Apples and Oranges: How Tablets are Affecting E-Learning

For over 10 years,  I have been working with teams that develop interactive e-learning modules using Flash technology, and I am far from being the only one.

Recently, our clients have increasingly been acquiring tablets, and the majority of them have opted for the iPad. Of course, the common question that pops up is: “Why can I not view the e-learning modules on my iPad”.

The technical explanation is because Apple iPad decided not to support Adobe Flash on its device. We explain to our clients that this was a very controversial decision, but that it was defended by Apple’s CEO Steve Jobs who sees HTML5 as the future of the interactive Web.  At first, this was regarded as an unwise move on their part, but one which does not seem to have affected their sales. There have been attempts to create applications to allow Flash content to be viewed on iPads, but we have not tested this yet with our content.

We also explain that, for the moment, there are tablets that support the Flash Player. This list might not be up to date, as it doesn’t list the BlackBerry Playbook, which supports Flash. That said, we have not tested our courses on them all these tablets either, nor can we guarantee that the screen resolution is high enough for the modules. There are also opinions that Flash-based content is not really compatible with tablets.

This explanation, though technically sound and legitimate, does not address the issue that more and more of our clients are acquiring the iPad, as well as other tablets, and would like to view their e-learning modules on them.

Unfortunately, our clients, the learners, are the ones stuck in the middle of this technology battle.

For the last 10 years, the Web has been interactive in large part because of Flash. A huge portion of the interactive e-learning modules segment of the e-learning industry runs on it. Some of the authoring tools created applications in Java or other technology, but they have historically been a smaller segment of the market.

So much like our firm, the industry right now is wondering “What we are going to do in the future?”

And to complicate the issue, last week, our firm had a huge upset in regards to Flash. We received some technical alerts from clients who could not view their e-learning modules, regardless of all the troubleshooting tips we prepared for them. We were finally able to isolate the issue after  extensive research, which is that the latest update of Flash (Flash 10,3,183,5) does not work with our online modules. Adobe has been sending mass updates for its Flash Plug-in, our clients have been installing it and as a result, they cannot view their e-learning modules. We have been working with them to uninstall their Flash Players and revert to an earlier stable version. For most of our clients, this is disconcerting, time consuming, frustratring, and I can understand them.

This whole ordeal was a shock to us, as our Flash-based authoring tool  has been successfully creating e-learning content for over 5 years now. Some research on the Web proved we were not the only ones who pulled our hair out with this update. In fact, the bug reports are increasing on the Adobe forums. The irony in this whole situation is that this Flash Player update fixed a problem with Apple’s Mac Operating System. Ouch!

I am certain this will be resolved soon, as Adobe has no interest in losing its dedicated Flash user base. The future of the interactive Web, according to some experts, is HTML5, though not all experts are in agreement. My opinion is that Adobe Flash is a state of the art technology that not only enabled the Web to be interactive and in-motion, but has grown with the demands of the Web.  As our expert Flash guru and Creative Director Stéphane Richer of Noise Communications points out to us, we have not seen the end of Flash yet.

That said, 3 weeks ago, Adobe launched an HTML 5 Web animation tool, most likely a strategic move to not lose its market share of interactive Web applications.

So getting back to our problem, in the future, we are going to have to consider how we build e-learning applications if we want them to be accessible to our client base. Some online discussions focus on whether or not Adobe Flash is still the appropriate technology for developing e-learning applications.

We will also have to give serious thought in product updates, and if we convert our e-learning module players to HTML5 or create different versions for different platforms. This however means a significant financial investment and I’m sure our firm isn’t the only one facing this issue right now. The bottom line is, no matter what we do, if we do not adapt our technology to meet the client demand, we are not going to be ahead of the game.

The Nature and Structure of Communities of Practice

The following is the introduction to an article that Keith De La Rue wrote wich was published in the KM Review (KM Review | Volume 11 Issue 5 | November/December 2008).

It echoes a lot of sentiments that I have about the nature and needs for sustainability of communities of practice.

Very insightful.

The theory and practice of communities

Despite everything that the modern KM practitioner knows about communities, collaboration and technology, communities of practice (CoPs) often fail and collaboration often breaks down. In order to establish an effective CoP, it’s necessary first to think about the nature and structure of a community and recognize that it’s an entirely different entity from a work group or a project team. As such, it must be treated differently, too. In this article, author Keith De La Rue examines the pitfalls associated with CoPs and why helping them to grow and flourish requires a better understanding of three words: “community”, “practice” and “technology”.

