In an ongoing exploration of how to design and develop for mobile learning, I plan to examine many of the products and design paradigms in the mLearning space. In this interview, Michael Gregory, Director of Systems Engineering for Hot Lava Mobile, explains this mobile authoring tool.
COACH: How long has Hot Lava Mobile been on the market?
MICHAEL: It’s been available through OutStart since we acquired Hot Lava Software in June 2009. We saw the need and interest for mobile learning growing and wanted to leap forward by partnering with the early leader in the space. It worked out well in terms of technology and learning from the experiences of early adopters.
COACH: What types of learning solutions have been developed with Hot Lava?
MICHAEL: Hot Lava Mobile is used to develop and deliver content to mobile devices for a variety of purposes, most of which fall into one of four categories:
- Reinforcement Training. Leveraging mobile is an ideal way to remind learners of what they have been previously taught by providing follow-up materials as reinforcement. These could take the form of learning “Snacks” (small refresher modules) or quizzes to stimulate recall for example.
- Performance Support. Learners can be given access to small chunks of content which provide reminders immediately at the point of need. Whether it’s procedure lists or interactive checklists, using mobile in this way allows learners to get what they need at the exact moment it is needed.
- Priority Communications. We often see Hot Lava Mobile used as a means for executives within an organization to communicate to the workforce. This frequently takes the form of video delivered to users on their mobile devices. The tracking capabilities of Hot Lava Mobile enable organizations to know which employees have actually taken the content.
- Feedback Through Surveys and Testing. There are lots of uses for surveys, whether capturing real-time feedback during a multi-day training event, eliciting employee opinions, or getting input from customers. The testing capabilities of Hot Lava Mobile provide a means for verifying learner comprehension and retention.
COACH: How is the mobile content deployed to the phone?
MICHAEL: One of the unique things about Hot Lava Mobile is that you have a choice as to whether it will be delivered through a mobile browser or deployed through a native application installed directly on the device. Content is developed independent of the delivery method or device, and complete results tracking is available through both deployment methods as well.
- Mobile Browser. The Hot Lava Mobile Delivery Engine has the intelligence to detect the user’s device type and dynamically scale the content to fit the dimensions of that device. Hundreds of internet-enabled phone models can be supported using this method.
- Installed Application. OutStart provides applications specifically for BlackBerry, iPhone, iTouch, iPad and Android devices (with others on the way). Content is downloaded to the application and consumed locally, which allows for learning to take place even when the user doesn’t have connectivity, such as when on board a plane. Results are captured locally and automatically synchronized when connectivity is re-established.
COACH: On which mobile devices does Hot Lava Mobile work?
MICHAEL: Hot Lava Mobile supports basic cell phones, smartphones, and tablets. Device-specific applications are available for BlackBerry, iPhone, iTouch, iPad and Android devices, with others to be supported in the future.
COACH: For those interested in tracking usage, how does Hot Lava work in this capacity?
MICHAEL: User activity is tracked by the Hot Lava Mobile Delivery Engine (MDE). For browser-based delivery, tracking is real-time, as content is delivered directly from MDE to their browser. Results such as pages viewed, test scores, and survey responses are automatically tracked for reporting purposes.
The device-specific applications provide the same level of tracking. Results are stored locally on the device and are automatically synchronized back to MDE at a configurable time interval, or when connectivity is available.
Because OutStart views mobile learning as a component of an overall learning strategy rather than a standalone application, Hot Lava Mobile also supports standards-based integration with Learning Management Systems, which allows an LMS to serve as the central point for course administration and tracking for all types of learning, including mobile.
COACH: Can you describe the development environment? In other words, how does a developer go about creating content?
MICHAEL: Content authoring is accomplished through extensions to the familiar PowerPoint authoring environment with intuitive extensions for creating surveys, quizzes and assessments.
COACH: What are some common mistakes instructional designers make when creating their first mobile learning/performance support applications?
MICHAEL: The biggest things that people often forget when they first deploy mobile applications are usually the differences between both the form factor of the hardware and the usage patterns between computer-based learning and mobile learning. For example:
- A PowerPoint presentation that looks fine on a computer screen may look cramped or unreadable on the smaller display of a mobile device. Use larger fonts, and don’t put too much on a page.
- While it’s not unusual for users to spend as much as an hour or more in a computer-based course, you won’t get nearly that much of their time in a mobile course. Most successful implementations we see use 3 to 5 minutes as their maximum target length per mobile module.
You can learn more about the authoring tool at Hot Lava Mobile.