Everyone is using multiple screens these days; from the more traditional PC we have moved towards smaller, more portable screens. Recent evidence suggests that most people are using at least two different devices each day, with some studies even reporting that number as higher. We’re getting used to accessing information quickly and often simultaneously across a wide selection of devices. Our online tools are expanding and now books, TV, and music are often accessed from the comfort of a tablet or smart phone screen.
The question is, how do we incorporate users’ experiences online with e-learning methods? The multi-device environment is changing the way that the online world is represented. Arguably the internet is becoming more responsive and tailored for better user experiences. There are numerous websites embracing responsive web page design and delivering an experience that can be transposed to any device. Many websites are also future friendly, as they anticipate compatibility with new devices that may enter the market in the near future.
“Day by day, the number of devices, platforms, and browsers that need to work with your site grows. Responsive web design represents a fundamental shift in how we’ll build websites for the decade to come,” says Jeffrey Veen, CEO & Cofounder of Typekit.
It’s important that e-learning techniques reflect this new fluid and responsive internet experience, as many users will access lessons and information from their smartphone screen.
Let’s consider some of the key benefits that responsive e-learning can bring.
A singular solution
Rather than developing different versions of your lessons and information for a variety of screens, responsive e-learning can provide a singular solution that’s both cheaper to create and easier to manage.
Better connection with a mobile workforce
With more and more people accessing data on the go, it’s increasingly important that your e-learning solution reflects this trend and reaches those users. It may be worth thinking of it like a conversation that has already started. You’d be better off joining in with the topic at hand than changing the conversation and alienating users.
Ability to access e-learning from your own device
As more and more businesses adopt BYOD policies it’s worth considering how you can provide an e-learning solution that’s in line with current trends. By allowing employees access to e-learning solutions on their own terms it may provide a better sense of autonomy and promote self directed learning within an e-learning framework.
No time constraints
Rather than limiting your e-learning access and exposure to office hours, it’s certainly advisable to offer your employees the ability to access the information in their own time. This means that they could be reading up on information that will help your company whilst on the train home from work.
Makes training easier to complete
By meeting your employees half way and providing learning solutions on their smartphones, you allow them to complete tasks more conveniently and in their own time. It’s a similar benefit to the one mentioned above but it bears repeating. Give your employees a bit of direction and let them get on with it as it suits them.
Jump from one device to another
By providing your employees with responsive e-learning techniques they will be able to continue their learning from whatever device they are currently using. This means that their learning experience is fluid and not constricted to a specific device. It also allows users to track their progress and keep up-to-date with how they’re doing. Really, it’s all about providing continuous access as that’s what users expect and are used to with their online experiences.
Arguably then, 2014 will be the year of e-learning. As more and more devices are released increasing the saturation of online life it’s important to maintain a responsive e-learning approach.
A responsive future
“The reality is that responsive design is part of the equation for certain types of content; and it’s a consideration moving forward. But it’s not optimal to start with the expectation that every course created also needs to be built with a responsive design. It depends on the situation, delivery, and objectives,” says Tom Kuhlman
He discussed this in an interview with Learnnovators and he agrees that the future is a responsive one. However it’s worth considering the second point that he makes. It’s not always going to suit every business, so it’s important to know what you’re hoping to achieve from your e-learning system.
With that in mind however there are several options to consider if you want to take your e-learning experience down the responsive route. Let’s look at perhaps the most exciting avenue.
Adapt Learning Project
This is an open-source project and it’s perhaps the most inspiring attempt at bringing responsive design to the field of e-learning. The Adapt Learning Project is a new authoring tool for developing responsive e-learning content. There is an active community behind this project and one that’s collaborating in the development effort.
Currently it’s still in development and it’s not too easy to predict what this responsive e-learning course will look like. However there is a Youtube video in circulation that shows a typical course developed for Logitech using the Adapt Learning Projects e-learning framework. This tool completely transforms the course so that it can be displayed on multiple devices. This is due to interactive widgets that respond as the screen size changes.
As it becomes more and more apparent that the multi-screen world is here to stay, it’s important to develop strategies to embrace this. Users are currently accessing data sequentially and simultaneously and it’s fascinating to see where this technology will take us.
In an e-learning context it’s good to remember that what works on a PC may not work on a smartphone. Every device is perfected for different needs and any responsive e-learning solution must reflect this. Responsive design that adapts to the features of any given device is the future of e-learning. The challenge for designers is to maintain instructional integrity, whilst embracing the multi-faceted multi-screen world.