Now, most of the major elearning authoring tools like Articulate Storyline and Adobe Captivate support courses, created with them, for viewing on a variety of mobile devices. It would seem that any discussion of mobile elearning courses would end there.
These tools do make it easy to create courses that play on mobile devices. However, the fact of the matter is that don’t operate as optimally as their desktop counterparts.
The Big Mistake
The biggest mistake that any elearning course developer can make these days is, not take mobile into consideration from the very start of the development process. The design considerations for mobile will actually inform the way that the storyboard is considered as well.
For example: we recently ran into a problem updating a course for a client. The course had originally been designed at the time when we were primarily using SmartBuilder, a popular course builder at one point of time. At the time SmartBuilder did not support HTML5 output. When updating the course, we rebuilt it using Articulate Storyline because of its HTML5 support.
However, because the course was originally designed with only the desktop in mind, a number of things became apparent when rebuilding it in Storyline and then performing a QA for mobile. These considerations became the basis for the way we design all our courses now.
Mobile Elearning Design Considerations
The devices that we primarily test our mobile courses on, are an iPad Mini as well as a Samsung Galaxy Tab. This allows us get a good sense of how well a course is designed. Additionally, the development team has a variety of Android Phones and iPhones that we look at as well.
- Navigation – One of most important things for any elearning course is the navigation. It allows you to move back and forth from slide to slide as well as go to a specific spot in the course itself. Navigation that is small and unobtrusive on a desktop may simply be unreadable, even when viewed on a tablet with a 10 inch screen. This is something we ran into and had to correct on the course that we rebuilt.
- File Size – It’s always a good practice to keep the file size as small as you can without making sacrifices to the quality. This especially comes up when dealing with Articulate files with any sort of multimedia.
In the case of a narration track, we always mix our narration track source files down to mono as it cuts the file size in half immediately. We also cap the audio file bitrate at 128kbps as it sounds perfectly fine for an audio file that is just voice.
For embedded video, it’s always a good idea to resize the video prior to importing it into your elearning course development tool. There was a case recently where we were trying to reduce the size of a SCORM file for a client. We tracked down the culprit. It was a video file that was originally a full size video that was imported and resized in the course itself. This led to a file size for the video of roughly 80mb. We then reduced it down to the size that it was in the video and reimported it. The resulting video file size was 6mb. That’s quite a difference. In the age of high-speed internet it might not seem like much. However, in places with limited connectivity like job sites or schools it may make all the difference.
- Text Size – This relates back to the earlier point about navigation. The text needs to be clear when viewed on mobile devices. It’s a good rule to keep the font size at around 12pt size. Additionally, make sure that the contrast between the text and background is sufficient enough as well. While this may vary based on the design and the font used, make sure you test early enough in the process.
- Clear out the clutter – If there is too much information on a slide then it will certainly become unreadable at a smaller size. Sometimes the best solution is to break up the information into multiple slides. If you are keeping mobile in mind from the start then this is easy. However, if you are redeveloping a course,that was originally designed for desktop, for mobile deployment, then you may need to increase the number of slides in order to see all the information.
- Touch Areas – Areas like navigation and question types like drag and drop should have enough of touch area that the learner doesn’t miss the mark when using the touchscreen on their mobile device. This will mean trying all aspects of the course during the mobile QA process and making adjustments where needed. If a learner cannot select the right answer (or even select an answer at all) on a mobile device then the course will not give accurate results to the LMS.
Summing up, mobile should be the first design consideration for any elearning course developer. The tools available make the creation of courses for mobile easy but they don’t necessarily inform you of best practices when it comes to development. With best practices in mind, you will be able to deliver courses to your employees that they can use anywhere without trouble.