Read the full article (PDF)

Similarly, I refer back to a post I made earlier this year about Lilia Efimova’s diagram distinguishing a community of practice from a team or a network.

Reference:

How to Use Skype as a Community Platform

This is absolutely a fantastic tutorial on Skype which goes beyond functionality and looks at applicability by Community of Practice expert  John David Smith.

You probably already know that Skype is a great tool – especially for community leaders. If you are a technology steward, it’s not only a great tool but it’s also a handy example for illustrating some of the use and integration issues that we have to deal with and be able to talk about.

Smith's provisional placing of Skype tools on the digital landscape

 

Reference:

Incorporating Social Learning into an Enterprise Learning Strategy

Thought provoking blog post by Tony Karrer tying together various view points on how social learning can tie into the larger enterprise learning perspective.

Where do Social Learning Tools belong? Should they be coupled with your LMS or other learning-specific tools? Or should they be separated? Or ????

mzinga social-learning-models

 

We are talking about how formal (or informal) can leverage tools that employees will be using outside of the context of learning.

Reference:

How Gen Y Operates with Web 2.0

Slideshare is nifty little tool and some already have come up with eLearning uses for it.

Here are two examples or Web 2.0 explained to Gen Y by Gen Y.

From the brilliant mind of Sacha Chua, sketched on her Nintendo DS, The Gen Y Guide to Web 2.0 at Work:

 

From another brilliant woman Marta Z. Kagan, here is her self-proclaimed World’s Best Presentation:

 

References:

Blog Design Study

Smashing Magazine present their findings of their study of top blogs.

  • Part 1 discusses layout design and typographic settings.
  • Part 2 discusses navigation design, information architecture, advertisements and functionality (RSS-feeds, tag clouds, pagination, etc).

What Smashing Magazine has to say about their study:

We have identified 30 design problems and considered solutions for each of the problems separately. We have posed 30 questions which we would like to answer with our blog survey. Below we present findings of our survey of popular blog designs — the results of an analysis of 50 popular blogs according to Technorati’s Top 100.

Also from Smashing Magazine is their helpful post on 15 Desktop Blogging Tools Reviewed. I actually wrote this post using BlogDesk. Not too bad, just took some getting used to. I will try ScribeFire (a Firefox plugin) for my next post.

References:

The Capacity to Recall vs. the Capacity to be Resourceful

In a post entitled Brain 2.0 : eLearning Technology, Tony Karrer discusses whether or not it is more important to be knowledge-able rather than knowledgeable. The basic premise is whether or not is more important to:

  • store a bunch of information in our minds that we can recall at any time (recall), or
  • know which information to access, where to find it and how to verify it’s accuracy (resourcefulness)

This reminds me of the research methods class I took a few years back. During one of the first lectures, we learned basic statistical formulas such as alpha coefficient and chi square. Now numbers and I aren’t always friends. I can work through formulas by following instructions but it takes all my concentration to do so and I often make mistakes. I have a tendency to inverse numbers a lot too. Anyhow…

I asked the professor when would it be appropriate to use chi square as opposed to alpha coefficient (I know now that they don’t do the same thing but I’m still not clear on what it is that they do). He answered that it depended on the data and when I would have my data, I’d need to listen to the data. For the exam, all I needed to do is memorize the formulas. Oh boy. That is perhaps when I decided I’d look for a thesis topic that would lend itself well to qualitative inquiry!

I need to learn things in context. If I know why I’m learning something or I have a set use for it, I’m more likely to remember it. So at this time, I can’t remember the formulas for either. But I know that they are available online. The thing is, that right now I have no idea when to use them, nor can I assess the validity of the resource. So I got a B in research methods, lowest grade during my whole MA, but I passed, but not without developing a total aversion to statistics. How absolutely unfortunate.

Tony Karrer refers to Brent Schlenker’s There is no Brain2.0…so why Learning2.0?, where Brent evaluates the pros and the cons of the e in eLearning, something I’ve addressed in another post. He argues that:

We must better understand the learning process in order to create better content and experiences. Its not just behavior that we need to understand. We MUST understand the human brain. (link from original post)

Absolutely, we need to understand how the brain works in order to design better content. If more people did, we’d have less of these page turning eLearning course with information recall assessments at the end of them. We’d create simulations and problem-based learning courses. And if we created these types of courses, perhaps “training” would give individual tools to make contextual decisions rather then be bounded to a set script.

Now I agree with Brent that technology is an important factor and that is where the “e” comes in. However, the technology can be used to store the tools and resources (formulas, language rules, procedures, etc) that we don’t use on a daily basis so that we can concentrate on thinking.

References: