A service that would have required investing in a desktop computer or laptop a decade ago, is now accessible across a multitude of devices. From smartphones and tablets, to smart watches and smart televisions, people can connect to the internet using almost any device.
The rise of smartphone ownership, has had a dramatic impact on internet usage. In fact, 80% of all internet users now own a smartphone (global web index) and this is rapidly becoming the preferred option for many to access the internet.
There is also a trend towards people using their smartphones for learning purposes. In August 2020, the education category accounted for 8.68% of all active apps downloaded from the Apple App Store. This ranked third overall amongst all categories (games accounted for 21.86% and business apps 10.11%).
These trends cannot be ignored, and companies creating websites and other online content have started to develop their material with smartphone users in mind from the beginning, rather than as an afterthought.
From an eLearning standpoint, there are several benefits for making courses smartphone compatible.
The first is easier access and convenience for the user. They can view a course in almost any place, at any time, using their smartphone. They can make the most of time spent travelling by ‘learning on the go.'
It also allows the user to learn at their own pace. PC access time could be limited for a number of reasons and may force a user to cram in as much information as possible, which could lead to poor retention. With smartphone access, the user can progress through a course at a time and pace that suits their own learning style.
However, there are also some challenges that need to be addressed when designing courses for smartphones. Given the vast range of mobile devices in circulation, eLearning content would need to work on a variety of screen sizes. Page load times are also an important factor to be considered, as mobile network signals aren’t as reliable as a home/office internet connection. For these reasons, any media in the course (such as images, videos, animations) would need to be directly relevant to the learning.
Another consideration is how people interact with their phones. The larger the phone, the more challenging it becomes to reach the top of the screen. This issue is becoming exacerbated by the movement towards larger smartphones, such as the iPhone 11 Pro Max. Research such as this would need to be factored into the placement of any user interface elements, such as menu and navigation buttons.
Overall, the benefits of developing smartphone compatible eLearning outweigh the challenges. With the vast number of mobile devices in circulation, there is now an expectation for courses to be accessible using this technology. In the world of eLearning, smartphone support is no longer optional, it has become essential.
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