Mobile learning and synchronization
Mobile learning (mLearning) is convenient, effective, and well-liked by students, but mobile devices suffer from an Achilles heel: connectivity. If you are using your smartphone in the subway, outside the city, or just in “dead zones” the connectivity can be slow or non-existent.
There is a solution to the connectivity issue – data synchronization. This solution allows the learner to continue learning without connectivity and stores the progress data on the mobile device until it detects connectivity and then forwards all of the data to the learning management system (LMS).
Store and forward synchronization
This is an elegant solution to the #1 mLearning problem, but it has issues as well. A project that handles synchronization is much larger than one that demands connectivity during usage and, yes, that translates into larger price tags. A project with synchronization can cost significantly more than one that is purely connected because of the complexity of the data handling required.
If you ask learners if they want to be able to review their learning on a subway or airplane, they will almost invariably say yes. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need a full store-and-forward synchronization scheme; often a hybrid solution is better.
A hybrid solution allows the user to review all educational material offline and only needs an internet connection when interactions such as assessments are required.
If your mLearning project needs some sort of offline capability you should consider the following:
- Build all content to be standalone without an internet connection. This means the app download will be much larger or the materials will need to be downloaded when the mobile device has connectivity for use later.
- Information is much more difficult to update in this scenario and change management needs to be accounted for.
- Increase your QA time on the project because there are many more things that can go wrong with the metrics when the complexities of synchronization are introduced.
- Instead of a traditional user acceptance testing (UAT), run a beta module in the field with a small set of learners to fully exercise the course and reporting.
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