I can remember the first time I experienced digital music. It was the first 30 seconds of Van Halen’s Running with the Devil. The fidelity was low and the recording took up an entire 5.25” floppy disk. When your entire musical experience was wrapped up in vinyl and tape, hearing a computer playing recorded music was jaw-dropping. I don’t know whether it’s me getting older or simply the speed at which technology is advancing, but those technology-inspired moments seem few and far between.
Fast forward to mLearnCon 2014, the mobile learning conference produced by The eLearning Guild, and for the first time in quite a while, I had that feeling again. The session was a presentation on the use of Augmented Reality (AR) to improve the performance support experience for mobile users. The presenter, Bill Crose, was showing a number of examples of how an app called Aurasma could be used to link images of real-world objects, viewed through your phone, with performance support materials.
The most compelling use case was a situation where a person needed quick access to first-aid information for a chemical accident. By viewing the chemical bottle through a smartphone camera, the Aurasma app was able to take the user immediately to the first-aid information specific to that chemical. The idea of bringing real-world sights and sounds into your online learning experience made my mind spin with possibilities. How would you use technology like this to improve content discovery for your learners?
As I explored more of the conference, I kept hearing a recurring theme from many of the presenters: start small. This is great advice, not just for mobile learning solutions, but any time you bring a new element into your learning ecosystem. Find a small, targeted problem area that needs a solution and start there. This gives you the ability to experiment without exposing your entire program. In fact, this start-small-and-grow approach is used regularly by mobile app developers to avoid long development cycles and wasting time on bad ideas. Build, deploy, measure, repeat. Does that sound familiar?
It would be many years before digital music became a commercial product, but it all started with a big idea and a small proof of concept. I don’t know if Augmented Reality will catch on, but I do know that mobile learning will be as different from what we know as elearning as digital music is from vinyl. We’re in that proof of concept stage right now. Have fun with it.
Jim Renner is Senior Technical Consultant at Skillsoft. Skillsoft was an exhibitor at the mLearnCon Mobile Learning Conference, June 24-26, 2014. To learn more about our mobile learning solutions, click here.