Elearning Market Update - April 2010

When visiting the Kineo Chicago office this month, Kineo’s UK Managing Director Steve Rayson couldn’t resist picking up one of the new iPads. After a few weeks he reflects on the potential of the iPad for shaking up the learning market...

There was great excitement at the Apple store on 3rd April when the first iPads became available. The Apple faithful were lined up in the rain and when the doors opened there were high fives all around. It is the first time I have been given a high five and clapped for buying a piece of electronic equipment.

I was keen to explore how such a device might change the way I use the internet and how it could be used for learning. Initially I wasn’t sure it would change very much. It is a beautifully designed device like other Apple products but I wasn’t sure if it would have the impact of say my iPhone, which has revolutionised the way I use my phone. The features are very similar to an iPhone and as the iPad app store isn’t available yet in the UK I have only synced my iPhone apps on to the iPad. These work well especially the newspaper apps. The iPad runs the Guardian app at twice normal size but this works well. The iPad has a long battery life, easily over 10 hours, and photos and videos look great, see an example below.

kineo ipad

After a few days I began to reach for the iPad rather than a physical newspaper to read the news. Gradually I began browsing the web more frequently including the news sites such as the BBC.

On the web you quickly become aware of the lack of Flash on the iPad. The BBC and other sites have lots of Flash based resources and it became frustrating not being able to use sites I am very familiar with. The lack of Flash will force some changes. Some websites with large Flash banners and no image alternatives look very poor on an iPad. On our own site we have alternative images so the site still looks ok but increasingly sites will look to non-Flash alternatives. In the case of the BBC they have their own app which you can use as an alternative to the non-working Flash pages.

The iPad in my view is a great device for consuming material rather than creating it. The keyboard is just horrible, the device it too big to hold and type comfortably. However, for consuming content it is very easy to use and creates a tactile experience which you simply don’t get on a laptop. It is a less intrusive device and potentially a more socially acceptable alternative to the laptop. It is more akin to reading a newspaper than reading on a laptop. If the device had Flash it would be a wonderful learning device. The tactile feel would be further enhanced allowing you to explore content. The traditional interactive self study elearning materials typically designed in Flash will simply not be available on the iPad. This is a great shame as this is almost the ideal device for consuming such content. Other more enlightened manufacturers are likely to allow Flash and I think these will be the devices to look to for learning.

In the absence of Flash learning on the iPad is likely to take a number of forms:

  • Well designed html websites
  • iPad applications designed for learning
  • Videos – You can play YouTube and other videos on the iPad
  • iTunes – the iTunes university has some great audio learning content

The iPad apps have significant learning potential but they are of course device specific. They may potentially be more attractive for consumer learning applications available through Apple’s App Store but less attractive for business learning given the cost of the iPad.

In summary, I don’t think the iPad will shake up the business elearning market but they have created a potentially great device for consuming content. This type of mobile device makes content easy and enjoyable to consume in a way which feels more like a magazine or book than a PC. It is a far more accessible device and it is already changing the way I browse and consume content."

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