5 Learning Apps that are changing the world

Blog Title Image, "Five Learning Apps that are changing the world" accompanied by an image of a hand and other eco imagery. Join the conversation on Twitter with #EndPoverty

The theme for the United Nation’s International Day for the Eradication of Poverty this year is to ‘think, decide and act together against extreme poverty’ so we’ve compiled a list of five learning apps that are working towards this purpose and making a positive impact on the world.

Mobile apps are increasingly popular because they allow learners to tap into on-demand, bite sized and just in time learning both wherever and whenever they want to.

The apps we want to highlight stick out because they deliver short, relevant pieces of information that either create awareness of the daily struggles faced by those in poverty or else provide users with the information they need to make informed decisions:

 

1.    My Life as a Refugee

This app is developed by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency and allows learners to gain an insight into the dilemmas and difficulties faced by refugees. The learner adopts the role of either Amika, Paulo or Merita, gets to hear their story and has to make quick fire decisions on how to deal with unfolding events. Using gamification, storytelling and problem-based learning, this highly interactive app educates learners on the complex and dangerous situations faced by refugees and hopefully provokes them to take action.

 2.    DataFinder Apps

The World Bank have developed a series of apps packed with extensive and reputable data on world poverty, health, jobs, climate change and much more. These apps allow users access to a previously unimaginable repository of information that they can dip in and out of and use on an informal learning basis. Having such important information on such an accessible platform means that the global community is now able to be more informed and take more action on justice and inequality issues than ever before.

3.    One Today

In a world where there are an overwhelming amount of good causes and charities to support, One Today educates and connects its users with one good cause each day. By including an element of social sharing, One Today allows the philanthropically minded to quickly and easily share new knowledge and findings with their family and friends.

4.    instead

Many people would like to give more to charity but don’t know where to start or what their money could be used for. There is a disconnection between the money in people’s wallets and an understanding of the impact it could have on the world. The instead app provides learners with information on what their money is worth in terms of aid. For example, by cooking at home three times instead of eating out, it’s possible to save enough money to provide HIV medication for one person for three months. By equipping learners with this valuable information, this brilliant app allows them to make decisions and engage with issues that previously seemed distant or difficult to understand.

5.    Save the Children Earthquake Response

Save the Children have been working in disaster relief since 1919 and designed the Earthquake Response app to educate learners on what the priorities and objectives are when they respond to a disaster. The app allows the user to take the place of an aid worker in the aftermath of a disaster. By educating users on the practical and life-saving work they do, they are able to communicate better with sponsors and attract new donors.

 

According to Cisco’s 2013 global mobile data forecast, there are almost as many mobile devices (7 billion) as there are humans on the planet! Because of this, the potential for learning apps in global development is both exciting and potential filled.

Learning apps are now becoming widely adopted across every sector. However, in the charity and development sector where creating awareness and sharing information is intrinsic to receiving support and engaging with live issues, learning apps really are a practical and tangible way of addressing and overcoming global issues. Mobile learning apps present a promising opportunity to ‘think, decide and act together against extreme poverty’.

Please let us know your comments or share with others who you think may benefit from this. Follow us on twitter @aurionlearning for our latest blog articles and updates.

Mobile Learning: ‘The Times They Are a-Changin’

If you’re a learning professional and thinking mobile learning is the next big thing, you are mistaken. Mobile, or M Learning as it is commonly referred to, IS the big thing!A picture of the world with the statement, "Mobile devices are soon set to overtake the total numbers of humans on the planet; a first for technology."

Unless you have been under a rock, (quite obviously with no access to 3G or wifi!) you will be very aware that the use of smart devices is increasing. As the Bob Dylan song goes, ‘The Times They Are a-Changin’. The days where learning programmes were designed and built for a 1024 x 768 desktop computer and laptop are over and the times, well they have most certainly changed.

