mlearn project

Charles Sturt University's Mobile Learning Project

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The First Meeting

The steering committee for the project met this morning for the first time! It’s a significant milestone that marks the starting point of the project. Amongst the usual business we were able to quickly settle on a name for the project to help define differentiate the project – so we are the mLearn Project! This blog will be updated regularly to track our progress and let everyone know what’s going on – so check back regularly!


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User Experience 101

User Experience (UX) is the foundation of developing any user facing system, application, website – it is designing for the User. It’s vital to have a good understanding of UX before embarking on development work. Nick Finck’s presentation The Ten Commandments of User Experience is a great starting point. I love the 10 commandments he’s put together:

  1.  The User is always right – You are not the user and neither is your boss!
  2. Understand the User
  3. Avoid Solutioneering – identify and fully understand problems before finding a solution
  4. Form follows Function
  5. Content is King
  6. Innovate, don’t Imitate
  7. Access is for Everyone
  8. Plan before you Design
  9. Understand the Goal
  10. Learn from Failure

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Mobile Context

A lot has been said and written about mobile context. What is mobile context and Is it an actual real thing?

Mobile context is simple – it’s everything, everywhere, all the time. 

When you put it like that it was easy! But what does it mean? Well, there is no single mobile context. Mobile devices range from phones and tablets through to eReaders (yes, someone can actually view your work in 256 shades of grey! Take that marketing!). Mobile connections come in a range of forms, from broadband and WiFi through the spectrum of 4G, 3G, 2G, CDMA and even no connection at all. It’s about sensors and device capabilities. It’s about browsers and supported standards. Libraries and gestures. Touch and type.

Mobile context is whatever the user has access to in any given situation.

Designing for mobile requires you to study your users. Watching what, how, where and when they do things. Learning from them and adapting and modifying your design, your product and your systems. You need to learn their tools and their processes.

Assuming information about your users can lead you to make common mistakes. Here’s some things to consider about mobile:

  • The majority of use happens at home – especially during other activities like TV.
  • The number one manufacturer of cameras in the world in 2010 was Nokia.
  • 23% of Kenya’s GDP sent through mobile banking in 2010.

Find more about context – and how we tend to get it wrong:

Jason Grigsby’s  presentation Casting of Our Desktop Shackles and Yiibu’s It’s about people, not devices…

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Designing for Users

It’s important to design for your users. So some things to consider:

  • Don’t add layers of complexity. What’s better than labels? No labels, for example clear salt and pepper shakers.
  • Up front instruction manuals make things feel more complex than they really are. A manual should be a reference not the primary way to learn to use something.
  • Being told how to do something takes a lot of the joy out of using it. You learn to interact with the world through trial and effort.
  • Trial and error is a tool. Use it to see how approachable your interfaces are.
  • Don’t patronise or dumb down functions for the user, but be patient with people as they come to terms with how to interact with your app.
  • Ease users in one element at a time, starting small then build up over time.
  • The best time to learn a skill is when you need it. Users don’t need to know everything up front, but they do need to

This list is based on Luke Wroblewski’s report on Josh Clark’s presentation Buttons are a Hack from at Breaking Development in Nashville.

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Responsive Design

Responsive Design relates to the creation of adaptable content and layout systems that can respond to different technology circumstance – different browsers, screen sizes etc.

Pragmatic Responsive Design – from yiibu – A great presentation that is part case study, part lessons learned and part future-thinking.

Pragmatic responsive design

View more presentations from yiibu

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Assembling Some Guides

As part of this project I really want to build on existing knowledge, experience and projects. While what we are attempting is new at CSU and in a lot of higher education providers, we’re not the only pioneers forging into new territory. Part of the learning process is picking up information that helps to guide and inform our work, decisions and practices. There’s a wealth of knowledge out there already, so let’s gather it, learn from it and use it. In essence we can create a guide for others that come after us, who can learn from us. So I’m creating a Guides category to the blog which will be something that we create and assemble over time. You can access these guides from the main navigation or from the categories menu. We’ll update these as we go along. 

Feel free to comment on these and expand our learning network and shared experiences!