You are previewing mLearning: Mobile Learning and Performance in the Palm of Your Hand.
O'Reilly logo
mLearning: Mobile Learning and Performance in the Palm of Your Hand

Book Description

The next time you're on the road, stuck in an airport or waiting in line, don't allow your valuable time to be wasted by circumstances you can't control. Turn on your PDA, smart phone or wireless connection and use those "stolen moments" to learn. Mobile learning—or mlearning—combines the technologies of mobile communications with any electronically delivered material. This exciting new book speaks to users at the grassroots level who want to capitalize on the latest mLearning trends to learn on the go, save time and improve productivity. How is mLearning being utilized in the corporate world? What instructional design principles work and don't work? What lays ahead for ebooks, handtop computing, wearable computers, iPods? You'll get the answers to all your questions in 10 chapters that detail how to seamlessly integrate learning into your lifestyle and work style.

Table of Contents

  1. Title
  2. Copyright
  3. Contents
  4. Acknowledgements
  5. Chapter 1: Introduction
  6. Chapter 2: Wireless Overview
    1. PalmOneThe Palm OS commands the largest share of the market (currently around 65 percent worldwide) and encompasses a wide range of special purpose devices from companies such as Palm, IBM, Sony, TRG, Symbol and Handspring, among others. Palm also has a large network—65,000-plus—of Palm software developers. The operating system and devices have simplicity of use, ease of integration, and specialization as key advantages.
    2. Pocket PCThe Pocket PC platform from Microsoft is the latest iteration in a series of devices based on a “light” version of Microsoft Windows. The functions are similar to Windows and are tightly integrated. Numerous formats such as Word, Excel, and Web and e-mail functions are available without conversion from a desktop machine to the Pocket PC. Some of the most striking features about these devices are the rich multimedia functions, including advanced graphic support, animation, audio, and even video.
    3. Two-Way PagersThe lion’s share of the two-way pager market belongs to Motorola and RIM. Each has devices that have expanded beyond simple messaging systems to take on PDA functions such as PIMs, larger screens, mini-keyboards, and most recently e-mail and Web access. These devices are part of systems that have great coverage throughout the United States and boast long battery life (weeks instead of hours or days). Most importantly, they provide instant, live access to facilitate real-time information. For timely data, or message-based learning delivery models, this platform holds significant potential. The RIM Blackberry is pulling ahead in this category and has added full cellular access to many of their latest devices.
    4. WAN, MAN, LAN, PANNow that we’ve piqued your interest with devices and potential functions, let’s take a step back and look at the networking technology that enables these devices. While there are whole books written on this subject, we will try to give you a quick snapshot so that you can begin thinking about what technologies are available. We will also attempt to demystify some of the common technologies and categories, beginning with the cryptic acronyms in the section title: WAN (Wide Area Network), MAN (Metropolitan Area Network), LAN (Local Area Network), and PAN (Personal Area Network). Let us categorize wireless technologies into these areas, which are roughly based on the breadth of geography they can cover.
    5. WANWAN can be thought of as your cellular phone coverage with a national or international carrier. Devices in this category are smart phones, cellular devices, cellular modems, pager networks, the Internet backbone (in conjunction with local wireless access points), and even satellite systems.
    6. MANMetropolitan Area Networks (MANs) can be more difficult to categorize than WANs or LANs. There are many technologies being rolled out to cover a region smaller than a country or geography, but larger than a single building or campus. These networks are often referred to as MANs, but there is much debate about where the LANs, MANs, and WANs start and stop. The core area we will examine are those technologies built for more than one building, but not encompassing a region larger than a city. A few key technologies fall into this area, including fixed wireless technology, lasers, and microcellular systems.
