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How to design effective mobile learning

Mobile learning is a huge growth market and presents big opportunities for training companies. Getting your mobile content right is the key to success. Here are some top tips on how to design learning content for mobile devices.

Learning design for mobile is one of the most researched topics in the training industry in 2022. And for good reason. The Global Mobile Learning Market is set to Reach $80.1 Billion by 2027, four times the estimated US$22.4 Billion for the year 2020. That’s a huge market opportunity for training providers to tap into. 

But what is mobile learning?

The use of mobile devices to access learning content has been around for a long time. But the majority of content accessed on mobile devices has been designed for desktop, with some mobile responsiveness as an afterthought. Now, training providers are starting to think about how to design more effectively for mobile learning (mlearning).

What’s the difference?

Mobile-responsive content is designed for desktop users. On a desktop there are no screen size limitations, users operate a mouse and keyboard rather than a touchscreen, and are usually connected to high-speed broadband. And when someone is sitting at a desk they usually intend to be there for a decent amount of time, meaning your course content can be designed to be completed over a longer duration. 

Mlearning content is consumed in small, bite-sized chunks. Think about your learners completing an eLearning module on their daily commute, in-between meetings, or while walking the dog. Screens are small, they’re using touch-screen technology (also consider the one-finger users), and sometimes using mobile data so don’t appreciate slow loading times or large files and images. 

Why offer mobile learning? 

It’s more accessible – many people don’t own a desktop computer or laptop anymore, and prefer to operate entirely off a mobile phone or mobile device. Well-suited to people who are time-poor. More appealing to the younger generation who have grown up with mobile devices and are well-accustomed to completing tasks and watching content on small screens. 

Remember those stats we mentioned earlier? They alone show the demand for mobile learning. If your learners want it – offer it.

Where do you start? 

It’s not enough to just cut and paste your current course and sell it as an mobile learning course. You need to design courses and content specifically for mobile. If you don’t know where to start, we recommend hiring a learning designer. A good learning designer will work with you on everything from strategy through to execution, so you can ensure your mobile courses are successful. 

Keen to go it alone? We’ve pulled together a list of eight ways to design learning content for mobile devices to help you get started.

8 ways to design effective mobile learning:

  1. Micro learning. Micro learning is a trend in itself, offering big benefits like increased knowledge retention and accessibility. It goes hand in hand with mobile learning, where most users will be accessing content on the fly and wanting to consume it in smaller, shorter bursts.
  2. KISE. “Keep it Short and Effective” (KISE) is essential when it comes to mobile learning. Remove unnecessary context and background information and cut straight to the point. Put your key takeaways right at the beginning of your modules, so it’s the first thing your learners read. Modules should be focused around one single learning outcome and designed to be completed in a short amount of time. Avoid too many interactive elements, features or options so you don’t crowd the small screen and overload your learners. Keep images simple and text-free. Remember that mobile screens are small – text on an image may be readable on desktop, but it may not be readable on a mobile phone.
  1. Use other apps. With mobile learning being such a huge growth market, you can bet on the fact that other companies are jumping on the business opportunities. There are a ton of applications designed expertly for mobile that can help deliver your learning efficiently and effectively. Think Zoom, Miro and Blackboard, LMS platforms, YouTube and more.
  1. Speed. As mentioned, many mobile users are relying on their mobile data, or even public WiFi connections. Avoid large file sizes, large images, file downloads and anything else that will result in slow loading times or consume a lot of data. Also consider that mobile users are much more likely to be distracted than someone sitting at a desktop computer. If your course content takes too long to load, they’ll likely switch to a different tab, a different application, or engage with something or someone around them. Crop images and compress content to reduce sizes.
  1. Design for touchscreens. Fingers are bigger and a lot more clumsy than a desktop mouse. When designing content for mobile learning, ensure buttons are large enough, the whole button invokes the action (not just the text) and there is a decent amount of white space around buttons to avoid hitting the wrong one. Ensure multi-options are kept to a minimum and menu styles are simple. 
  1. Vertical content. Mobile content is consumed vertically – think TikTok or Instagram. You might consider adapting existing images and video, or reshooting it for vertical screens. It’s quite different to a square or rectangle desktop or laptop screen, so also consider how your eLearning activities can be best designed for vertical screens.
  2. Bespoke app. This is a costly option, but could be a viable solution for your training business if you’re planning on offering a lot of mobile courses. Talk to a learning designer or a digital agency such as Candle Digital. An alternative is an off-the-shelf app that can be customised for your training business. As an example, we like Memotrainer by aNewSpring.
  1. Blended learning. If your course has sections that require more in-depth content, instructor-led training, or a time-consuming module or activity, then consider offering blended learning courses. You can still design elements of your course for mobile devices, while keeping some as traditional face-to-face or live online training. That way your learners get the best of both worlds and won’t miss out on any key information.

Mobile learning is a trend that has been driven by learner preference. Training providers should not only consider mobile learning as a huge business growth opportunity, but as an essential way to meet the needs of modern learners.

We hope these eight tips will help your training business along in your journey to offering effective mobile learning content.

Want to learn more?

Check out the Ultimate Guide to Virtual Training.

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