Thursday, May 26, 2005

Authoring systems for mlearning

My search of authoring tools specific to the needs of mlearning using mobile phones came up with very little. In a report prepared by Ericsson, detailing many of the initiatives of 2001, the majority of the software used to prepare material for delivery on mobile phones tended to be written ‘in-house’ as customised software packages for use with specific projects and specific phone types. In my last post, studystack recommended looking into the use of J2ME as a development platform for cell phone applications. A good recommendation that I will pass on to the techies at CPIT.

The majority of the ‘off the shelf’ authoring systems available for mlearning cater to the PDA market. Hot Java is one example that has filled a niche in the market by providing solutions for corporate trainers using mobile technology to meet their training needs. More established authoring tool providers like Trivantis have a version of their popular Lectora software available for developers of mlearning on PDAs. One example of an off the shelf programme is Go Test Go Inc .which is targeted specifically at the ‘test’ taking market, allowing tests to be downloaded and completed on cell phones. Hyperfactory’s project with L’Oreal provides some scope for further development and will need to be further explored.

There is a movement towards putting together authoring software for distributing learning material on to mobile phones. The move by macromedia to develop Flash Lite for mobile phones is one important step forward. Flash is only one part of the requirement for mlearning authoring software. Cameras on cell phones are also starting to be catered to, with Flickr offering download services for mobile phone cameras that allow photos to then be copy & pasted into blogs, web pages etc. and a more cell phone / pda camera friendly package on splashblog.

The ‘testing’ software discussed above can only take mlearning a short way towards my mlearning vision. The capabilities with various software offering a way to archive and work with visual material collected using cell phone cameras is also a start into how a mportfolio could be collated. Therefore, the hunt for a comprehensive mlearning management package continues.

If any readers of this blog are aware of or come across potentially useful mlearning authoring software, please drop me a line.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Should we issue a phone?

Back to blogging after a short 'break' and a full on teaching schedule in the first two weeks of the second term. One of the conundrums posed by going into mlearning is whether a phone should be issued to students who will be enrolled on the mcourse.

The interim report from the European m-learning project suggests that participants in the projects were issued with the devices. Although many of the participants were unemployed, homeless and living an itinerant lifestyle, very few of the phones issued were misplaced or damaged.

The advantages of standardising the mlearning delivery tool include:-

  • Common OS for all mlearners on the same course
  • The ability to standardise instructions for the use of the phone to complete various learning related tasks
  • Only one model to deal with from the technical support point of view
  • Easier to source one model and have it sponsored by one phone supplier / telecommunications provider.
  • The need to configure existing LMS to work with one type of phone.
  • Providing all learners with similar capabilities so that all learners can start on a level playing field.
  • Being able to choose the phone that will fit the types of learning activities that the learner profile directs the learning design towards.

However, issuing a specific smart phone for the use of mlearning might be viewed negatively by students. To start with, a substantial number of students will already have a phone, therefore, issuing a phone specifically for the use of mlearning means that the mlearning phone could be seen to be the ‘work’ phone. A number of students I have spoken to about the concept of mlearning are also very reluctant to use their existing phone for mlearning as well. They see their own phone as being a personal item that is reserved for non-work activities.

If we do decide to issue a phone the other decision that has to be made is what sort of phone will be issued? For the purposes of the pilot course, a 2G phone capable of SMS will be about all that is required. There is a wide range on the market and these can be purchased at very reasonable prices. However, my thinking is that we would probably run the pilot using the student’s existing phones. The pilot course will only be using very simple SMS capabilities and issuing a phone that is perhaps inferior in capabilities to the phones that some students already own, will be a step backwards.

However, to move the whole mLearning project forward at CPIT would eventually require us to explore the issues that will be brought about by tapping into the capabilities and possibilities of 3G phones and ‘smart phones’ like the Treo 650