    7. Fixed WirelessSeveral types of fixed wireless exist. Some providers are using this technology to compete with cable operators to send cable television channels to a wireless receiver. This is also being used to send high-speed Internet data across a wireless connection at speeds similar to a cable modem or DSL line. LMDS (Local Multipoint Distribution Services) and MMDS (Multipoint Microwave Distribution System, or Multi-channel Multi-point Distribution System) are common acronyms for this type of fixed wireless transmission. In addition, some handheld technologies can take advantage of fixed wireless.
    8. LANWhile many wireless LAN technologies exist, one stands out in today’s market. WiFi, short for wireless fidelity, is a generic term that refers to any type of 802.11 network, whether 802.11b, 802.11a, dual-band, etc. It allows someone to connect to the Internet from any location without the need to plug into a wall, operating much like a cell phone. WiFi enables computers to send and receive data indoors and out, anywhere within the range of a base station, and operate several times faster than the quickest cable modem connection.
    9. PANNow that we’ve taken a look at the local area network, let’s explore what happens just in your office space—or within the area of a small, tightly constrained domain, maybe feet from your person as you’re traveling. This phenomenon has been dubbed a PAN, or a personal area network, and encompasses many of the tools in your office setting as well as devices that might need to interconnect while you’re traveling. A good example is a cell phone, which can be connected by a Bluetooth technology to be able to send data, whether it’s an address book or schedules or otherwise, between your phone and your laptop. Other examples might be the interconnection of using a cell phone as a modem via Bluetooth or infrared type communications back to a laptop, PDA, or even new handtop computers that we will explore further in other technology chapters.
    10. IR and LaserAlmost as a side note to our discussion of wireless for handhelds is the possibility to transmit data with pulses of light or lasers. The ability to send data to handhelds via this communication medium is just beginning to be explored. The technology is also limited by environmental conditions and linear paths for transfer.
  7. Chapter 3: mLearning Value Proposition
    1. Business Function, Learning Function:An Integrative Performance ApproachThere are three main categories of business function where we see mobile and wireless devices being used consistently and commonly. The first is the area of sales for the on-the-go salesperson. The second is in the area of service, where technicians are mobile and distributed to go and provide field support for a variety of products, services, and even internal initiatives. And third, as many of you know, the busy executive who is constantly on the move needs access to up-to-date information and resources. This is not only to control and monitor how the business is doing back on the home front, but to have access to information at his or her fingertips, right when and where it is needed. There are substantial productivity gains to be made in each of these different sections.
    2. SalesWithin the area of sales performance, having access to product and services information is critical to the sales process. Time-to-competency and improved sales performance are often equated to the salesperson’s knowledge of the product or service they are selling.
    3. ServiceAccess to Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Supply Chain Management (SCM) systems can be useful for the service technician, much in the same way as the information we reviewed with Valero Energy and their quality inspectors in the case studies chapters. The service technician who is providing field services for things like network equipment (as in the case of IP Trouble Shooting Guide) with detailed network information, along with the ability to order parts, benefits when work flow and performance support can be integrated to combine the best of business processes and the necessary service knowledge.
    4. Executives and ProfessionalsIn this section, we will look at how busy executives and other professionals who are constantly on the move can get access to information they need.
  8. Chapter 4: Case Studies—Sales
    1. The StrategyRWD Technologies® worked with 3Com to identify a strategy enabling the Palm to deliver just-in-time information to a mobile and geographically diverse target population. Once the technical and design strategy was in place, 3Com’s HomeConnect and OfficeConnect products were selected to form the initial knowledge base. RWD then developed and built two modules that contain product features, benefits and technical specifications, as well as a self-assessment where users can check their HomeConnect and OfficeConnect product knowledge.
    2. The FeaturesThe 3Com University Learning Assistant includes important features such as easy-to-use navigation, bookmarks to save your last place in a module, and a favorites list. It also includes knowledge checks (a basic multiple-choice self-assessment), advanced graphics capabilities for color and grayscale graphics, and easy-to-update and synchronize data modules. Finding an easy-to-use tool that met the technical and design requirements was not an easy task, but a firm understanding of the development options helped make the decision process easier. In addition, new products are continuously emerging and providing added functionality.
