Notes from Learning Solutions 2010

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Last week I presented at the eLearning Guild’s Learning Solutions 2010 Conference in Orlando, Florida.  My presentation was about managing stakeholders when designing and developing eLearning.  In my opinion, the Guild does a great job with their conferences.  First, they pick excellent keynote speakers.  All three of this year’s speakers were very informative.  Second, the Guild manages to put together over 150 sessions for everyone from those who are brand new to eLearning to the most experienced instructional designers.  In addition, the topics range from rapid eLearning development to advanced gaming and simulations.

For me, my time was spent attending as many mobile learning sessions as I could.  All were interesting and well-run.  I learned quite a bit from the sessions I attended and the folks I talked to. Overall, I thought the mLearning sessions were very well attended.  There was good representation from both the corporate and education sectors.  People’s interest and experience levels varied from “just curious” to actively developing mLearning, though I would say most were in the early stages of exploration.  I also found that mobile came up often in other sessions where mLearning wasn’t the specific topic.  It seems like mobile phones and other devices such as Amazon’s Kindle are now so pervasive that it is impossible to ignore them when discussing any aspect of learning and development.

Here are a few items from the conference that I found particularly noteworthy from the conference.

Effective Traditional eLearning Courseware on a Mobile Device?

We generally recommend to our clients that they not simply port their existing eLearning courses over to mobile.  There are many reasons for this but the biggest two are the amount of time spent learning and screen size.  People simply don’t want to spend large chunks of time staring at the small screen of their mobile device.  What is interesting is that two companies, Accenture and Merrill Lynch, are having excellent results with making some of their traditional eLearning courseware available on employees’ BlackBerry devices.  However, they have had this success by being very smart about what courses they make available and how the courses work on the device. Here are the highlights on how these companies have made this work:

  • They know their audience – both companies are targeting busy executives who have difficulty finding one or two hour blocks of time to take training.
  • Mandatory training – both companies are also starting with training that is widely recognized as important and necessary, such as required compliance training.
  • Design for mobile – These courses are not simply “converted” to run on a BlackBerry.  While the course content may be the same, how the courses work is completely redesigned.  For example, course navigation is built so that it is appropriate for a small screen.  Features such as bookmarking are designed so learners can start, stop and start again easily whether they have two minutes or ten minutes.

The response from learners within both of these companies has been very positive.  For more on the Accenture project, check out  the article on page 30 of the September 2009 issue of Training Magazine.  For more on Merrill Lynch’s mLearning experience, click here.

Mobile Learning Definitions Abound

It was clear to me that even though there was a lot of talk about mobile learning and many sessions geared towards the topic, mLearning is still very much in its infancy.  At a conference where many people are very tapped into what is happening in this area, there are still many varied definitions of what mobile learning is.  There are many who still think of mobile learning as simply putting eLearning on a mobile device.  There are others who think primarily about the use of mobile phones in the classroom.  For others mobile learning is mainly about performance support.  I don’t think any of these ideas are bad.  In fact, I think it is great that there are so many different definitions.  The more expansive the definition of mobile learning, the more opportunity for everyone to produce valuable content that really helps people.  You can find Float’s definition of mobile learning on our About page.  What is your definition of mLearning?

LMS Companies are on the Mobile Bandwagon

No surprise here, really.  Mobile is obviously hot right now and so every company wants a piece of the pie.  There are all sorts of claims out there about what one LMS is doing for mobile and how another is addressing device compatibility issues.   Any company can add a page about mobile on their website and make a few changes so that their products and your courses “work” on a mobile device.  But which companies are really leading innovators in this area and which ones are just acting like they are part of the group?  Getting into the specifics of who is real and who is just posing is another blog topic altogether.  My main advice is to proceed cautiously, ask a lot of questions, and test (and prove) before you buy.  If you jump too quickly you may find yourself regretting the decision later.

Windows Mobile 7 – Does It Have a Chance?

Considered dead and out of the mobile OS game just a few months ago, Microsoft introduced Windows Phone 7 Series at Mobile World Congress 2010, in Barcelona in February.  The announcement and reviews have the mobile learning world talking about this not necessarily as a “game changer” but certainly as a strong player in the mobile market.  It is still much too early to predict its fate, but there are a couple key things that I heard at the conference that I want to pass along.  Microsoft is playing to win and is taking significant risks to do so.  Also, and this is key for anyone currently developing for Windows Mobile 6, Windows Mobile 7 (now known as Windows Phone) is a totally new OS based on Zune HD.  The device is completely non-backwards compatible so any existing WinMo apps simply will not work.  I guess we will have to wait and see.  If this were Apple, I would have very high expectations, but with Microsoft, I just don’t know.  What do you think?

All in all, the conference was great.  My expectations are certainly high for the Guild’s conference specifically geared toward mobile learning, mLearnCon, in June.  Check out the conference website, I think you’ll be impressed with the speakers and the sessions that have already been identified.  I’m looking forward to the conference and hope to see you there.

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John is the Managing Partner for Float Mobile Learning. He has over 18 years of experience in helping clients change to be more successful and helping those clients navigate those changes. He works with Fortune 500 organizations to help them define and design learning strategies with a focus on mobile learning. His client list includes Caterpillar, Anheuser-Busch, Museum of Science and Industry and Pioneer Hi-Bred, a subsidiary of DuPont.

John is a member of both the E-Learning Guild and ASTD where he is active in speaking about both eLearning and mobile learning topics.

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On April 4, 2010
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