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Going Mobile: Will Accessibility Bring Better Learning?

Ethan Edwards, chief instructional strategist, allen interactionsby Ethan Edwards, chief instructional strategist

I am spending most of the day in airports returning from a completely unexpected (but delightful) business trip to Netherlands Antilles.  I'm trying to be productive during all this waiting and sitting time that is consuming my day, but I am struck by how really inconvenient mobile technology can be in human terms. 

Sure, it is amazing that connectivity is POSSIBLE nearly everywhere, but it takes considerable resources and determination to actually connect. No Free WiFi I'm only halfway home, and if I really wanted to have had Internet access for my possible work time today, so far it could have cost me $35 spread across several providers to co be connected as many opportunities as I wanted, and also meant sitting in corner of the floor for awhile to get the signal and also crammed uncomfortably into a coach seat with a my laptop on an undersized tray table. The better, yet actually pretty horrible, alternative is that I'm tapping this out with my thumb on my iPhone. 

Bix TravelerI'm not writing this as some kind of "woe is me" plea for sympathy, but I can't help but think how I might be feeling if I were trying to complete e-learning modules as a student under these conditions. In this odd marriage of human and computer activity, I feel like I'm compromising my natural inclinations to the uncomfortably contrived constraints of technology.  It's almost a cliché to talk about how great it is that mobile devices and universal network access can make anytime/anywhere e-learning possible.

Perhaps that's true from a human perspective it's hard to imagine a situation less conducive to learning.  It accentuates how the design elements that create meaning, context, and motivation in a learning activity are absolutely essential to counteract all the factors getting in the way of my attention and thought in this situation -- yet so often, those are exactly the design aspects that are scrapped first when designers start simplifying and stripping features of e-learning programs to make the learning compatible with universal access.

As we move more and more toward this paradigm for e-learning deliver, I hope we don't continue in the same mistaken idea that ACCESS = LEARNING.

 

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