"So all we need to do is build an app and share it?"

Four children sitting around a table, interacting with an iPad

One of the challenges I have found in supporting e-learning projects is to figure out how to get them to complete and at the same time how to get the best shareable benefits for future e-learning activities. Projects done for the former Framework or the current VET E-learning Strategy are required to return and share their outcomes. This is so that other training providers can benefit from their findings and/or content and to save the wheel from continually being reinvented.

At the end of the recent induction morning for the E-learning for Participation and Skills funding, one of the participants comes to me with a question. He is a techie and good at his job and his question is “So all we need to do is build an app and share it?” He wants to make sure he meets all the project outcomes requirements. I said yes, but I now realise this answer needs qualification.

Sometimes apps get built that are organisation specific, in that they are integrated to the organisation’s student management system or LMS. When it comes to the end of the project the shareable app may exist but only in a form that integrates only with their system. They can make the code available but it has to be reworked and as such may not be all that helpful to other organisations. They may as well start again. (This is a similar issue to LMS outputs in a packaged form that can be shared vs. in the form of a whole course, as a sophisticated design does not easily package.)

For mobile projects it brings up the issue of designing for mobile: should organisations create an organisational-based app on which all their other apps are custom built, providing easy access and functionality, or should they customise generic apps that anyone can use and that do not reference any database or LMS of the original creator?

On one hand, the latter is better in terms of shareable project outcomes. On the other hand, the former is better for model development outcomes where the benefit is the story of how they went about embedding the new e-learning development activity. I am not saying either is better – in the past I think we have gotten too caught up in sharing content which leads to some of the shareability problems – when in fact the best outcome is the sharing of the development model in the context of their organisation. What matters is that projects need a clear goal at the start as to what they are offering and delivering.

Delivering both shareable content and learnings is rare. Usually project teams, often new to e-learning or fixed in old ways of thinking, can only deliver either a poorly developed learning resource or a model report. The best win-win for project outcomes is when a team delivers a learning resource (ie. a packaged learning object or generic app) that is highly shareable (rather than just technically shareable) and facillates sharing of the organisational model developed in the process.

Photo: NASA Visualization Explorer (iPad app), by NASA Goddard Photo and Video on flickr.

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