Startlingly, IT giant, Cisco recently reported that mobile devices are soon to overtake the total number of humans on the planet; a first for technology. Anyone who is unsure about the importance of mobile, this latest stat should help convince you.

Although mobile learning has been a growing trend for quite some time now, it looked set to make a real impact in the way that E-Learning was delivered. However, many organisations have been slow to uptake mobile learning on a large-scale. Having said that however, mobile learning has  started to come into its own and increase as more and more people use their own devices.

At Aurion Learning, we have noticed a considerable increase in demand for HTML 5  learning resources. Reassuringly, L&D departments are realising that users are switching from the classroom based 9-5 mentality and are tuning into something akin to a ‘starbucks culture’ of learning on the go.

With the surge in mobile technology, it has become easier and quicker to connect to the internet, almost anywhere. As a result and what will undoubtedly make a big impact amongst L&D departments is; expectation. Just like an Amazon prime account, users now expect to access knowledge instantly and get the information that they need, and all done simply in the palm of their hand and at the touch of a button.

So given this new expectancy, what real impact will mobile learning have on learning and development in organisations?

We recently attended a Learnovate Seminar in Dublin where Donald H Taylor, Chairman of Learning and Performance Institute spoke about the trends for learning in 2014. Mobile learning was a hot topic of discussion and in particular, the increasing numbers of learners who are starting to take responsibility for their own learning and development. Coincidence or not, this coincides with the increase in mobile technology, with one attendee in particular referring to this trend as ‘H Learning’ – learning on the hoof! We are not sure if the term will catch on, but there’s merit to it and there is certainly no denying that it’s hard to ignore the increase of learning on the go using a smart device.

Smartphones and tablets are popular because they are portable and easy to use. These devices help us to connect with others, gather information and provide us with the knowledge that we require. As humans, it is in our nature to communicate and socialise. Access to social media and the creation of digital communities helps to facilitate this need and are a factor in attracting us to using tablets and smart phones more and more. These features have contributed to the widespread adoption of mobile devices and also are what makes them ideal for delivering learning content.

There are two types of learning that are greatly enhanced by mobile devices:

  • Social learning – The ability to carry a smartphone or tablet anywhere means that social learning networks seep into everyday life, with instant interactivity and connectivity that enables people all over the world to have meaningful connections centred on collaborative, social learning.
  • Informal, self-directed learning – Google searching is just the tip of the iceberg. With websites like TED and Wikipedia to name just a few and the overall availability of information on the internet, it’s now possible to learn virtually any skill or piece of knowledge online. Mobile devices mean time that was formerly wasted commuting or waiting can become time for learning.

Picture of a smart phone and statistic taken from main body of text, "The global workforce is now more mobile than ever with 1.3 billion people predicted to be mobile by 2015.However, the potential for mobile learning stretches far beyond just social learning or gathering information from search engines. It is becoming increasingly common for companies and organisations to approach E-Learning providers with plans to create learning programmes and modules that are compatible with a wide range of devices including smartphones and tablets.

Mobile learning gives L & D departments the extra edge by giving learners access to learning content whenever they want. Learners can tap into new information whether they are working from home or on the go. This provides them with more control over their own time and therefore creates flexibility to prioritise as they see fit. Mobile learning means that organisations are able to integrate their L & D strategy more seamlessly into everyday life.

According to a report by the International Data Corporation (IDC), the global workforce is now more mobile than ever and is still continuing to rise with 1.3 billion people predicted to be mobile by 2015. Widespread adoption of mobile devices means that mobile learning is in a good position to become the main method for learning within the workforce.

Whether your organisation has embraced the use of mobile learning fully or not, it is important to note that conversion to mobile learning is not just about transferring reams of information and compliance documents to a format that is compatible with mobile devices. In contrast, in order to achieve learning success and to truly adopt mobile learning, organisations need to refine the information they want people to learn into short, concise points that will be easy to read and memorise when delivered through their smartphones or tablets.

Please let us know your comments or share with others who you think may benefit from this. Follow us on twitter @aurionlearning for our latest blog articles and updates.

 

Effective User Interface Design for Mobile Learning

by Noleen Turner

Sample mobile learning user interface developed by AurionWith the explosion of mobile learning many of us are now in the position of creating brand new mobile e-learning programmes or transforming existing e-learning content to mobile.

*A friendly word of warning to those involved in ‘conversion’ projects – mobile is different to traditional web – and your mobile learning programme won’t work if it’s just a regurgitated experience. Mobile learning is micro-learning, designed for short bursts of activity – your learners are likely to access it while on the job, performing a task, or in between other activities. And learners need to be able to access it via a range of mobile learning technologies which are likely to include smartphones and tablets.

But I digress…and to get back to the original point how do you design an effective user interface for mobile learning? And how do you manage navigation, usability, and aesthetics ensuring that the transition between screens feels natural and that users know where they are at all times during the programme?

LearningSolutions Magazine recently published an article entitled “From e-learning to ipad – how to adjust the user interface”. In the article they consider how the user interface design contributes to
the success of a learning mobile app – one in which the user interface enhances and eases the learning process.

According to LearningSolutions, the layout you build for your mobile learning app must enable users to answer these five questions:

  • Where am I?
  • How did I get here?
  • How can I return to where I once was? 
  • How far have I gone?
  • Where else can I go?

In response to these questions I’ve tried to come up with my own tips for optimising the mobile learning interface:

  How to improve the experience
Where am I?
  • Don’t overload functionality, features or content – just focus on what is necessary to get the job done.
  • Simple functionality will enable you to create a straightforward and easy to follow user interface.
  • Structure information so it can be easily accessed – learners expect to get the information they need with just a few taps.
  • Group similar topics together. The Learning Coach has a useful blog post on visual grouping.
  • Keep the screen uncluttered and use clear screen titles so learners won’t misinterpret visual cues.
  • Emphasise menu items already clicked (change colour or attach bookmarks).
  • Design for a low error rate – remember that selection errors on mobile phones are higher than desktops so surround selection areas with white space so that a learner can easily tap them and invoke the correct action.
How did I get here?
  • Create a visual trail as learners move through the content. For example, highlight a section already clicked on or use a “breadcrumb trail” so learners can track their progress through the programme.
How can I return to where I once was? 
  • Use navigation buttons to allow movement between learning units.
  • Ensure some navigation menus are visible throughout the entire course.
  • Provide Back buttons or Menu buttons to return to a map of choices.
How far have I gone?
  • Include a screen ID such as “Screen 2 of 24” to inform users of how far they have progressed through a lesson and how much there is left to do.
  • Use the word “screen” rather than “page”.
  • Group similar content and create intense learning nuggets rather that one long course – nobody wants to see “Screen 3 of 60”.
Where else can I go?
  • Use clearly labelled navigation buttons to help learners orient themselves.
  • Make sure navigation buttons are easy to find.
  • Stick to simple touch tap or swipe commands to manage navigation between screens (for now). Don’t assume that everyone knows how to use all the interface features of their smartphone / tablet – e.g. pinch open gesture to magnify text.  According to Josh Clark, author of Tapworthy: Designing Great iPhone Apps, most people don’t know about the more obscure gestures that work on some mobile phones.

And finally…don’t forget to test your user interface
Once you design an interface, make sure you test it with a sample group of learners, checking how long it takes to complete the learning, how easily they can navigate the learning, how many navigational errors they make etc.

Useful resources for designing mobile learning
iOS Human Interface Guidelines
http://thatcoolguy.github.com/gridless-boilerplate/  guidelines on HTML5 & CSS3 topics
W3C
10 Tips For Designing mLearning And Support Apps
From e-learning to ipad – how to adjust the user interface
Ten things to think about when designing your iPad App

What is MLearning?

by Noleen Turner, Marketing Manager

Mobile devices

We’ve all heard the buzz-word Mlearning but no one seems to agree on exactly what mobile learning is, and how it differs from elearning.

