Responsive eLearning

Responsive eLearning Is a Must-have, Not Just Nice-to-have

by Cammy Bean

FEBRUARY 23, 2015

Feature

“Just because you’re designing with a new page layout and paradigm in mind doesn’t mean that you can forget all that you know about instructional design. We’re not looking to simply throw content onto a scrolling screen and see what sticks. Take the time to create well-structured content that follows a solid learning model, maps your instructional strategies back to desired performance outcomes, and provides a user experience that people will actually want to work through.”

It’s a fact: we live in a multi-device world. I’m currently sitting at a desk with my laptop open, my phone next to me, and a tablet within reach on the counter. What about you? How many devices do you have going at this very moment? Chances are it’s more than one.

I might start an online transaction by looking up a product review on my phone. Then I might switch over to my tablet or laptop to find out more info and make the purchase.

Maybe you start reading an article on your laptop and then move over to your tablet for a cozy-up on the couch with a cup of coffee. If you’ve got your browser set up to sync on both your devices, your tablet will even have the article bookmarked for you, ready to read.

Sequential screening—when you start an activity on one device and then move along to another—is the new status quo. We unconsciously make the transition from device to device in our personal lives; increasingly, we have these same expectations for interacting with our work environments. With more and more organizations opening up to a “bring your own device” (BYOD) model, we no longer have the luxury of designing our eLearning and training content for one device and one device only. (Recent research indicates that 74% of organizations have either already adopted a BYOD policy or are planning to allow employees to bring their own devices to work.)

The new multi-device world order is here, and it means you need to build and design content that will work on almost any device. This means you need to rethink that fancy slide-based eLearning show that was designed for a desktop and became unusable when viewed on a small tablet. It’s now a dinosaur, relegated to the forgotten corners of your LMS.

This is where the word “responsive” comes into the room, stands up, and makes itself known. Let me take a moment to give you some really simple definitions of “responsive” and “multi-device learning,” and then I’ll share a few tips for designing with this new framework in mind.

What is this word “responsive?”

Responsive website design is the current darling of the web world and for good reason. Essentially, it means that content will respond to the screen size it detects. So, if you’re looking at, say, bostonglobe.com on a desktop or a mobile phone, the content will automatically detect your screen size and adjust what you see. You can try this on a desktop—open a website in a browser and drag the browser size down. If content adjusts as you go, then it’s a responsive site.

You can even tag content on a responsive site—this means that designers can hide certain images and text strings on small phones and tablets, …

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