Market Update February 2015: Responsive Digital Learning - All For One, One For All

Having recently joined City & Guilds Kineo as Head of Learning Design, I’ve had the opportunity to get hands on with some exciting new learning tools, such as the Adapt Open Source Learning Framework.  Responsive learning has been a buzz word in the learning technologies industry for a while, and having gained some new first-hand experience of designing for responsive, I wanted to share my thoughts.

Reasons To Love Responsive

Responsive is a breath of fresh air for online learning. It has the potential to change the face of ‘elearning’: to ditch the “e” and give us the “d". Digital learning, digital content – more accessible, more democratic, not patronising and genuinely learner-centric.

We’re arguably not even making full use of the potential of responsive, in terms of how content can be presented, and will be catching up in 2015 with the amazing technological leaps and bounds the Adapt Framework made in 2014. But rest assured – learning design, driven by learner feedback and the popularity and efficacy of interactive digital multimedia, will lead responsive to the next level.  

In other words responsive is not so much about where we’re at right now; it’s more about where it can take us and the exciting messages it sends out as to what can be achieved with work-based learning in this second half of the decade.

Absolutely central to this is the idea that, as a learner, the device you’re using is no longer an obstacle, a barrier or a pre-requisite. You’re no longer chained to your desk or excluded because you work away from the office or ‘in the field’. Responsive is inclusive. It means it’s all there if you want it, however you want it – wherever, in any which way. No excuses.

I Just Had to Say “Zeitgeist”

There – I’ve said it.

To continue…such democratisation means that at last online learning does not need to be an unloved and dowdy cousin to the main event of films, TV, gaming, the web. Now it stands a chance of sharing some of the quality and credibility of its more illustrious media cousins. 

Responsive takes digital learning mainstream as it becomes less about training and more about publishing. It’s more like the web we learn from all the time, more like the digital world we inhabit outside work. With content running on mobile devices that may be the tools we work with, or our own personal devices, we’re freer to use them in work-time than was once the case.

The opportunity is there, and responsive enables us to treat learners as discerning consumers and less like passive employees. Learning even feels good on a tablet or smartphone! No need to click a next button when you can scroll, swipe, even skip from one thing to another. And you can learn like that: self-directed, inquisitive, discerning; just like learning outside work!

Why We’re Not Quite There Yet

As I said earlier, I don’t think the way the content is currently designed has quite caught up with the opportunities the Adapt Framework presents us with. By which I mean designs are still predominantly text and graphics-led (elearning) and do not make enough use of contemporary media (digital learning).

But this is not a problem in itself, provided we are aspirational as to what we can achieve with responsive. It’s hard to let go of the old methodologies and structures that have shaped elearning for so long, and perhaps we need a bit of that legacy for the transition.

So what I hope we’ll see is text and graphic-led approaches increasingly merging into a more multimedia mix of video, interactive video and motion graphics, animation etc. Responsive is especially well suited to video as it works well in even the smallest screen size of the smartphone.

And video is popular across all devices. Witness the growth of embedded video in web editorial, video on advertising billboards, let alone the “you can learn anything on YouTube” phenomenon. All genuinely effective, albeit a passive watching experience. So imagine what can be achieved when we up the ante by making the video interactive. Learners can be actively involved with the video in branched scenarios, spot the hazard style, stop the action, and recognise embedded hotspots within the video.

In fact, just as web editorial is fast becoming multimedia content, responsive elearning, with its tablet and phone-friendly user experience, promises to accelerate the uptake of video, putting it at the heart of the learning experience.

Responsive leading the way for a more multimedia approach to learning is a quite specific notion, but what excites me most of all about responsive is that it gives us a fresh new landscape, a new digital canvas on which to present our content.

Digital Canvas? What Do You Mean?

On the face of it, it’s kind of flatter than before (but in a good way, hence the canvas analogy),  in that a lot of responsive content has a more magazine, iPad inspired print style to it. Responsive encourages a more contemporary visual and graphical approach to layout than has perhaps been the case with traditional elearning, which had grown somewhat stale. But this wide open digital space also promotes a wider freedom of movement than conventional elearning. For a start you can go up, down, sideways. You can sweep, swoop, tap and view around the canvas.

And because it’s digital, you can publish and present content seamlessly, as any kind of media you like: from video, interactive video, motion graphics to print. Frame the canvas with the informal and connected dimension of social learning and you have a very exciting and fluid version of digital learning – all triggered by the catalyst that is responsive.

Riddle of the Smartphone

Last but by no means least, to what extent will we be doing workplace learning on our smartphones and, if so, what will it look like? And will the term “responsive” one day be synonymous with use of the smartphone’s functionality like native apps, 4G, geo-location and augmented reality as part of the learning experience? I think I know the answer to these questions. How about you?

If you want to talk with us more about the future of responsive design in your organisation, get in touch.

 
 

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