Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Drawing up an #mLearning #strategy in 10 steps

Everyone is joining mLearning, but in many cases some of the basic steps are missing. Looking at my own mLearning roll out, I now see much more elements that will support a good and strong adaption and roll out of any mobile project.

Here are 10 steps that make up my own mLearning strategy if I want to work on a new project, if you have additions, please add them via comment or social media:

The 5 core steps are similar to any TELearning environment

1. What is the goal of the mLearning project?
Is it to develop a course? Is it to get knowledge disseminated? Is it to get your experiences shared with others in your learning network? The goal of a project must be made as clear as possible before setting up anything else, as the goal will shape what you will need and how you can built it most effectively to reach that goal.

2. Get all the stakeholders involved
Participation and support by all is essential for any learning to take place. With relevant stakeholder representatives chances increase that the learning environment that is build will be accepted by the majority and as such will be used. All stakeholders must feel comfortable with the new training project, otherwise you risk one group dropping out. The earlier you get feedback from all stakeholder groups, the more tailored the learning environment can be.

3. What are your planned learner dynamics
Peer-to-peer – e.g. engineers or tech students jotting down quick repairs they did for particular cases and sharing those solutions, while also providing feedback on others, or one-to-many: the specialist or expert sharing her/his ideas with others to get them up to speed on new innovations, knowledge, changes…. The learner dynamics will have a profound impact on the overall design of the learning environment or course architecture and the tools you will use to design the learning environment.

4. What is the (mobile) infrastructure like in the target area you will be rolling out your project?

If you will work in a rural area with scattered mobile coverage (mountainous area, desert…) , you need to take a wiki hotspot into consideration to disseminate learning content. If you are working in a well-covered mobile area, you might still have problems with electricity (certain areas of Africa) which has an effect on the solutions you will provide for the learners (solar panels, rechargeable battery set).

5. What is the mobile situation for your target audience?
Do all of them have a mobile device? Are they familiar with the more advanced options on their mobile devices? What is the payment plan for accessing mobile internet/sms/mms… What is their financial situation? Knowing all of these criteria will allow you to provide mobile solutions that are in synch with the possibilities and experiences of your target audience.
Not adding too much new tech stuff will provide a more balanced, less frightening learning environment for any target audience (well, except geeks, they love tech challenges for the most part).

Knowing the above steps, you can get more practical:

6. Security can be an issue
What is the security you need to deliver your mLearning content or design your mLearning project? This will affect your design in open (Cloud) or closed (behind firewalls, more secluded…). It also affects the devices that will be designed for. Because the more devices you want to address, the more difficult it will be to keep a secure overview and develop/deliver secure content.

7. What will be the core devices you will cater for? BYOD or not?
Depending on the security options you can opt for one type of mobile device, or you can go for the concept of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), which is all the rave right now. But if you opt for BYOD it results in a more complex, yet at the same time more standardized set of options to deliver your mLearning content. Choosing one type of mobile device will allow you to search for just one authoring tool or content building option. If you choose for BYOD, you might want to consider some programming, or at least design your content following html5/CSS (a free course can be found at W3C making sure you get the standards of html5 right from the start). If you will not work with multimedia files, simple html/CSS will do also, keep it as simple as possible. Yes, KISS.

8. How will you design the content? Authoring tools or programming or social media?

Knowing the devices you will be catering for, you can now tackle the design. You can go for available authoring tools that deliver both mobile and web-based content, or you can opt for programming (either in different mobile programming languages or delivering content that is designed via SDK (Software Development Kits) that are made available for a variety of mobile device types. If you use peer-to-peer content, you will need to allow your learners to create content that can be shared. In that case it is worthwhile to consider social media locations for your content spaces. Most of the social media tools offer mobile options and they are made specifically for sharing/writing content as well.

9. Strategies your mobile content delivery
Make sure you have a strategy for the content delivery. Will content be delivered via wifi downloads (only downloadable via wifi), will it be delivered via mobile internet download (in that case make the content bite size, otherwise it will take forever to download and … it will cost a fortune).
If you are setting up peer-to-peer course parts, it is important to make communication as easy as possible. For example you can use e-mail access to communicate via discussion boards or tweet updates.

10. What is a mLearning content user allowed to do?
Guidelines for the users are always important to keep everyone happy. Make sure you provide clear guidelines for the content you provide. How can they communicate with each other (or with the facilitator/teacher/trainer). Can they deliver the content to other people (is there an intellectual copyright?). Can they provide their access codes to others? Can they remix the content and use it in their own courses? How must your learners add content to the course (if they are requested to do so): in writing, pictures, movies…  and how must this content be delivered?

This is what I come up with, but feel free to add any ideas or strategies you use to optimize your mLearning project. Collaboration is always more fun, and rewarding.