    3. The SolutionThis solution enables 3Com University to take a lead in providing learning materials for delivery to mobile devices (see quote below). The Palm delivery strategy also makes it easier for people to have up-to-date information with them at all times. The Learning Assistant is easy to use; beyond the instant availability of information, the module knowledge checks reinforce actual learning.
  9. Chapter 5: Case Studies—Services
    1. OverviewAs we built this early wireless e-learning application for the Palm VII, we had to reevaluate our thinking on learning models and technical capabilities that work on a small screen with minimal bandwidth capabilities. Putting ourselves in the position of the end-user—field service technician out on a client call—really helped us solidify the approach we took.
    2. Combining Performance SupportOnce we built the tutorials and did some initial focus studies, it felt like something was missing. For the field technician, we realized that the first step might in fact be the need to request new hardware. Sometimes there is no way to salvage damaged or defective equipment.
    3. Learning ApproachWhen looking at the step-by-step tutorials, many people have asked the question, "...but is it training?" The answer is yes. Technicians learn how to do new things and also have access to information that is vast and hard to memorize. In complex knowledge domains where people have an intermediate to advanced level of skill, a constructivist learning approach is sometimes more appropriate instead of the more common objectivist approach.
    4. Reworking ContentBecause of the small size and bandwidth, we also ran into issues with writing style and screen format. Long narrative is less effective than short steps and sequenced commands. The interface for the learner/technician is designed to give them the right information, at the right time, in the fewest number of clicks, and with the minimum amount of extraneous information. Screen size and color depth (white, black, and two grays) also was an issue that we had to work around. Large diagrams had to be broken down into smaller, linked units. Some had to be turned sideways so that they could be scrolled across.
    5. Next StepsThis demonstration is a first step. In the process, we have identified many new capabilities and functions that would be useful to include. For instance, a search link could be used to search for information about specific error codes across the entire domain of information. This more detailed search may be useful for highly skilled technicians who do not want the descriptions of the symptoms and problems, just short performance aids so that they do not have to remember every command and step for operations that are performed infrequently.
  10. Chapter 6: Case Studies—Business Processes and Performance
    1. Need/OpportunityIn July 2004, ALLTEL’s wireless data revenue was only $6 million per month, significantly less than the industry average. The company sought to improve this figure and capitalize on the fact that Super Bowl XXXIX would be held at ALLTEL Stadium in Jacksonville, Florida.
    2. Intended AudienceThe target audience was ALLTEL’s 13,500 employees in 26 states, including:
    3. Goals and ObjectivesThe employee campaign had the following objectives:
    4. Solution OverviewALLTEL employees had the opportunity to participate in an employee version of the Txt2Win MVP Sweepstakes. Employees across the country were eligible to win $10,000, one of three trips for two to Super Bowl XXXIX at ALLTEL Stadium, or weekly prizes. The promotion was divided into four primary campaigns:
    5. Information Architecture for the Review (with Storyboard of Screens and Jog-Dial Navigation)Steve Wilders had developed rich initial text-based content, but the limited screen real estate posed significant problems. After several content “digestion” steps, there were still problems containing the relevant information to one screen of content. As a consequence, two obvious strategies were used: information that could be chunked was spread across multiple screens, and scrolling was tolerated when critical content extended past the screen limit.
    6. Value CreationUnilever utilizes a common methodology for assessing financial performance. The primary way to learn this is an online (Intranet)-based course, which often is used as a prerequisite for workshops where the concepts and terminology are applied. An analysis tool developed to support this was also produced for the iPAQ platform. This provides portability to instantly analyze opportunities and communicate these in real time. Leaders have been showing each other this new application and discussing further handheld tool ideas.
    7. Code of Business PrinciplesUnilever implemented the Code of Business Principles globally through workshops and online learning. A reference guide with rich graphics and sound clips of leaders reinforcing key messages was produced for the iPAQ, and a text/graphics only version for the Palm platform is still the most ubiquitous across the enterprise. It is intended that the online and iPAQ versions will continue to be updated to keep the Code alive and fresh in minds. The goal is for handheld versions to be used as a decision support and reference tool, and will be distributed on all new PDAs.
