Much has been said about m-learning, and the technology fueled future… rich with possibilities for the next generation of student learners. And that we are now entering a phase where we can peek into that future, through emerging technologies. Apple can be termed the big daddy in this race, the mover and shaker who challenges our perceptions of what technology can do for us, with innovations abound, come every MacWorld. In this post, I’d like to talk about where m-learning is heading, using Apple’s latest contribution to the mobile computing world – the iPad.
As early as the January unveiling of the iPad, the e-learning blogosphere has been buzzing with the possibilities that the device presented for learning, both at the corporate and the school/university level. I would say that post the initial excitement, the ground realities really sunk in. Innovative? Yes. Made things interesting? Yes. But recommend as a formal learning tool? Not so sure. Why the hesitation to a device that was designed to really ‘push the boundaries’ according to the maker?
Let’s look at the initial buyer side reaction – how happy are universities/students?
Some universities (the likes of Princeton and Cornell) have already taken a stand and straight out banned the iPad on campus, due to issues with network access and connectivity. These institutions are just not prepared, the infrastructure is not efficient enough, and it probably won’t be for a couple years.
As far as students are concerned, sure there will be many takers (we saw how the iPod really took over the world), but what about essential academic work, how does the iPad score? No multi-tasking capabilities (something that’s second nature to any student working online), problems with ergonomics (having to remain hunched over while typing out a 3,000 word paper – I think not!) and readability of e-textbooks don’t bode well for the device. Coupled with this, the data costs and prices of e-textbooks (not to mention no resale value) aren’t exactly catering to the average thrifty student. Zack, a student blogger from ZDNet sums up the general sentiment quite well on his post here.
What are the industry implications…for e-learning providers, trainers and even publishers?
The biggest source of discontent on this front is clearly Apple’s rigid stance on ostracizing Flash applications from all its mobile devices. This has multi-fold implications for e-learning providers, as much of the learning content available makes creative use of Flash. Not only is the web plug-in excluded, the Apple stamp must be given to all applications, and developers are less than happy with the lock-in agreement which requires them to only use the company’s dev tools. This essentially means that a conventional e-learning provider will have to reinvent the wheel in terms of back-end technology to be able to cater to the niche Apple crowd (god forbid his client company select it for enterprise use).
Again, this may be an opportunity for a new player, and interoperable solutions for major LMS’ can be expected to evolve, but at what cost? Why lose out on the many leaps (even if they may be deemed small) in learning that have been made through the use of Flash in the last few years…whiteboards and interactive, engaging content for learners of all ages and walks of life. As this goes to print, Adobe just announced its Flash 10.1, which is all set to support touch screens, conserve battery life and take advantage of faster mobile processors, and in the process, pretty much prove Steve Jobs wrong! And of course, there are workarounds to getting Flash into Apple devices, but this is merely a reaction by the rival company. Why can’t we all just get along, especially as Apple has already professed its commitment to furthering education?
I’ve personally seen some vendors’ briefings where innovation in learning content was facilitated through Flash. So why be forced to abandon ship simply so the device company is able to earn more than a few bucks from its organized app store (take my colleague Vivek’s coverage of the publisher’s plight for example)? I would really like to hear about this from a service provider. Do innovations in technology have to come at this cost? Or this is really an opportunity to redefine mobile learning as we know it today (as Rutgers University just illustrated)?
Last 5 posts by Reetika
- Patni-iGate: I Do. Now what? - December 29th, 2010
- TiEing up Indian Higher Education - December 11th, 2010
- Why isn't the corporate learning community excited about the iPad? - September 2nd, 2010
- Top 5 University iPad initiatives - July 20th, 2010
- Do students want to take subjective assessments online? - July 5th, 2010