So – what is Responsive Design and why is it important for e-learning?
There is a massive change occurring in e-learning now – BYOD or Bring Your Own Device. This means that learners use their own devices to take courses.
For schools and universities – they’ll be using their phones anyway, so the hope is to get them to do something constructive with them. It increases engagement with your content.
For companies it saves time and money. A sales person out on the road can take your learning on the road without coming back to the office. Staff can do your training in down time such as train journeys or commutes.
For everyone, they can use a device that they are used to and comfortable with, which means they can focus on learning.
So what does it mean for making E-learning content?
Responsive (or Adaptive) design means that your design adapts to the screen it is being viewed on.
Simply put – smaller screens have less space, so you can’t fit as much on. It is harder to read on smaller screens, so your text needs to be simpler, and have a larger font.
Someone on a smaller screen is also more likely to be on a poorer internet connection – perhaps they are on a train? This means that your content needs to be faster to download, with fewer, simpler images.
Here are some great examples of websites that are responsive to give you an idea:
And an E-learning example:
These examples use the idea of progressive enhancement, to add more depth and asides in as the space available gets larger, without compromising the core message.
So – the learning landscape is changing, and you should be thinking about changing with it.
What should I be concerned about when commissioning E-learning or M-learning?
1. Support a range of devices & screens
The idea of BYOD is that it is impossible to predict what device the learner will use – you need to support a range. If you are in a company – ask around – find out what your staff have, and what they want to use.
At a minimum you should be supporting Mobile phones, Tablets and Desktop computers. In reality they come in such a range of sizes that you need to be supporting any screen width from 320 pixels up to around 1200 pixels.
2. A range of delivery choices
Native apps are great. The idea of releasing your learning as an App through an App store sounds brilliant. Your learners will love it. BUT – remember – which do you make? An iOS app? More people have Android phones now. And what if your learner doesn’t have a smart phone? The reality is that a learner might do one task on a company phone, another on their own, another at home on a laptop, and another on a company computer.
Go for a solution that allows a range of delivery methods – as a website, as an App or Web App. That way you can allow your learner to learn their way.
3. Fast download of courses
Look for a solution that gets your learning content downloaded quickly. If your user is on a train or in a café – they will need very fast downloads. This means very fast hosting and optimised files (smaller images, optimised video).
4. What if the internet cuts out?
For the same reason, you should be able to pick up from where you left off, or carry on if your train goes into a tunnel.
5. There are IT security concerns with BYOD
Particularly in schools or hospitals for instance. Make sure your software uses SSL as a minimum.
- BYOD helps 14,000 students in Kentucky: http://www.citeworld.com/consumerization/21907/how-byod-helped-school-district-and-its-15000-students-and-staff-improve-learning
- More responsive websites to click through: http://www.mobify.com/blog/70-stunning-responsive-sites-for-your-inspiration/
- Progressive enhancement: http://alistapart.com/article/understandingprogressiveenhancement
- Concerns: http://www.hrzone.com/topic/what-does-byod-mean-mobile-learning/139444