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How to Mobile-Enable Your Online Course

Submitted by on March 7, 2013 – 11:06 amOne Comment

Mobile devices–phones, computers, tablets–hold much potential in education. To help uncover this vast potential, educators have started integrating mobile learning into their courses, and they’ve noted promising results. Students are showing the many benefits they get from mobile learning, including these prominent advantages:

  • Mobile learning creates a student-centric environment and approach
  • Mobile learning lets the student own and guide his/her learning
  • Mobile learning engages the different learning styles through virtual experiences and tools
  • Mobile learning lets students learn anytime, anywhere

Watch Educause’s video the Future of Learning Environments. You can enable mobile learning in your course in various ways. Start by accessing your LMS’s mobile app and navigate your course through the eyes of your students. Follow the principles listed below to enhance your course’s content for mobile users. And stay up-to-date with the rapidly evolving world of mobile learning–Faculty eCommons will keep you posted on updates and new developments.

Access Your LMS’s Mobile App

Various LMSs now include comprehensive, easy-to-use mobile apps for their users. Other LMSs have been structured to read in most web browsers, letting users access course content from any device without relying on an app. Below, we’ve linked the mobile apps and helpful information for four common LMSs.

  Canvas logo Users can access their Canvas courses through the apps Canvas for iOS® and Canvas for Android™. Instructure adhered to web standards and little use of Flash while structuring this LMS, so Canvas fully functions on various devices, such as iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Android, WebOS, Blackberry, and Windows Phone. (Tip: Android’s best browsers for showing Canvas: Opera, Firefox, Chrome, and Dolphin Browser HD.)

Blackboard mobile logo Blackboard offers a robust experience for students and instructors through its native app, Blackboard Mobile Learn (read about its features here). Users can download Blackboard Mobile Learn (free if licensed by your institution) iOS®, Android™, BlackBerry®, and webOS®.

Moodle logo Users can access Moodle on mobile devices through their device’s web browser by downloading native apps or through a server-configured extension. Find a list of apps and helpful mobile support info on Mobile Moodle FAQs page.

Desire2Learn logo Desire2Learn includes mobile web support across multiple platforms with the Desire2Learn Learning Environment so users can access their course tools on their devices in the optimized format. And this LMS offers neat native mobile apps, like Binder (free) and Campus Life (check with your institution if this is available to you; also you can test the Campus Life demo App Store, Google Play, Blackberry World).

5 Simple Principles to Mobile-Enable Your Course

These principles are adapted from Andrea Dillard’s Mobile Instructional Design Principles for Adult Learners, which she gathered as a recommendation for mobile instructional design.

1. Develop a simple and intuitive interface design.

The usability should be simple and consistent to enable learners to quickly and easily learn how to use the interface.

  • Your institution’s LMS likely offers this interface (which usually displays common links like discussion, assignments, and grades).
  • If possible, use or design an interface with HTML 5, which is supported by most browsers across the mobile platforms.

2. Integrate interactive multi-media.

Take advantage of multi-media formats (audio and video) over text, due to the small-screen display of most mobile devices.

3. Build short, modular lessons and activities.

Design small chunks for easier integration into busy schedules and to successfully compete against other distractions.

  • Create courses like mobile apps to keep content concise and open for users to explore. Organize each module with a short, informative set of topics + an extra topic for additional resources.
  • Use one type of content (video, audio, or text) per topic–too many content types in one topic can distract and confuse mobile users.
  • Consider page load time–the more content on a single page, the longer the page loads

4. Design content that is engaging and entertaining.

Activities designed to engage students should be applicable, entertaining, and suited to everyday needs.

  • Encourage personal and playful interaction–the dynamic nature of mobile learning feeds a playful tone, which invites authentic learning and engagement.
  • Check out popular mobile apps for inspiration on how to best display your content.
  • Vary your content with quick and interactive activities. Phone users are engaged by videos or games, and easily pushed away with long text. A lot of text is cumbersome on mobile devices.
  • Introduce new ways of learning, like using scannable QR codes attached to objects in your teaching environment. See this example of QR codes in eLearning. (And note how easily QR codes are used in the embedded SlideShare below.)

5. Design content for just-in-time delivery.

Just-in-time delivery improves efficiency by providing support and information for the learner’s immediate priorities.

  • Your content should allow students to find what they need, when they need it. This includes linked text, collaborative spaces, feeds, etc.
  • Scheduling is an important part of mobile learning. Use your LMS’s calendar feature to track your course’s events–include links and helpful information that will benefit students’ mobile use and preferences (e.g., due dates appear in a student’s native calendar app).
  • Ask students to subscribe to your course’s feed.

Resources about Mobile Learning

Mobile Learning Resource Posters

View these QR-enabled mobile learning resources that were posted at Mobile Learning Experience 2012. Quickly access a resource shown on a poster: launch your mobile device’s barcode scanner, then hover your device’s camera over the QR code (your phone should self-adjust and capture the scan).

Mobile Learning Resource Posters from Tony Vincent

Mobile Learning Readings

Share Your Experiences

How have you enhanced your course content for mobile learning? What mobile apps have best complemented your course and learning objectives? Share with us in the comments section below.   [social-bio]

One Comment »

  • Dr. Heather Farmakis says:

    Going mobile is becoming more and more prevalent. We are a society constantly on the go and mobility is a plus when it comes to your learning. The recent Horizon report predicts tablets as a key trend in education.