The Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL) Initiative is currently exploring new ID models and accompanying instructional systems design (ISD) principles for mobile learning. The high level steps of the ISD analysis process may be applicable for specific types of mLearning such as training and performance support, but what other design models are appropriate? Is a new design model needed? ADL is currently leading a project called the Mobile Training Implementation Framework (MoTIF) to consider the ways in which mobile applications and pedagogical approaches can help improve training and education. To join the community that is involved in this research project, go to the MoTIF community site.
Of special importance are the considerations and decision nodes in the analysis process that may lead development teams to choose mobile learning as the optimal solution. Without adequate consideration, there is a risk of developing a mobile learning solution to a problem for which it is not appropriate or forgo a mobile solution where one is needed.
Above all, you should consider the range of mobile learning solutions (i.e., performance support and informal/social learning) in your repertoire of training strategies if you want to start down the path of mobile learning. As stated above, your instructional design process model must include paths to these strategies/outcomes. The traditional ADDIE (Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, and Evaluation) and Human Performance Technology (HPT) methods may not be adequate or appropriate, where performance support and mobile learning may be better suited for your desired outcomes.
Consider using an information design model to organize your content, if it is learning augmentation or learnlets (if it is going to be performance augmentation, then use the user’s actual workflow to organize the content).
Instructional designers should also pay more attention to consistency in the content organization and interface, since the screen limits the users’ view to only a few elements at a time; the inherently multilayered aspect of what the user sees dictates that you make it easy for them to remember and project how they navigate to a deeper level of information or a different topic.
As we have explained earlier, mobile learning tends to support informal and social learning models due to its “anytime, anywhere” access. These models are based on a constructivist view of learning. Constructivism relies on the learner and their knowledge, motivation, and instincts to determine, or construct for themselves, their learning experiences. Providing access to information (through search functions and carefully designed navigation, with opportunities for communication and collaboration with peers and SMEs) is paramount, rather than dictating learning paths or prescribing content for the learner. Constructivism posits that knowledge is not objectively determined, but subjectively created; it is negotiated socially and constructed by each individual through the sum of their experiences. Constructivism and its epistemological tenets have significant implications for learning design; for more information, see Constructivism and the Technology of Instruction – A Conversation (Duffy and Jonassen, 1992).
Uden (2007) promotes a design approach for constructivist mobile learning based on Activity Theory (Vygotsky, 1978). Activity Theory is a way to analyze work practices using the key concepts of “subjects” (in this case learners), “objects” (learning content), and “mediation” (the mobile platform). Activity theory is based on constructivist epistemology. Context is key to Activity Theory, as it is to constructivism; they share the premise that learning is fundamentally situated and socially mediated. Activity theory is also consistent with distributed cognition, since Uden (2007) cites Hutchins (1996) as saying that an activity (in Activity Theory) can also be conceived as a system of distributed cognition.
“Hypothetically, the primary intersection, a convergence of all three aspects, defines an ideal mobile learning situation. By assessing the degree to which all the areas of the FRAME model are utilized within a mobile learning situation, practitioners may use the model to design more effective mobile learning experiences.” (p.27)
Park (2011) describes a framework that categorizes mobile learning into four types (pp. 8-14):
1. High “transactional distance” (extent of psychological and communication space between learners and instructors) and socialized mobile learning activity (HS)
2. High transactional distance and individualized mobile learning activity (HI)
3. Low transactional distance and socialized mobile learning activity (LS)
4. Low transactional distance and individualized mobile learning activity (LI)
Thinking about categorization schemes such as these during the analsysis phase of your project can be helpful to point towards effective design approaches that are most effective for particular scenarios. It can also be valuable as a classification scheme for reviewing existing examples and use cases, perhaps for potential applicability to a new project.
Some of the methods and strategies you may already know from instructional design and from web or e-learning development may also apply to mobile. However, additional attention should be paid to:
With the explosion of mobile learning technology in recent years, many designers ask “where do I start in deciding which technology to use?” Faced with the overwhelming array of choices, many start in an arbitrary way, selecting a technology (especially a new one that has emerged as the flavor of the month) that seems to be a fit for their need and finding a way to make it work for them.
A less risky approach is to examine mobile technologies systematically, extracting their technical capabilities and matching them to their affordance. This can be tricky, because most mobile technologies were not invented solely for mobile learning, and do not come with a manual of how to use them explicitly for learning.
The ADL Mobile Team feels the key to understanding mobile learning affordances is to identify the underlying capabilities, and then describe the affordances those capabilities provide for learning applications, as an intermediary step to eventually identify the learning strategy to be employed. Raw capabilities of the device are the enablers for affordances, just like a portable tire kit enables fixing a flat at the point of need. The portable bike pump is only one capability, but when combined with other capabilities such as a air plug, it enables a self-service affordance of being able to fix a flat tire anywhere, anytime.
Consider the following mobile platform capabilities (often in combination). for creating and supporting learning experiences (from ADL and Woodill (2013).
These capabilities form learning affordances that allow learners to learn in particular ways, and for learning content to take different forms, depending on their needs, as follows:
Recommendations from Other Sources
Recommendations from Wentworth (2011)
Recommendations from Udell (2011) (p. 93-94)
Recommendations from Elias (2011)
1. Equitable use. Course content should be accessible to people with diverse abilities and in diverse locations. With respect to m-learning, this involves developing content and assignments that can be accessed on a wide variety of devices. As a result, to develop accessible m-learning, one ought to do the following:
2. Flexible use. According to this UID principle, course design should accommodate a wide range of individual abilities, preferences, schedules, levels of connectivity, and choices in methods of use. As with other forms of inclusive learning, inclusive m-learning should offer choice in how materials are used. SMS-based m-learning offers fast transmission of information to students who are bound to neither a computer nor a classroom. Whereas other types of education go to great lengths to simulate real-world situations and to bring the outside world into the classroom through the use of case studies, role-plays, photographs, videos, etc., m-learning has the potential to bring the learning out of the classroom to remote students. SMS-based solutions may often be more than adequate for this but will require significant adjustments.
3. Simple and intuitive. Unnecessary complexity should be eliminated and course design rendered simple and intuitive. As already mentioned, the simplest mobile delivery system is currently SMS. To post and share their own multimedia content, however, learners must access multimedia messaging systems (MMS), email, and/or a mobile Internet service. When developing and/or selecting existing sites for use, the following guidelines are useful:
4. Perceptible information. With respect to this UID principle, one of the recommendations for online learning is to add captions, descriptors, and transcriptions (Elias, 2010). SMS-based materials would not require these added features. Instructors may encourage learners to include them, however, when their assignments include media elements. Nevertheless, it is likely that not all student-posted materials will be accessible to all users. Strategies are suggested to mitigate these issues (see item 7 below).
5. Tolerance for error. UID principles also minimize hazards and adverse consequences of errors in software operation by designing learning environments with a tolerance for error. While m-learning errors are likely to be similar to those encountered in traditional online learning, an additional m-learning-specific recommendation may be identified:
6. Low physical and technical effort. As with online learning, m-learning should be developed requiring a low physical and technical effort. The physical effort related to inputting text into devices is therefore a primary concern. Clearly, answering test essay questions on such a device would be tedious if not impossible. As indicated in relation to SMS usage, the difficulties associated with inputting text data into mobile devices poses the challenge of developing new, authentic, and inclusive forms of assessment. In addition, inclusive m-learning should seek out opportunities to do the following:
7. Community of learners and support. As in other forms of learning, community support for learning should be facilitated through the development of groups and support from appropriate tools. In this respect, m-learning should do the following:
8. Instructional climate. This UID principle focuses on the instructor’s impact in course delivery as opposed to course design. M-learning instructors can send regular SMS messages to interact with learners in various ways. For example, they can do the following: