The continuing wane in desktop computer sales and meteoric growth of mobile adoption rates points to an inevitable future in which the vast majority of users will be computing through mobile interfaces—be it smartphone or tablet. Learning experience designers must anticipate a shift in design methodologies towards mobile design principles in building effective learning environments. And because there are special considerations in designing for mobile, understanding and adapting to this new paradigm is crucial for building tools to address the needs of mobile learners.
Special Considerations in Mobile LXD
Mobile devices have both unique benefits and limitations, with mobility and lack of screen real estate being the most obvious. Learners can access educational content from anywhere with mobile devices—on the train, in the waiting room, in the local watering hole during half-time. The first thing that jumps out is that "mobile" is a behavior, not simply a device. Consider some implications of this mobility, vis-à-vis the stationary nature of traditional desktop modality: learning tends to be in shorter intervals, more external distractions exist (and compete for the learner’s attention), Internet connection speeds are variable/inconsistent, and so forth. Successful mobile LXD must therefore incorporate shorter, more impactful learning modules or lessons coupled with increased statefulness, as learners tend to drop-off and resume sessions at any given moment. These are just a select handful out of a myriad of considerations to be had when addressing the transitory nature of mobile learning.
Smaller screen size means that navigational ease and focused content is even more of essence when building mobile learning environments. We’ve discussed in previous articles the necessity of simple and efficient design in LXD; the importance of this requirement increases in orders of magnitude when one’s screen real estate goes from a 15" laptop display down to a 5" mobile phone screen. An effective LXD for mobile therefore should incorporate goal-directed, interactive environments that utilize taps and swipes (as opposed to mouse-clicks), with the usage of long passages of text kept to minimum.
In short, as consumers increasingly access content on devices such as smartphones and tablets, designers tasked with building mobile environments will need to adapt and expand their skill sets accordingly. Smaller form factors, shorter learning session durations, and other implications of mobility are all critical factors a designer needs to keep in mind when dealing with mobile LXD. Previously established best practices in creating online learning interfaces such as minimalistic design and elimination of tangential/extraneous information are even more critical in mobile environments.