    8. The U1 Model: How Unilever WorksUnilever has a model with graphical representation of how it is organized by key processes. These processes are well documented and supported by workshops and Web-based tools. Having the model available on the iPAQ platform provides a tool for managers to communicate where and how they work and helps introduce more people to further explore the model and its community while promoting a common vocabulary. Initial response was very favorable with active exploration of how to use iPAQs as a primary delivery platform. Video and audio clips of thought leaders and implementers are being added to make it a more compelling marketing tool.
    9. Design for ExcellenceUnilever runs a product design workshop in partnership with Viadynamics that helps teams and individuals creatively and quickly innovate with the consumer experience at the forefront. A short video of the weeklong experience was produced with voice-over to communicate the journey, in an effort to bring it to life for potential participants, enroll more teams in the learning process, and get the right mix of participants. This was optimized for playback on the iPAQ to serve as a viral marketing tool, and is produced by Viadynamics
  11. Chapter 7: Instructional Design Principles for Wireless Development
  12. Chapter 8: Multimedia Development for Mobile
    1. LectoraFor those of you familiar with Lectora publisher, you will be right at home with either the Palm or PocketPC version. While the programs are completely unique to each other, there are some similar functions. Most notably, the templating function is quite similar between the three versions. Best of all, it is the same basic graphical user interface (GUI) that allows you to drag and drop elements onto your screens. Best of all, the price of the mobile versions are quite a bit less than the desktop version. For more information see
    2. Adobe AcrobatI’m sure many of you have heard of Adobe Acrobat as a de facto standard format for accurate document display and printing. The .pdf (portable document format) is quite prevalent in both publishing and Web delivery of documents. Most importantly, almost any file format that can be printed can be converted to Acrobat format. The document format is read by the Adobe Acrobat Reader and the corresponding Web plug-in.
    3. Microsoft Mobile SDKAccording to Microsoft, the market for mobile devices is growing rapidly; analysts predict by 2008 there will be more than 100 million converged devices and 2 billion mobile phone subscribers. This creates an exciting opportunity for developers who want to build innovative applications with Windows Mobile, Microsoft’s SDK for products such as the PocketPC and Smart Phone. The former facilitates the mobile use of such Microsoft standards as Word, Internet Explorer, Outlook, and Excel, along with Reader. The new Microsoft Mobile Version 5 offers tools, APIs, and technologies for both native and managed application developers.
    4. Palm WCAWhen Palm Computing released the Palm VII, it introduced a Web application format called Web Clipping Applications (WCAs), also known as Palm Query Applications (PQAs). These terms are synonymous. PQAs are written in a subset of HTML 3.2, with a handful of special metadata tags and a few other conventions. A proxy server at the wireless service provider’s site translates them into PQA format. PQAs are actually Palm record databases, with each page and image stored as a separate record. Web-enabled Palms are equipped with an internal application, called a Web clipper that reads the PQAs.
    5. Nokia, Ericsson, and Motorola SDKs and EmulatorsThe cellular manufacturers Nokia, Ericsson, and Motorola have also made their own SDKs available. Nokia’s “Culture of Mobility” pages on its Web site help educate users on the big-picture possibilities of wireless applications and devices. Ericsson Mobility World offers remote testing services over the Internet and end-to-end verification with a mobile phone and radio network at one of Ericsson’s test centers. Motorola’s Web site allows users to download all the latest tools and resources to create J2ME Applications, which are discussed in the next section.
    6. Java BREW/J2MEJava is a high-level programming language developed by Sun Microsystems. Small Java applications, called Java applets, can be downloaded from a Web server and run on a computer by a Java-compatible browser such as Netscape Navigator and Microsoft Internet Explorer.
