Why instructional designers secretly hate mobile learning

So.. We have a theory;

Instructional designers secretly hate mobile learning.

Why? Because it requires a new way of working that challenges old, tried and tested methods of creating learning that work in other environments – but not on mobile.

What can we do about it? What techniques can instructional designers use to turn mobile learning into a strength, rather than a fear? Find out it our video below.

We really hope it helps.

In this video:

01:55 – Simple, direct, functional
03:03 – Less telling, more doing
04:27 – Interaction design, not writing

Read the transcription here:

Hi, this is Patrick Dunn for the Elucidat Blog.

Now, whenever new technology emerges you tend to find that working methods and roles can be challenged. And I’m beginning to sense that with mobile learning finally having taken-off, (thank goodness for that!), some instructional designers – learning designers are finding their roles and their methods are being challenged.

I’m going to talk about three potential challenges to instructional design, and instructional designers. I’m going to be talking about what I call true mobile learning, and I just want to make a clear distinction here – so, true mobile learning is action-oriented. Tweet this!

It’s based on the context where the learning and the actions needs to take place. Its very different from what you might call content-mobilized e-learning.

What I mean by that is that a lot of mobile learning simply takes content that used to be learned at the desktop and put it in a tablet with designs or puts on a phone. So, that has benefits for sure. You are able to learn on a train during travel time or something like that.

It has its uses. But it’s not what I would call optimising the device for the learning task. It’s not what I would call ‘true mobile learning’.

True mobile learning is more like helping somebody work with and learn with a patient at a bedside, actually as they are doing it. Or operating a piece of machine, or you’re concluding a sales negotiation in the context of the real task and it’s very different.

And I think, (I’m picking this up having talked to a number of clients and instructional designers) I think there are real challenges to instructional design methods because of the way technology has moved on. Tweet this!

I am going to be going through each of these three challenges as I see them.

Simple direct functional

True mobile learning is simple, direct, and functional. Tweet this!

So it doesn’t need some of these, (I’m hesitating in using the word here) creative, witty, clever things, that we use to feel as instructional designers were necessary in order to kind of seduce or interest the learner in the content we were presenting to them.

If you think you are using a device, to learn something in a context in which the action has to take place, then the very last thing they want is some funny cartoons, some witty device, some complicated interaction to start and make them think about things in a way that’s inappropriate for the immediate task at hand. They just want to get on with it.

So that whole raft of devices and methods that we as instructional designers used to really revel in and really enjoy doing, I think they have been probably swept away. They are just not necessary.

So you just need to be more functional, more direct and more simple.

Less telling, more doing

Secondly, true mobile learning doesn’t involve telling people too much stuff. Tweet this!

One of the things that has really plagued e-learning, since its origins, is that it tends to be quite content-heavy. We’ve tend to think about presenting lots of content to people.

Now, if true mobile learning is about action-orientation and achieving tasks in the real world, often there’s very little to tell people. It’s about action, not content. It’s about trying things out, not reading, not studying, not ingesting. It’s about experimentation. And it’s about action.

You may have well come across Kathy Moore’s excellent work called ‘action-mapping’. What that’s about is focusing on the actions that need to be undertaken in order to help people change their behavior and learn.

And one of the outcomes of Kathy’s method is to dump huge amounts of content. I think that’s one of the focuses that is slightly troubling a few instructional designers because effectively, one of the things that we’ve often done in instructional design is content-processing.

We like content, we like lots of stuff.

If true mobile learning is about action not content, that presents us with a bit of a challenge.

Interaction design, not writing

Now thirdly, it’s a result of simply telling people so much less than previously.

The core task in producing this kind of learning – mobile learning, is no longer primarily a writing one.

It’s more about information design instruction, it’s more about interaction design, experience design. So that thing we used to do a lot of – writing lots of block paragraph and text, that’s more or less disappearing.

You are much more likely to be involved in writing bullet points, or labels on animated diagrams, or something like that.

In the old days, when we used to do a lot of desktop based e-learning, the system and the learners to some extent tolerated large blocks, large reams of text. Now, in the new world of mobile learning, clearly they won’t. It’s very largely inappropriate.

Its another reason, assuming you have the right elearning authoring tool – Elucidat is one of them, you should be much more concerned about writing directly into the tool, and not into separate documents because you just aren’t producing sufficient amounts of text to put them in text documents.

So if you’re an instructional designer, I might even say an ‘old-fashioned’ instructional designer who is really into robustly-formed learning objectives, and you know the correct form of feedback for multiple choice questions, then you might find the word of mobile learning a little bit challenging.

And the three challenges that I’ve put to you, which are – the simplicity, the directness, the functionality of true mobile learning.

The fact that you’re cultivating action, you are not telling people lots of stuff, and the fact that there are relatively few words around and those are certainly challenges, but if you can embrace them, jump through them, then actually true mobile learning I think is an extremely rewarding area.

Thanks very much, see you next time.

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