…a different approach

At age fifteen, my first job was as a welder’s helper for a modular building plant in Wilmington, Delaware.  The company I worked for hired local laborers: carpenters, electricians and plumbers who had a wealth of experience with building on-site, but this was something new – building homes in sections, on a platform, and then shipping them on rails across the country where they would then be assembled at their final destination.

There was a problem.

When the building sections were being framed on the assembly line the carpenters would get out their levels and their plumb lines, checking the quality of their work using the same process they had always used, but when the two halves of the building were brought together they discovered they did not line up. This happened time and again. The thing was, the units did not need to be level – they needed to be square. If the units were not square they would not fit together – not in the plant, and not on the site.

The environment had changed and so now must the process. Innovation often requires adopting a different approach.

In an earlier post I wrote about how tablets are changing the way humans interact with computers. I think in much the same way as the tablet has the capacity to change the way we interact with computers, apps may impact the way we interact with learning management systems (LMS, e.g. Blackboard Learn).

Apps are considered closed systems in contrast to the open web. Rather than connecting to everything online – they lead to a collection of media or curated content that is more topical by design. For this reason, the user need not be concerned which browser or java version they use or configuring the browser (allowing pop-ups, etc). The app takes care of the environment for us so that we may simply interact with the course and media.

Blackboard recently changed their Mobile Learn business model from an enterprise solution to one where the individual pays for the license – downloading the app  $1.99 for a year or $5.99 for the lifetime license. This seems like a more sustainable and affordable solution.

Research shows that community college students are big smartphone users as well customers of a rapidly growing tablet market. We would be well advised to take the time to learn what works well for the LMS mobile app environment and leverage this information in our design of courses with these tools and interactions in mind.

Our own survey data shows that students are interested in getting their grades via mobile technology, as well as course announcements and other online communications without having to log in periodically to check on what’s been posted to their course. Blackboard’s Mobile Learn app permits student to receive notifications when their grades are posted, along with announcements, and quizzes as they become available. They can also engage in group discussion, blogs and journals. Another new feature of the Mobile Learn app is the task tool allowing students to keep a to do list and check off course tasks as they are completed.

Bb Mobile Learn in iPad 2

Over the next few weeks I hope to share some specific examples of how to design for mobile delivery using Blackboard Mobile Learn as the platform. Please check back soon – or even better subscribe to our blog and receive the notifications when we post something new.


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