Saturday, January 05, 2013

2013 the Year of Responsive Elearning Design

My big prediction from a technology standpoint this year is responsive elearning design.

In 2012 PC sales fell for the first time as we move into a multi-device world. Over 100m people are forecast to buy tablets this year and there is a growing array to choose from including the iPad, Kindle Fire, Microsoft Surface and many others. Increasingly people also access the internet from their smartphones. In simple terms we now have to deliver elearning content to all devices.

Apps or Web Browser Solutions?

Whilst Apps may seem a solution the reality is that only a web browser solution will work across the increasingly wide range of devices. Mashable recently reported that in December 2012 it was accessed from 2,500 different devices.  You could build different apps to reach a large number of devices but not all of them.

There is also increasing evidence that users prefer to read news via a web browser than than an app, see the Pew Research Center research that shows that 60% of tablet users prefer reading the news on the a web browser rather than via an app.

Responsive (and Adaptive) Elearning Design

The obvious solution is to build one version which works across all devices by responding and adapting.

In essence a responsive elearning design uses "media queries" to establish what resolution of device is being used. The content is then sized appropriately by using flexible images and fluid grids. The layout can change for example from three columns, to two columns, or to a single column of content for a smartphone. You can also decide what content and interactions to show on the different devices. Thus you can decide to only show some content and interactions on larger or smaller screens.

You can also detect the type of device and change the behavior of the elearning content accordingly. On touch devices, for example, you can enable swiping between screens.  Detecting and using different device functionalities can be referred to as "adaptive design."

The benefits are obvious and is why responsive elearning will explode in 2013. You build content once, and it works seamlessly across thousands of different screens.