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Making Sense of Responsive e-Learning Design


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A comment made by Tom Kuhlmann in an exclusive interview with Learnnovators, spurred us to set out on a journey to explore how the community perceives and practices responsive design in e-learning. Our findings and learnings were fascinating. Read on…

The QuoteThe reality is that responsive design is part of the equation for certain types of content; and it’s a consideration moving forward. But it’s not optimal to start with the expectation that every course created also needs to be built with a responsive design. It depends on the situation, delivery, and objectives.” - Tom KuhlmannThe above quote is from Tom Kuhlmann’s interview with Learnnovators that attempts to gaze into the future of e-learning. You can read the full interview at Tom Kuhlmann – Crystal Balling with Learnnovators.

The Responsive e-Learning Design Journey

One of the most intriguing and thought-provoking points that Tom Kuhlmann presented for us in our interview with him was on "responsive design" (quoted above). This urged us to set out on a journey to explore further to see how the community perceives and practices responsive design in e-learning.We started our journey with a few questions below:

  • Is responsive design the ideal solution for designing ubiquitous learning experiences? 
  • How can responsive design be used effectively in e-learning? What kind of ‘re-thinking’ is required to achieve this?
  • What are some of the interesting use cases on responsive design?
  • What are the best strategies for adopting responsive design while designing learning for a multi-screen world?
  • What are the different approaches in applying responsive web design?
  • What are some of the useful resources available on this subject for learning designers?
  • How soon can we see emergence of new rapid e-learning authoring tools that help learning designers develop responsive e-learning courses?

The Great FindsHere are some of the wonderful resources (from a big list we examined in this exploratory journey) that we would like to share here…Google’s Multi-Screen World ReportHow do people use devices in this multi-screen world? What are their preferences? How much time do they spend for various activities? Here are some amazing insights on consumer media behavior: 

  • 90% of our media interactions are screen based (using smart phones, Laptops/PCs, Tablets, and Televisions, etc.) and only 10% are non-screen based (using radio, newspaper, magazines, etc.)
  • The context – time, goal, location and attitude - drives device choice
  • Businesses should understand all of the ways that people consume media, particularly digital, and tailor strategies to each channel

For more info you are more than welcome to read The New Multi-screen Word.ASTD ArticleWhen designing learning for mobile, should content be ‘mobilized’ by first making it understood by mobile devices? How do we do it? We stumbled upon an ASTD blog post by Reuben Tozman on this subject, the Accessibility Trumps Design.Presentation (From Precious Design Studio)In the multi-screen world, devices complement each other in very interesting ways. The Patterns for Multiscreen Strategies slideshare presentation depicts some interesting use cases and real-world examples.Designing m-Learning | Clark Quinn VideoIn this highly informative video from Qualcomm, Clark Quinn (of Quinnovation) provides wonderful insights on m-learning and shares great principles of m-learning design. His explanations on the distinguishing elements between mobile e-learning and true m-learning are highly thought provoking. Click Designing mLearning to see the video.Understanding Context | Float Learning VideoIn the Understanding Context: Adapting Content for mLearning video (from Qualcomm), Chad Udell, Managing Director of Float Learning presents some fascinating thoughts on the significance of context while adapting content for m-learning. He also talks about some interesting ways to leverage the user’s context to design effective learning experiences.Adapt Learning ProjectAnd, finally, here is the most inspiring happening in the field of responsive e-learning! We are excited to see the emergence of a new (open source) authoring tool for developing responsive e-learning content. It is interesting to see the community being actively involved in this collaborative development effort. For more info visit the Adapt Learning community!

What will a responsive e-learning course look like? We found an interesting demo video of a typical course developed for Logitech using Kineo’s Adapt Responsive e-Learning Framework. See how the tool helps completely transform a course to other devices. Adapt makes this possible using interactive widgets that respond intelligently as the screen size changes!

 

Other Useful Responsive e-Learning Design ResourcesHere are some additional resources that we found in our journey that we think will be useful for reference: 

  • A simple but interesting example of a Responsive Design page. What The Heck Is Responsive Web Design? 
  • An interesting infographic on "2013: The Year of Responsive Design" from UberFlip. This also briefly touches upon some of the key benefits and success cases. 
  • A brilliant Vimeo video (from Cuker) on The Responsive Web Design Process. The focus of the workflow is on being ‘fluid’ in the architecture so as to accommodate devices with any screen sizes in future. The information presented on the different steps involved in the process is both dynamically depicted and visually stimulating.
  • GoMo - a multi-device e-learning and mobile learning authoring tool (from Epic Learning) that evoked our interest. This tool helps deliver the same content to multiple platforms, optimising it to each kind of device. Though we were not able to review the tool, we were fascinated by this article that discusses how the Epic team overcame challenges to build the world’s first e-learning authoring tool that supports responsive design. For more information please see:
  • Claro Flow - another interesting responsive e-learning development tool (from DominKnow). It claims to be an HTML-5 conformant publishing tool that helps designers author learning content once and deliver it ‘everywhere’. Register yourself on DominKnow’s website if you are interested to participate in the Claro Flow Beta Program. For more info please see Claro Flow: Author Once, Deliver to Any Screen 

Learnnovators' Responsive e-Learning Design Learnings

As we came to end of our search, we couldn’t agree more with Tom. We once again recall the wisdom in his words.Below are the learnings that we take away from this little journey:

  • In this multi-screen world, where we spend most of our time sifting through devices from desktops to laptops, tablets, and smart phones, in different modes (Sequentially and Simultaneously), strategies are challenging, but at the same time, fascinating as well.
  • Mobile learning is undoubtedly not e-learning on mobiles. Expecting all e-learning courses designed for desktops to work equally well on mobiles is against the basic thinking of ubiquitous learning, since each of these devices is perfected for different needs, and possesses unique features. 
  • Mobile learning is more useful for performance support and just-in-time learning. Augmented with the powerful functionalities of mobile devices (such as Augmented Reality, BlueTooth, WIFI, Geo-location, Geo-tagging, Geo-fencing), learning can become really powerful.
  • The role of learning among multiple devices should primarily be driven by context. m-learning should make use of the device-specific features (basically, all sensors) for delivery of content. The content, more than just being ‘responsive’ for the sake of the size of the device, should ‘adapt’ to these ever growing functionalities.
  • Presently, most of the rapid e-learning development tools in the market do not support responsive design. However, we hope to see more authoring tool vendors coming up with options for learning designers to develop ubiquitous learning solutions that work smoothly in multiple devices.
  • We will see more exciting techniques evolving further for designing learning for the multi-screen world, including content pieces that can complement each other across devices in situations where the devices are used simultaneously. 
  • Responsive design that adapts (to the features of the devices) is going to be the future of e-learning design! The challenge for learning designers, of course, is to up-skill ourselves to be in a position to maintain the instructional integrity of the content in this multi-screen world.

What are your thoughts and ideas on responsive e-learning? What are some of the interesting experiences that you would like to share?