Do you know where your cell phone is? In today’s world, most of us are more apt to forget to wear our trousers than to leave our cell phone at home when we leave the house. It’s always nearby, it has become an extension of ourselves, and we have adapted each to meet our individual needs, from the apps we choose to install to the color scheme and ringtones we use.
Of course, as mobile devices have become ubiquitous, due in no small part to how powerful these little computers are, we are much less prone to carry with us an address book, an MP3 player, a portable videodisc player, a day planner, a flashlight, a camera, a video camera, a calculator, portable video games, newspapers, books, magazines, and many other items that now are resident in that little device that we tend to value so much. Many times we now go to meetings without a laptop when we don’t have to take too many notes or need a bigger screen for presentations. For the latter, tablets like the iPad have taken the middle ground, using cell-phone operating systems but having the bigger screens of laptop computers.
The power of these devices has also meant that delivering training to learners through those very devices has finally started to become less of a dream and more of a reality. After all, if we want or need to learn a topic, it’s brilliant if we can do so while sitting on a bus or at the park. Despite what some may think, mobile devices will probably not replace laptop and desktop computers entirely, but they allow us to need them less.
The first training delivered to mobile devices was pretty anemic, allowing for oddly formatted text and images and multiple-choice questions. As HTML5 has become the norm, and as our cell phones have become faster and more powerful, we could start to use standard eLearning tools to deliver lessons through a person’s cell phone, but most of us find that it’s still easier to use a larger screen for lessons that are more than three or four minutes long.
Enter a new crop of eLearning tools, specifically designed for delivering learning through a cell phone. Why bother? While mobile devices do lack one big area of interactivity, that of having a mouse hover over an area for more information (because, you know, they don’t have a mouse!), they offer a myriad of advantages usually not resident in desktop and laptop computers:
- They are very portable and almost always with us, so we can learn on the go.
- You can take a photo or a video with your phone and upload it to your instructor or other learners as part of an assignment.
- You can text the instructor or other learners.
- You can record yourself giving a speech.
- Using geolocation, lessons can be tailored to your local needs.
- Using the accelerometer, instructors can have you move the phone up, down, left and right to maneuver a path, for instance.
- You can navigate websites, and enter information on them.
- You can use pinch and zoom and other gestures to enhance interactions.
Here I will discuss the first of several tools that I will be covering over the next few months, though not necessarily consecutively. This month I review Train by Cell.
Train by Cell (www.trainbycell.com)
Train by Cell offers two platforms. One platform allows anyone to create mobile websites on the fly, without any technical knowledge. You might call it an authoring and publishing platform. The other platform is a communication tool for sending short URLs to specific newly-created mobile web pages via text messaging (SMS) or email tools.
On the mobile website platform, you can use Train by Cell to create eLearning lessons, sure, but you can also use it in a variety of other ways, including sending polls, trivia games, event alerts, and much more. It’s cool that you can mix any of the following in your eLearning too, allowing learners to interact in ways that normally you can’t easily allow in more traditional authoring tools. See Figure 1 for Train by Cell’s objects that facilitate these options.
Figure 1: Train by Cell objects
Mix text, images, audio, and video, as you do now with any authoring tool. However, you can also incorporate a form to fill out, or a poll, or even let your learners input comments that can be posted either immediately or after you have approved of them. Include a Google map, by providing an address or latitude/longitude coordinates. Think of the possibilities. Mix and match your learning with social media, including Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, and Yammer.
You can also include quizzes. The Quiz option lets you enter as many questions as you like, selecting from true/false, multiple-choice, (one correct answer), or text entry. They will all appear one after the other on one page. The Super Quiz option lets you create a question-per-page quiz, with or without forcing the learner to get the correct answer before proceeding to the next question. Super Quiz question types provide more question formats beyond those mentioned earlier plus paragraph entry (in essence, a long text-entry answer), yes/no, drop-down list, scale (as you use in surveys), and multiple-choice with multiple correct answers. In addition, Super quizzes let you incorporate hints, images, audio, and video in every type of question.
There are other ways to enhance your mobile learning, including changing colors, headers and footers, splash screens, and more.
The whole time, while building your site on your desktop or laptop, you can see a visual representation of how the results will appear on a mock mobile device. However, you can also see the results at any time directly on all your mobile devices if you want to know exactly how your site will appear and function on each of them. See Figure 2.
