MobiMOOC: Mobile Project (Re)Definition

I am currently participating in a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on the topic of Mobile Learning- MobiMOOC. It is a true collaboration of professionals at different phases in developing mobile learning to help each other forward their craft.

I am running behind in a task assigned last week: to draft a plan for mobile learning.

When starting MobiMOOC, I had a general idea for a mobile project. Yet, the “big questions” even prior to diving into the plan template, gave me pause.

What do you really want to do with mobile learning?
Let me be clear: I am defining a project for my maiden voyage into mobile learning, not a larger, ambitious, long-term plan for mobile.

I thought to be modest for my first project. I wanted to convert a set of the most commonly purchased courseware and develop it for mobile delivery. I hope to design it to:

  • work on a fairly wide range of devices (tablet, cell, iOS, Android, etc…)
  • be available in 3 languages (English, French, Spanish)
  • be priced extremely low (less than $5)

In looking at web courseware in general- and specifically mobile- I feel there is opportunity for low-cost, quality courseware available a few target languages.

What gave me pause were comments like “mobile learning is so much more than just elearning on a mobile device”, and demands for informal/community learning. I agree with both statements. Yet, I am not certain these elements are (always) necessary.

We know the web is much more than “text under glass”. Websites can be highly personalized, social, functional… …but the fact remains that the actual bulk of web content is still just content (mainly text) made widely available.

Currently, we are seeing traditional (dying) publishing leveraging mobile by charging for subscriptions to their mobile-optimized content-and it doesn’t even really do anything (no interaction, functionality, tracking). It’s just paid subscription content access.

What should every good plan contain?
I have seen the plan template from MobiMOOC, and planning resources from Clark Quinn’s book, Designing mLearning (a recommended read), and the application from Float Learning. I feel they cover all the major elements required (audience analysis, instructional¬†strategies, technical considerations, evaluation plan, etc.).

Yet, I still struggle with the baseline concept. Is the bullseye for my project off the mark? Or is there a valid need for getting fairly traditional elearning (quality content with some assessment and tracking) converted to mobile? Is moving elearning content onto mobile platforms without significant re-engineering or redesign “not enough”?

What are the needs/opportunities in this area?

I would like to hear your comments/thoughts on the plan, but wanted to share my thoughts.

I have felt for some time that there is a great deal of content that is fairly “generic” across organizations, regardless of industry or size. I have seen literally hundreds of these courses developed, sold, and purchased across many organizations (both as a vendor and purchaser).

What bothers me, is at their core, the baseline content and objectives for these generic subjects are the same: teambuilding, management, leadership, time management, delegation, negotiation, communication, meeting management, business acumen, financial literacy, and project management (and any subject within PM like Quality, Scheduling, Defining Scope), and many more.

Price point varies significantly depending on the subject matter, media complexity, and branding. But generally quality providers start at approximately $25/offering to over $1000/offering. Pricing is per language. Most do not offer mobile options at this time.

I have worked on the vendor side at a 2 Corporate Universities (business divisions of a University that private-label their campus courseware for deployment to corporate markets) and a few training development organizations. I have also been on the purchasing end. Currently, I work with an organization who buys a tremendous amount of content from several leading vendors for multiple subjects to support over 100 international training departments.

For 80% or more of the content in these “generic” subject areas, there is essentially no difference- at least from a learning outcomes perspective
The most common trend that I see in all these experiences: For 80% or more of the content in these “generic” subject areas, there is essentially no difference- at least from a learning outcomes perspective.

Why not recognize this, and develop quality, affordable resource that are flexible for deployment, offered in multiple languages, and cost-effective? I had planned on doing it for traditional desktop computing, but doing it for mobile should be more inclusive.

I have felt for some time that too many organizations are spending too much money for essentially generic content with equivalent learning outcomes. I think there is an opportunity to offer a quality product at a fair (low) price to deliver the same learning outcome in a more flexible medium.

Will the training be a custom-fit solution for your organizations specific needs in this subject area?
No. But neither are the other resources being purchased in most cases.

Could your organization use this content to develop and measure a common baseline literacy and skillset in these subject areas?
Yes.

Can your organization then commit it’s development resources to the 20% of unique learning and activities to further the baseline skills and extend the learning to the specific context and application that drives maximum value within your organization?
That is my goal.