Mobile Learning Consultants Float Learning define Mlearning as: “Mlearning is the use of mobile technology to aid in the learning, reference or exploration of information useful to an individual at that moment or in a specific use context.”

Meanwhile the eLearning Guild describe Mlearning as: “Any activity that allows individuals to be more productive when consuming, interacting with, or creating information, mediated through a compact digital portable device that the individual carries on a regular basis, has reliable connectivity, and fits in a pocket or purse.”

From my perspective, Mlearning is about:

Delivering learning content and experiences to learners when and where they need it. It is learning that can be accessed at any time and any place to support performance. Typically Mlearning is accessed via a mobile device that facilitates just-in-time learning and on-demand learning. Mlearning can be formal or informal, structured or unstructured. It is flexible, self-paced and self-directed. Mlearning is driven by the learner, rather than the technology learners use to access it.

Many people are trying to predict the technology winners of the future – in other words which platforms will become favoured for Mlearning delivery. Instead, we should be focusing on developing Mlearning that is platform independent. Have a look at the 22 joint-nation Mobile Learning Environment (MoLE) project currently working to create a platform independent set of tools aimed at learning collaboration and information sharing on mobile devices.

So what kind of technology does Mlearning involve?
Mobile learning is supported by a variety mobile devices and technologies that facilitate the delivery of documents, presentations, multimedia, notifications, news, assignments, quizzes and educational courseware that can all contribute to Mlearning. These include:

  • Smart phones eg. iPhone
  • Laptops
  • Tablets eg. iPad
  • PDA (personal digital assistant)
  • Kindle
  • Ipod
  • Personal media players eg. iPod
  • Gaming devices eg. xBox 360.

While certainly due careful consideration, Mlearning should not focus on the technology it runs on – rather the single most important aspect of Mlearning is the learner – it’s a combination of how, when, where they access the learning content and what they do with that learning content that really matters.

So is Mlearning just Elearning on a mobile device?
It’s a BIG mistake to think that Mlearning is simply Elearning on a mobile device, and an even bigger mistake (and often costly one) to assume you can simply transport existing Elearning to make it work on mobile devices.

Mlearning requires a different pedagogical approach to Elearning for a number of reasons:

  • Access: the way learners access Mlearning is different to how they access Elearning (e.g. mobile phone and PDA screens can limit the amount and type of information that can be displayed versus office-based desk-top computer).
  • Short courses: Mlearning is also best suited to short bite-sized learning courses, theory, information relay rather than long or very practical based courses. No one wants to complete an hour long learning course via a mobile phone or PDA.
  • Less structured/less formal: Mlearning is often less structured than traditional Elearning which often sets out specific learning objectives.
  • On-demand: Mlearning is more about just-in-time and on-demand learning at the moment it is needed (think a repair worker out on a job who can access a quick check-list of ‘to-dos’ when they are actually on the job or the Bloom Liverpool Project – a fantastic example of delivering mobile learning to taxi drivers) whereas traditional Elearning is more about comprehension and retention. With Elearning, learners are expected to learn information and retain it for a later time when they will actually apply it on the job.
  • Assessment: Mlearning requires a whole new strategy for assessment. Traditional Elearning often includes a final knowledge check / assessment with the initial results recorded on an LMS but given that there is often a time delay before the learner is actually meant to put the learning into action, it can be difficult to measure and evaluate long-term behaviour change and the effects on the business. The time between Mlearning taking place and the learner putting what they have learned into action is relatively short, so it can be easier to measure behaviour change and impact on the business.

What makes good Mlearning?

  • Bite-sized short chunks of learning
  • “Just-in-time” “just-enough” or even “just-for me” learning
  • Easy to use
  • Practical and contextual
  • NOT elearning delivered on a mobile device
  • Informal – on the go learning
  • Interactive (including appropriate opportunities to share knowledge)
  • Knowledge distribution rather than knowledge presentation
  • Portable – can be accessed anywhere the learner goes with their device
  • Platform independent (however this is still somewhat aspirational).

