Most companies deliver mobile training using one or a combination of three options:
- Apps, which are locally stored in mobile devices; they can display standard text-and-image, or be designed as a game or simulation.
- Mobile websites, which are launched through an internet browser.
- Podcasts, which are typically short multimedia files—usually audio—that can be downloaded through syndication to either a mobile device or a computer. They have gained popularity mostly in academia where professors record lecture summaries and host them for downloads—functioning as supplemental reinforcement of lecture content.
Each option has its pros and cons; the choice usually depends on the company’s content, instructional strategy, budget, and audience. The next two tables summarize the advantages (first table) and drawbacks (second table) of these options.
|Advantages of M-Learning Delivery Options
- The easiest to use and access; can remember login information
- Learners are more likely to launch, complete, and refer to the content
- Engages learners and enhances results through modern smartphone features (eg, accelerometer, camera, multi-touch, location detection), especially for games and simulations
- Access is much faster than an equivalent mobile website since the user interface is loaded directly from the phone’s memory
- Highly flexible:
- If content requires no updating, it can be stored locally within the app, giving learners access even when they have no Internet access (eg, on an airplane)
- If content is dynamic and requires updates, it can be stored on the company’s servers, and learners can access it through the app
- Relatively inexpensive to create and maintain because it is usually a text- and image-only site, which can be altered easily directly on the server
- Unlike an app, learners always see the latest user interface and content
- If well designed, it can work on any smartphone with a browser, which is especially useful if the target population uses different smartphone brands
- Has effectively improved performance when used as supporting material in academia
- Extremely cheap to produce and host relative to apps and mobile websites
- Highly useful as support or future reference material, especially after instruction has been delivered “live”
|Drawbacks of M-Learning Delivery Options
- Expensive and difficult to develop; requires relatively more time, effort, and cost
- Games and simulations are very costly to develop
- After an update or “fix,” all users must download the latest version to avoid accessing the “buggy” or outdated version (which could negatively impact learning and productivity)
- Runs on only one platform so must be reprogrammed for other platforms; return on investment may be questionable if intended users carry different types of smartphones
- Inconvenient, less engaging, less interactive, and less secure than an app
- Performance is starkly inferior to apps, although they can use some smartphone features (eg, multi-touch and accelerometer)
- Employees must launch a browser and tap a bookmark for navigation; even if they store a bookmark on the homescreen, they must log on with each use.
- If not mandatory, employees may avoid accessing the material
- Access requires an internet connection, which can be problematic for those who travel to areas with limited or no connectivity
- Has not seen widespread use in corporations, mainly because corporate training requires more multimedia options (eg, text, images, interactive objects)
- Research on podcast use in corporations is sparse
- Ability to deliver only selective multimedia limits its use
- Far less engaging than apps and mobile websites due to limited multimedia
- Inconvenient; learners can replay and skip sections using a progress bar, but it is not always easy to jump to a desired segment, especially in lengthy podcasts
Tomi Ahonen, a researcher and author, states the following: “Internet Retailer reported on May 1, 2010, that most apps cost between $25,000 and $50,000 to develop. And prMac reported on 15 December 2009 that typical iPhone apps cost between $15,000 and $50,000 to develop.” He concludes that the average cost of developing a typical iPhone app is about $35,000, excluding the cost of fixing bugs and making other updates. He refers only to iPhone apps, but it is reasonable to expect that apps for Android and BlackBerry phones would carry similar costs.
A mobile website is typically less costly than an app to develop, mostly because mobile websites are less interactive; they usually contain only text, graphics, and video links. It is difficult to find precise figures, but a few forums predict the cost of developing a mobile website to be around $10,000 to $12,000 for converting Word files into mobile-friendly html pages.
Not surprisingly, audio podcasts are the least expensive to develop because the only cost incurred is for the voice talent. Video podcasts can be a little more expensive because they include additional costs for video recording.
Do you use your smartphone or tablet for learning purposes? Have these devices made it easier or harder to learn?