Mobile Performance Support

mobile_learningPerformance Support is information that can help a user perform a task and it may be referenced while the task is being performed or about to be performed. Training on the other hand, is provided in preparation for a future task that needs to be performed and is usually not designed to be referenced while performing a task. Performance Support can be accessed when required, on-demand, in support of performing a task or just-in-time of need and it can its sequence may be controlled by the person performing a task.

Performance Support is increasingly becoming a necessity since it is not humanly possible to commit the information from an extensive training to memory, particularly for complex job-tasks in today’s workplace nor it is possible to provide prior training on each task or skill. Mobile performance support systems can help an organization reduce training costs while increasing productivity and performance at the same time.

What is Mobile Performance Support?

In today’s times, mobile devices, tablets and smart phones have made Performance Support more practical and effective. Mobile touch and voice-based user interfaces make access to information readily accessible while working on a task that may be performed while sitting, standing, walking, driving, etc.

For example, a GPS provides step-by-step and concise guidance on how to get from point A to point B. Smart phones and tablets are portable devices that have high resolution screens to present graphics, text, audio, and video based content. Since the screen size is smaller than a desktop, these devices make an ideal platform for delivering concise, step-by-step information.

Newer devices such as Google Glass provide a hands-free access to information needed to perform a task and have the potential to revolutionize performance support technology in many fields.
Jason Haag says, “Mobile learning should not be merely viewed as a replacement, an alternative, or as a new addition to existing training delivery methods. It should be thought of as a complimentary way to augment or enhance all types of learning.”

Some popular types of Mobile Performance Support

Performance support content should be easily accessible and concise (remove extraneous information). Mobile devices are a great medium for delivery of performance support in academic as well as corporate sectors, where information can be accessed quickly and the task completed. The most common types of mobile Performance Support are job aids, FAQ’s, small tutorials, chat apps, and demos. Mobile devices can support Performance Support in many formats such as HTML5, PDF, Audio, Video, text message or native mobile app. Instancy Authoring Tools may be used to create web and mobile performance support content and reuse elements of eLearning content for performance support.

When technology is combined with information, content can be delivered when and where it is needed via job aids. Short text messaging (SMS) and apps can be used to send tips and knowledge checks. The availability of mentors via mobile devices is yet another form of Mobile Performance Support.

Case studies

Many football players use iPads to share game play videos and demonstrate tactics used in the game. These chunks of content can be delivered at any time day or night. Supporting apps enable players and coaches to highlight areas, ring players, and also write notes on screen.

Mobile Performance Support has been used for maintenance procedures so that maintenance technicians are able to access and complete Maintenance Procedure Cards (MPCs) on a hand-held device.

Just-in-time performance support and coaching are highly popular in the fields of healthcare and medicine. Job aids and reference tools for nurses, doctors, and other healthcare workers are widely used today.

Summary

Performance Support can complement eLearning and in many cases it can displace need for formal training. A shift is underway in favor of performance support. Performance support offers critical information at any time, to enable an individual to make better informed decisions and reduce errors in performing tasks. Performance analysts, information designers, knowledge-management system architects and mobile app developers have a great new opportunity to harness the full potential of performance support technology to help improve the productivity while dramatically reduce the time and cost of training.

 

Developing Mobile Learning Content

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Geddes (2004) defines mobile learning as “the acquisition of any knowledge and skill through using mobile technology, anywhere anytime that results in an alteration in behavior.”

The ability to access learning on mobile devices is mandatory in today’s dynamic world where people are constantly on the move. Mobile learning has gained leverage today due to its ease of access, simplicity, short duration, and concise design.

Content for mobile devices has to be easily accessible and customized or designed for the learner’s needs. Developing e-learning for mobile can be challenging due to the variety of mobile devices as well as the varying levels of quality and resolutions. While creating mobile learning, it would help to keep certain points in mind:

Keep it short

Learners learn best when information is presented in small chunks. Too much content can be overwhelming to a learner. Remember that users are more likely to terminate mobile applications that take more than five seconds to load. The use of graphics and images are helpful to a learner when used correctly. Hyperlinks can be provided for reference where required. Modules of 5 – 10 minutes are apt for mobile learning.