So, is this anywhere near the mark, or have I missed it completely?

4 thoughts on “MobiMOOC: Mobile Project (Re)Definition

  1. Thanks for the heads up on Float. I downloaded both software apps, one for the iPhone and the other for the iPad. Keep up the connections!!

  2. Reading your comments, I would agree on developing a solid, quality rich content training solution that can be accessed through a variety of devices. But, I would not dismiss the remark on mLearning not being only accessing resources even if you are looking at a generic commercial solution. If you want to stand out of your competition, the simple fact that you embed the possibility of allowing learner created content and/or discussions to take place will no doubt lift your mobile solution to a higher level.
    Just imagine offering a cross-device training solution to engineers (fully standard with resources, assessments…), but with the additional option of opening up speech-to-text or other mobile communication – and especially collaboration – options? Than you would have a training solution that does not only fit your customer’s training needs, but which would also allow the learners themselves to create relevant post-course updates. Some sort of lifelong learning that is build by the learners in the field (e.g. exchanging hands-on solutions that were not featured in the standard content as these solutions would only be needed in a limited amount of cases).
    Having said that, I do think it is important to start with a simple mobile project like you say. And at the same time diving deeper in the specifics of mLearning. The nice thing mLearning offers is building just-in-time solutions as mobiles are always with us, this gives it a definite edge over more classical web-based learning.

  3. Ignatia:
    I love the idea of speech to text. My specific concerns with collaboration spaces (which is not specific to mobile) is how different organizations have widely different views on social.
    Some organizations are very open-minded about social and want their employees to explore outside the organization and chat with a wide range of experts.
    In my experience, many more want a “walled garden”. They want employees to collaborate with resources within the organization, but wish to keep the discussions a bit more closed circle.
    I cannot determine how to offer a social solution that would not inherently create a conflict between these two opposing needs (and then there is the choice of tools to facilitate the conversation: facebook is blocked by many organizations as it twitter).
    Finally, the last challenge I have with informal embedding into a course is that I feel it inverts the model a bit. Informal/collaborative learning should be embedded in the workplace and using the tools chosen by the organization. It can be project spaces like basecamp or Sharepoint, or something decidedly “learning-centric” like Bloomfire. If I select a SoMe tool for one course, I feel I am demoting the informal learning below a course level and I also may be creating additional communities and tools for the organization where tools and communities for this topic of discussion may exist.
    Does that make sense?
    In short, I think the choice of SoMe platform should be driven by the organizations collaboration needs and not a course developer. Additionally, collaboration around a subject area umbrellas courses (in many cases, several courses) versus being a “course activity”.
    I see many creating the design you are speaking of, but these are the primary challenges I see implementing it. The last 3 organizations I have worked with would not buy courseware with embedded SoMe tools, as they either block them, or they have selected SoMe tools that they would prefer to direct their learners to and not fragment their toolset.

  4. Ignatia:I love the idea of speech to text. My specific concerns with collaboration spaces (which is not specific to mobile) is how different organizations have widely different views on social.Some organizations are very open-minded about social and want their employees to explore outside the organization and chat with a wide range of experts.In my experience, many more want a “walled garden”. They want employees to collaborate with resources within the organization, but wish to keep the discussions a bit more closed circle.I cannot determine how to offer a social solution that would not inherently create a conflict between these two opposing needs (and then there is the choice of tools to facilitate the conversation: facebook is blocked by many organizations as it twitter).Finally, the last challenge I have with informal embedding into a course is that I feel it inverts the model a bit. Informal/collaborative learning should be embedded in the workplace and using the tools chosen by the organization. It can be project spaces like basecamp or Sharepoint, or something decidedly “learning-centric” like Bloomfire. If I select a SoMe tool for one course, I feel I am demoting the informal learning below a course level and I also may be creating additional communities and tools for the organization where tools and communities for this topic of discussion may exist.Does that make sense?In short, I think the choice of SoMe platform should be driven by the organizations collaboration needs and not a course developer. Additionally, collaboration around a subject area umbrellas courses (in many cases, several courses) versus being a “course activity”.I see many creating the design you are speaking of, but these are the primary challenges I see implementing it. The last 3 organizations I have worked with would not buy courseware with embedded SoMe tools, as they either block them, or they have selected SoMe tools that they would prefer to direct their learners to and not fragment their toolset.
    +1


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