M-Learning & The Evolution of HTML

by Lee Reilly, Senior Web Designer

HTML5 logo

My first real foray into the realm of coding over a decade ago pertained to making a text box on my page a solid colour, positioning it to the right and making the text white. After much musing (by which I mean searching around the internet) I fumbled a solution and had inadvertently coded something! In this case it was a <div> container to hold my text, which was aligned right and coloured accordingly. The beginnings of my first HTML site, though perhaps not as grand as I might have liked.

Over the years my HTML and CSS skills have improved, as has my understanding of the underlying processes involved. With the upcoming publication of the highly anticipated HTML 5 specification I find myself feeling like I did over a decade ago; is the difference between HTML 4 and 5 so great that I must start creating little text boxes on a page again in order to understand this new version?

The answer, mercifully, is no. HTML 5, in its simplest form, is a revised version of HTML 4. Sure, it has the ability to be so much more, but it does not have to be. I could take the latest project I am working on, amend line 1 to <!DOCTYPE html> and I would have an HTML 5 project. I would obviously not do that as it would be cheating and not advisable for compatibility of content within that project.

The real power of HTML5
The real power of HTML 5 (and CSS 3) comes from the improvements within. HTML 5 is created to improve the interoperability of HTML based documents. This means it is designed to work across multiple platforms and software setups. Numerous elements have been added such as <article>, <header>, <footer> and <section> to make the lives of developers easier. If nothing else these new elements reduce the quantity of <div> elements required for layout. These and other elements have been created to help add meaning to the content within. An example of this would be creating a news article:

In HTML 4 I might create something like:

<div class=”newsarticle”>
<h2>Why am I making this site in HTML4?!</h2>
<p class=”newsdate”>09-12-11</p>
</div>

In HTML 5 this could be created as:

<article>
<h2>HTML 5: That’s the ticket!</h2>
<date>09-12-11</date>
</article>

The benefits to creating this in HTML 5 are two-fold. First, there is less coding involved. Second, and more importantly, the elements used are created for the purposes illustrated; <article> is used for independent, self-contained content and <date> is used for defining dates and times. The freedom that HTML 5 allows in creating element names might at first make it appear to be less structured and potentially more prone to variation between developers. What this flexibility does, when combined with new elements and attributes, is allow for greater control of structure.

Can it make a difference?
Everything mentioned above give HTML 5 the potential to improve the way websites and web apps are built. The real power of  HTML 5, however, comes from its integrated Application Programming Interfaces, or APIs. They have been designed to make developing web apps easier across multiple platforms. These include new APIs for audio and video, which will act to provide a uniform (and non-flash based) approach to getting rich media easily on to the web. Great in theory but these are still a long way off being perfect. In its current incarnation, HTML 5 has no full cross-browser support for video file formats. This means if you were to use the <video> element in a project today you would need to encode your video as both mp4 and ogg file formats to ensure all modern browsers would play them; a large overhead to say the least.

M-Learning
When evaluating how good HTML 5 is we must consider that it is still only a draft specification and elements and attributes are still subject to change. That said, it has the potential to deliver on numerous fronts and the thought of a fully interoperable web app or website across numerous platforms, complete with rich media and animation without the need for user-installed plugins makes its success all the more appealing. So much so that we have already begun project work using HTML 5. These E-learning projects have been designed to work cross-platform, from the traditional desktop E-learning to tablets and smartphones (so called M-learning or mobile learning). The benefit of using HTML 5 as the backbone is that the same pages are served up to each platform, the only difference being how they are styled. This technique of catering for different platforms using the same pages is called responsive design.

In future blog posts we will look at responsive design as well as the hugely anticipated <canvas> element in HTML 5 and its potential for usurping flash for cross-platform animation. We will also look at what new features CSS 3 brings to the party.