Using graphics

Graphics for mobile devices should be quick to load and neat. A cluttered or crowded screen distracts learners and may even make a learner switch off. The acceptable image formats for mobile learning include PNG, JPG, GIF, and animated GIF formats.

Flash vs. videos

Videos are best presented in the MP4 format as compared to Flash animations. Flash will not work on BlackBerry and Apple iPhone/iPod devices. Differences in screen size for various types of mobiles and the availability of various apps have also made Flash a less relevant option. In fact, HTML5 and CSS3 have become viable alternatives to Flash today.

The download time and length of a video are other factors to be considered for mobile learning. For heavy content in videos, it is a good idea to enable the user to download and access the content later.

Presentation of content

Navigation should be simple and user-friendly for a mobile learner, who often does not have the patience to scroll through pages of text while on the move. A mobile learning experience should be touch screen-friendly too with user interface elements (buttons, menus) that have a sufficient touch area. An informal and conversational style also helps when delivering mobile content to a learner. In addition, a learner should be able to return and continue where they left off the last time.

Education with Mobiles

Ownership of a mobile device is high among students pursuing higher education and tablets seem to be popular for academic purposes. For workplace learning, higher education, and K-12, a module can be presented as pre-work, additional content, or key points of a course. A standalone assessment for students delivered via their mobile devices can effectively test knowledge gained from an e-learning program or an instructor-led course.

To summarize, creating a valuable and effective mobile learning experience can help more learners and give thousands of employees a range of enhanced skills with less effort. The “fun” value and the “just-in-time” nature of mobile learning make it a sought-after learning experience.

For more information on how to create Mobile Learning Apps easily and affordably, please click here….

Benefits of Experience API (Tin-Can API)

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Technology standards are critical to the success of eLearning industry and projects so the learning content and data is interoperable between different systems. Sharable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM) is a widely accepted technical standard for online learning that was developed by the US DoD’s Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL) initiative in the late nineties.

What is SCORM?

SCORM essentially defines the relationship between course components, data models, and protocols so that content “objects” are sharable across systems that conform to the SCORM model. The various versions of SCORM offer the benefits of packaging content and exchanging data at run time.SCORM has been designed for online learning between a single user and the learning system. It offers standardization of learning content packaging and its delivery. The latest version, SCORM 2004, also offers a sequencing and navigation option. However, SCORM is a reference model and not really a standard and it has many limitations. Tracking of users is limited with SCORM and it can only handle web-based lessons delivered through a web browser, limiting the possibility and flexibility of learning through mobile or other modern devices.

The Advent of TinCan API or xAPI

More recently, ADL developed TinCan API (now known as Experience API or xAPI for short) under Project Tin Can to provide a better and more improved platform for online learning. xAPI facilitate data interoperability between learning systems, enterprise systems and more dynamic, flexible, and engaging content without many of the limitations of SCORM or other learning specifications.With xAPI, there has been a great shift and flexibility in the way online learning works. Content resources can reside anywhere and do not need to be located at the same domain or server as the Learning Management System (content delivery systems). So you can have learning resources on your mobile (for example, as a downloadable mobile app) or any website. Additionally, it is now possible to report multiple scores, obtain detailed test results, and also have improved security of data. Experience API can track any learning experience without a web browser or internet connection, opening up limitless possibilities for learning on the go.

Tracking of a user’s (or multiple users’) learning patterns or behavior is simple and quick with xAPI. Moreover, the tracked data is portable and the activity records can be stored in a Learning Record Store (LRS). This LRS can then be integrated with an LMS or other systems in the organization, making the learning experience more meaningful and quantifiable. In fact, the tracking capability of xAPI can include all learner experiences and experiential data can be easily collected from social media, job locations, classrooms, apps, performance tools, and knowledge bases, to name a few.

The blended learning and adaptive learning domains are gaining immensely by leveraging xAPI. xAPI can support existing SCORM use cases as well as enable use cases that were difficult to meet with SCORM. Mobile learning and access of content from anywhere is possible with xAPI’s dynamic features.

