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Construction time: new architectures for learning & mobile

This post first appeared on the LINE blog on 24th February 2012.

In the second installment of a three-part piece, John Helmer continues his report from Learning Technologies Conference and Exhibition 2012.

The sign of healthy economy is cranes on the skyline, skips and scaffolding in the streets. While London might have less of these to show than in previous years, reflecting the parlous state of the economy perhaps, inside Olympia there was a definite feeling of building underway this year – on the LINE stand at least.

The company was giving away sets of the wooden-brick game most commonly known as Jenga (which my daughter, just back from Japan, assures me they call ‘woody unbalance’ there) – as well as sweets shaped like Lego bricks. In the two floor seminars given by LINE, the construction theme was continued; one concerning itself with learning architectures, while the other took on the tough and highly topical subject of building an organisation-wide architecture for mobile learning.

In my last piece, I gave some general impressions from the show. In the next two pieces I’m going to focus more narrowly on exactly what LINE was saying in these seminars – so don your hard hats, and let’s find out exactly what it was I saw being built …

Mobile: the view from LINE

Seminar 1. Mobile learning: British Army and Jaguar Land Rover case studies
Presenters: Major Roy Evans (Retd), Dominic Mason, Head of Mobile

As I said in my previous piece, the pressure to move to mobile in learning and communications is giving organisations a lot to think about. Many of the problems thrown up are at strategic level. The single-shot, app-based approach we have seen a lot of in the past few years is clearly not enough: businesses need an approach that can allow them to scale across the organisation.

They may have internal audiences using a potentially vast number of mobile devices. They may require centralised technology to address the need for uniform and consistent messaging and access. They might need to build their in-house ability to author and distribute mobile learning.

LINE’s case study based presentation showed two organisations addressing particular learning needs with mobile successfully – and outlined an approach, and a set of products and services, designed to help organisations build their own mobile architecture.

Dominic Mason introduced the session with some statistics about workplace use of mobile that show the huge latent power in these devices for learning and knowledge:

  • Cisco research claims that staff spend 25-80% of their time at work away from their desks
  • iPass 2011 survey says 75% of staff use apps to assist in day-to-day work
  • RIM, makers of Blackbery, claim that staff who have access to services through smart phone spend an extra 25 minutes a day working productively

He then handed over to Major Roy Evans (retired) to present the Fire Control Orders project for iPad. This much feted, award-winning programme, the first for iPad within UK defence, has been covered extensively in the media, however, Major Evans is in a unique position to provide fresh insights about it, having worked in a Learning Technology Design and Development role in the British Army, before leaving at the beginning of 2011 to join LINE, where he now works as part of the defence team.

The subject matter for the training embodies a paradox quite often seen in safety-critical fields of operation, in that it is potentially life-saving (you only have to watch and read the coverage coming out of Afghanistan to appreciate this) and at the same time somewhat ‘dry’.

One of the chief aims of the project therefore was to engage 21st century learners; the younger demographic for whom PowerPoint just doesn’t do it.

The game-based, mobile solution chosen was selected for its ability to give instant feedback, but also because it was hoped that if the design was engaging enough, students might play it out of hours. Major Evans could report that the programme has been successful in this aspiration. Students were using it, on average, for 2-3 hours in an evening (you would apparently never see a soldier engaging with a book for anything like that amount of time!)

A follow-on project is now being investigated for independent topics addressing cultural awareness – a similarly dry subject that it is hoped can also be brought to life and leveraged across the whole of Defence.

Dominic Mason then presented a case study on behalf of Adrian Birch of Jaguar Land Rover, who was unfortunately unable to attend. This focused on the mobile hub LINE has partnered with Jaguar Land Rover to produce for the Land Rover LR4.

Dominic showed the home page of the hub and explained how it works. As shown by the screen grab below, users have their personal favourites and toolkits appropriate to their role off to the left of the home page, while in the centre is a dynamic section which is built from a content management system with materials appropriate to the audience, or that Jaguar thinks are important at any particular moment in time. On the right-hand side is a suite of links through to comparison tools, or an intranet – for example, for time-sheeting. A depth of different content types are used within the sub-sections of the app, some of which are to be shared with the customer, as part of the sales situation, others of which are for the dealer staff to learn behind the scenes.

The content is adaptable and built on a flexible framework – so could be adapted for iPod, iPhone, Android tablet, Android phone, or Windows tablet or phone. The product responds to the key business needs of rapid development and translation. In fact a Chinese version was being rolled out at the time the presentation was given.

Dominic finished up the presentation by laying out LINE’s Mobile Enterprise Platform (MEP). This allows organisations build learning apps in-house, quickly and easily.

LINE’s end-to-end platform allows these learning apps to be managed and distributed, ensuring a scalable solution to mobile learning.