Figure 2: The site-builder interface
In addition, you can also preview the results directly on your laptop or desktop using several device emulators, as you can see in Figure 3. They include iPhone (with or without its frame), Android, Blackberry, and iPad.
Figure 3: Test your site on device emulators
You can choose from a few templates and themes, as seen in Figure 4. If you need other templates or themes, the company can build them for you for a nominal cost.
Figure 4: Navigation templates and themes
This mobile building site does let learners pinch and zoom on images but doesn’t afford them other gestures, it doesn’t reorient the site if they turn their phones sideways, and it doesn’t have geolocation or accelerometer options. However, you could use the social-media options to post photos, text, and more. You can also display a screen at an event or in a classroom to view real-time results to quizzes, polls, and testing in general.
Once you have built a lesson, you can use Train by Cell’s included communication platform to push out the lesson link via email or text. Different types of content can be ported to different groups at scheduled or unscheduled times.
Keep in mind that these types of mobile building sites don’t usually allow for SCORM or xAPI reporting options so that you can track progress through a learning management system. However, Train by Cell does include tracking and reporting options. On the back end of the system, analytics will track what users are doing on the platform. These analytics can be general, or, if the content is password protected, it can track by user. See Figure 5.
Figure 5: Analytics available
You can copy and paste the small URL from the builder page into a text or email and review analytics in real time. This allows a company to test what works and change what doesn’t at a moment’s notice without IT involvement.
I’ve put together a small sample you can see here. While this can run in your desktop browser, to really see it in its element, go to that link on your cell phone. An alternative way of seeing the lesson is through the QR (Quick Response) code that is provided for you automatically as you can see here. I use Google Goggles but you can use any app that will read a QR code. You can also text the word “Joelearn” to 56512 to see the site. (Editor’s Note: The video clip is very short—only 15 seconds! When the clip is over, click on “Done” at the top of the video frame to continue with the tutorial.)
The world is changing quickly and we have to adapt. While mainstream authoring tools may still be your go-to platforms for creating eLearning, you should strongly consider a mobile-authoring platform like Train by Cell for delivery of short eLearning lessons to your learners’ mobile devices. I think Train by Cell is certainly worth investigating if you have that need.
Do you find these types of mobile site building tools useful for creating learning for mobile? Would you like to see more? Write me directly if you wish with anything you’d like to see at email@example.com.
From the Editor: Want more from Joe?
Joe Ganci will teach a Pre-Conference Certificate Program and several sessions at The eLearning Guild’s DevLearn 2014 Conference & Expo, October 28 – 31 in Las Vegas! This is a great opportunity to pick up valuable new skills and knowledge.
Tuesday, October 28: Creating Excellent eLearning and mLearning in Adobe Captivate (Bring Your Own Laptop program). Learn how to use the unique features of Adobe Captivate to take the learning programs you build to new heights. Create models that you will be able to reuse for your own eLearning designs to deliver to both desktop and mobile devices. Take advantage of features that are unique to mobile while still providing a full quality experience in desktop browsers.
Wednesday, October 29: Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Interactivity in Captivate (Bring Your Own Laptop program). (With Pooja Jaisingh) Explore the various ways that Adobe Captivate can provide opportunities to provide learners with true interactivity. Examine ready-made interactions along with drag and drop and other interactive elements. Discover how quiz questions can be used to engage learners along the way as well.
Wednesday, October 29: Ignite! Meme-ing the Future of Learning (hosted by David Kelly, Program Director, The eLearning Guild; panelists are Joe Ganci, Jane Bozarth, Cammy Bean, Chad Udell, and Jeannette Campos). Six industry experts use today’s memes to explore the current and future state of learning. The rules of each presentation are simple: Each speaker’s presentation has 20 slides that automatically advance every 20 seconds. That provides each speaker with six minutes and 40 seconds to paint their vision for the future of learning. And there’s one last rule—slides can only use common Internet memes for visuals. Join us for what is sure to be a fun and informative session.
Thursday, October 30: Using Simulations to Capture and Deploy Experience (with Ken Spero). Learn the distinction between experience and instruction and explore the methodology of experience design. You will explore scenarios from simulations that provide insight and help you better understand the tools and levers of experience design and how you can leverage them. Begin to develop a simulation by applying the concepts of experience design to a business or performance challenge. Review some of the different tools that are available in the market to develop applications without the need for programming.