    7. RIM Blackberry Java ToolsDevelopment for the Blackberry devices from Research in Motion (RIM) is slightly different from the other development tools and techniques we’ve examined, but probably shows the most in common with the Java Brew and J2ME’s Micro Edition development found with smart phones. Blackberry has a Java development environment, or JDE, that sits on top of the J2ME platform and allows developers to build Java applications that are delivered on their mobile devices.
    8. Macromedia FlashFlash is a relatively bandwidth-friendly and browser-independent vector-graphic animation technology that allows users to draw their own animations or import other vector-based images. Macromedia Flash MX 2004 allows designers and developers to integrate video, text, audio, and graphics into immersive, rich experiences that deliver superior results for interactive marketing and presentations, eLearning, and application user interfaces.
    9. Flash LiteMacromedia Flash Lite is a new profile of Macromedia Flash Player that is designed specifically for mobile phones. This new profile was needed, according to Macromedia, because mass-market phones do not have sufficient processing power and memory to support the entire Flash Player 7 feature set while supporting unique requirements such as network connectivity. Macromedia says it is continuing to create profiles for other key device categories such as interactive television set top boxes and PDAs.
    10. Pocket Internet Explorer (PIE)A mobile version of Microsoft Internet Explorer, Pocket Internet Explorer (PIE) allows users to view either Web or WAP pages on their Windows Mobile–based device. While browsing, you can also download new files and programs from the Internet. A full-featured Internet browser, PIE is optimized for devices with small, vertically oriented displays and for cached or customized content.
    11. Microsoft Windows Media PlayerMicrosoft’s Windows Media Player 10 gives users more music and choices than previous versions, and for the first time makes it possible to synchronize high-quality music, video, and photos to the latest portable devices. The product’s built-in Digital Media Mall provides a large selection of music and video stores, allowing options such as buying music downloads, signing up for a music subscription, or renting a movie.
    12. AudibleAudible provides digital audio entertainment and information. Users can choose from more than 25,000 best-selling digital audiobooks, radio shows, audio versions of popular magazines, daily newspapers, and more. The programming can be downloaded and listened to using devices such as iPod®, Palm OS handheld, Pocket PC, Creative® MuVo®, PC, Mac, or on CDs you burn. Audible uses security technologies, including encryption, to protect purchased programs, preventing a user from being able to convert its formats to MP3.
  13. Chapter 9: The Integration of Wireless Learning and Performance Support into Other Core Function Wireless Initiatives
    1. OpportunitySymbol Technologies has a new series of handheld devices (PPT8000) that allows augmented reality principles to be implemented. Symbol commissioned RWD Technologies to develop a prototype module that could make use of advanced features such as built-in Microsoft’s Pocket Internet Explorer Web browser, Macromedia Flash support, barcode scanning, image processing, WiFi, and next generation RFID (Radio Frequency IDentifier) support. These features enable some of Symbol’s top clients to modernize work processes and enable their workforces through mobile technology. Adding an element of learning and performance support further enhances skills and efficiencies of people involved in complex business processes.
    2. SettingTo provide the broadest example of use, a work flow from the pharmaceutical manufacturing and distribution industries was selected by Symbol University. Wes Wisham, Senior Business Development Manager for Symbol Technologies EMEA, states, “It is important for us to provide a realistic scenario to show how the advanced device capabilities could be used to promote learning integrated with the work that is typically completed using our world-class handheld devices.”
    3. ResultsBased on the encouraging feedback of both Symbol Technologies management and key customers, the demonstration module provides a design framework for integrating learning into the real world of work through leading-edge research like augmented reality. “Understanding the potential for the technology and the location-aware learning processes will open new uses for our devices and help our customers do their jobs better,” states Wes Wisham of Symbol University. “Based on our initial reference design, we look forward to what the future of mobile learning holds.”
  14. Chapter 10: Other Options for Mobile Professionals
  15. Chapter 11: mLearning Implications for Next Generation Technologies
  16. References