While Experience API (xAPI) is not the most comprehensive eLearning content and learning systems technical specification, but ability to communicate learner’s activities and experiences flexibly is a step in the right direction.

Responsive Design in eLearning | Delivering eLearning Content for a Multi-device World

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Would you like to deliver eLearning that only works on One Device or on Multiple Devices?

The New Rule is responsive eLearning design – “One version that works on all devices

What is “responsive design?”

When used about technology in 2013, “responsive” means that a program, website, or application works on any device you want to use, without any extra effort on your part. Since we started using smart phones, and then tablets, you as a user had to download different versions of a program to your phone, your tablet, and your PC. These different applications rarely worked exactly the same on each device. Sometimes, they behaved very differently. Sometimes, text was tiny, or images were too large, or you only saw the menu and not the content.

If it was a headache for you as a user, can you imagine what a headache it was for the developer? In addition to phones, tablets, and computers, developers had to create programs all over again for Windows, Android, and the Apple systems! Sometimes, a provider like Instancy had to keep track of NINE different versions of their software and eLearning content!

Authors developing eLearning content had similar challenges, making sure their e-courses were designed for the systems that learners used.

Now, Instancy has implemented intelligent responsive design, so that eLearning courses created on Instancy Learning Content Management System (LCMS) and delivered through the Instancy platform are offered in appropriate formats for the devices used by your learners.

HTML5:  not a magic bullet

HTML is one of the languages that makes the internet work. It controls how words and images are displayed on your browser screen.

HTML5, the newest version of this language, allows web-based applications like Instancy to work seamlessly across all your devices. Interactive content provided inside these applications, such as audio and video files, will play on your device the same way it plays on your laptop.

However, taking advantage of the responsive design features supported by HTML5 is not as easy as flipping a switch. Responsive design suggests that content be displayed appropriately on the target device, not simply resized for a small screen. For example, Apple devices won’t display Flash-based animation, so content delivered by Flash must be provided in a different form.

This is an enormous change, although our end users may not ever notice that their applications work better across the multiple devices they use to access mobile learning.

We in the eLearning industry have already seen the benefits. However, we think that it is the Instancy Authoring Tool users who will really notice and be able to benefit from responsive design as implemented in Instancy. Thanks to HTML5, learners will be able to enjoy interactive eLearning content across all their devices. The door is open for the next revolution of our industry: the mLearning (for Mobile Learning) revolution.

Enable Dynamic Content Resizing

Figure 1: Enable Dynamic Content Resizing

To begin taking advantage of what HTML5 and Intelligent Responsive Design can do for your course development work, use the new Enable Dynamic Content Resizing option within the Instancy Authoring Tool. Thanks to this new option, your eLearning content will be automatically resized to fit any of the multiple devices your learners use.

We have already implemented the new technology in the learning management system (LMS). All devices (PC/Laptop browser, Tablet or Smartphone) can access the LMS. Once your course is uploaded to the catalog, it will be accessible on all devices without any additional work on your part.

In the image below you can see how the catalog page adapts to desktop, iPad and iPhone

Responsive Design for Learning Management System Interface

Figure 2: Responsive Design for Learning Management System Interface

 

Example of Responsive Design

Figure 3: Example of Responsive Design. 

Notice in the figure above that the image is automatically sized correctly for the screen, rather than cropped the way it might have been before HTML5.

At Instancy, we will continue to add HTML5-based innovations throughout our system.  If you’d like to learn more, please contact us at info@instancy.com If you simply want to stay on top of what we’re doing, sign up for our newsletter at the link to the right.

 

Mobile Learning Native Application Development Update

The Instancy Learning Platform has been updated and released as a native app (Instancy Mobile Learning Native App) that can be installed on mobile devices, in both Android and Apple formats.  This app connects with a cloud-based server and allows users to manage registration, browse a catalog of learning and performance support content, their My Learning, Profile, and Progress pages.

Instancy Mobile Learning Native App appears on the device app menu just like any of the other apps your users have downloaded and installed.
Instancy Mobile Learning Native App appears on the device app menu just like any of the other apps your users have downloaded and installed.

 

The app will work the same way on tablets.

