a weekend course or stay extra hours if he chooses to ignore mobile option. Communicate effectively the cost-time benefits, and the constraints in using conventional learning modes.
II. Deliver an easy and intuitive user experience: Develop a “current technology vs. end-user capability matrix”. This calls for continuous research on the leading mobile platforms -iPhone, Blackberry and Android. This gives the premise for content development with scalability over the popular mobile platforms. What Bill Gates said, independent of context, is true here; the barrier to change is not too little caring; it is too much complexity.
III. Bridge the knowledge divide: One of the barriers to mobile learning is the gap a learner faces between his current knowledge level and the higher level he intends to reach. Design the content based on the average knowledge level of the intended learners. Provide additional links in the modules that will give elementary knowledge on the subject for the end user who may need it.
IV. First impression is the best: Always aim for maximum positive impact on the end-user at the first content delivery. Avoid using any ambiguous imagery or confusing topics in the first stage of learning. Develop interest by introducing easy to understand concepts using familiar methods of access. Complex matters can wait till sufficient familiarity is achieved.
V. There is more than one way to skin a cat: Approach to learning varies with the individuals. Always develop alternative modules through which knowledge can be communicated to varied personalities. Provide much latitude in assessment methods and introduce innovative techniques for recapitulation.
VI. Provide easy feedback options: “Procrastination is the thief of time” said Edward Young. Many learners have an inherent hesitation to communicate their learning difficulties; some are good in oral communication, others in written and some are more comfortable to interact with a peer group than the one up in the hierarchy. A good design should provide multiple feedback mechanisms, including creating peer group networks.
VII. Make haste slowly: While going too fast in content delivery may leave many behind, a pace too slow may affect the tempo of learning. Maintain a rhythm in delivery and assessments based on feedback from focus group interviews. While inordinate delay may compromise overall learning objectives, unresolved learning difficulties increase the rate of dropouts and make the system ineffective.
Time is ripe for players to make conquest points in the mobile learning arena and the early bird catches the worm. Any ill conceived initiatives can cast shadows on the credibility of this innovative avenue of mobile learning.