The Instancy Mobile Learning Native App for smartphones and tablets offers several advantages over the mobile web application (Instancy learning platform is also available as a mobile web application).  The Native app allows users to download a complete course package and access the content on their device.  This gives them the freedom to use the content without the bother of slow download times if they have a low-bandwidth connection or are using their device while travelling, when they can’t connect to the internet.

Similarly, users with limited data plans do not have to worry about overages or throttling.  They can download the digital learning content on a wifi connection, and consume it at their leisure without additional data downloads.

Learners can receive push notifications on their mobile device, letting them know that a reminder, course update, or other message is waiting for them when they connect to the server the next time.

Instancy Mobile Learning Native App can deliver many types of content:
 

  • Learning Modules – including interactive multimedia content that support one or more learning objectives
  • Learning Tracks – collections of one or more Learning modules, together with its associated references, assessments, resources, and sometimes scheduled events, both in-person and virtual. Learning Tracks are equivalent to “curricula”
  • Media Resources – audio and video files that support your learning modules
  • Documents – such as MS Word files, spreadsheets, presentations, and PDFs
  • References –links to external learning resources such as other apps, videos, audios, eBooks, web pages, etc.
  • Events –either (i) a physical class where attendees meet face to face at a specified location or (ii) a virtual class or webinar. (Events can be synchronized with the calendar app on the user’s device.)
  • Assessments –tests or quizzes used to evaluate Learner’s skill or knowledge
  • Performance support content or knowledge nuggets that can help learners make use of what they have studied on the job
Instancy Mobile Learning Native App showing list of documents associated with a Learning Track.  Most major document file formats are supported.
Instancy Mobile Learning Native App showing list of documents associated with a Learning Track. Most major document file formats are supported.

 

This pair of screen shots, on a phone and a tablet respectively, show some of the detailed video based content from within a learning module.
This pair of screen shots, on a phone and a tablet respectively, show some of the detailed video based content from within a learning module.

 

More examples of the different page types within learning modules that can be accessed through the Instancy Mobile Learning Native App.
More examples of the different page types within learning modules that can be accessed through the Instancy Mobile Learning Native App.

 

Examples of assessment content delivered through Instancy Mobile Learning Native App.  The device’s touch-screen and keyboard features are enabled in this app, allowing the user to respond to the questions.
Examples of assessment content delivered through Instancy Mobile Learning Native App. The device’s touch-screen and keyboard features are enabled in this app, allowing the user to respond to the questions.

 

Including brief assessments into the course material helps users verify that they have mastered the material in real time.  If they discover that they don’t understand a concept, they can review the material before stumbling onto the next modules.

Courses and Content can be downloaded

The advantage of the native app is that it allows users to download all documents, media, learning and performance support content to their device.  This means that they can use it when the internet is not available.  It also allows users who have limited data plans to download content when they are connected to wifi, and use it when they are not within reach of wifi, without incurring additional data charges.

In the native app, the user’s “My Learning” menu shows a download button.
In the native app, the user’s “My Learning” menu shows a download button.

 

If the internet is not available or is blocked when a user logs in, only those courses that have already been downloaded will be accessible through the native app interface.

The app will track the learner’s course progress while the device is offline, and then sync the next time the device connects to the internet.

Offline progress is synced when the device connects to the internet.
Offline progress is synced when the device connects to the internet.

 

Similarly, any updates to the course material itself will be held for the next available time the device connects to the internet.

Learning Administration

 

Learning Administration
Learning Administration

 

Course progress from the native app is aggregated the same way progress from active on-line users is collected.

Conclusion

 

The new Instancy Mobile Learning Native App allows Learning Administrators to provide just in time learning and performance support to all of your learners and knowledge workers.  Furthermore, the easy-to-use administration controls allow you to personalize the learning content for each user or group of users.

Future updates will allow course designers to take advantage of geolocation and voice activation features on the devices and incorporate this functionality into learning and performance support content.

Learners who spend the bulk of their time at a desk using a PC and learners who commute or travel and who can only access learning content outside regular work settings have the same access to all of the content your enterprise offers to them.

All from an integrated One Mobile Learning App – Instancy Learning Platform Native App.