As I write on my iPad, thoughts swirl abound. With all these vendors talking about their solution and its capabilities on mobile devices, it should be easy to find an app for that.

Regardless if the vendor is m-learning specific, content authoring tool, LMS, web conferencing or a hybrid.  It shouldn’t matter.

If your telling me your solution is mobile ready, then all I should need to do is go iTunes or Android and find your app.  Simple, right?

Ahh, here’s the rub. It isn’t.

LMSs

Nowadays more and more vendors (thankfully) are seeing the benefit of mobile devices. While many still are stuck in the smartphone first approach, there are those who support tablets too.

Thus they can advertise they offer mobile learning. Perhaps they even have a mobile learning feature within their system. Even better.

So, if is the case, why can’t I find your app? Oh, right, you don’t have one.  There is actually a vendor who has a mobile app available on iTunes, Upside Learning.  Sure, it is for their specific mobile learning platform (and I’m glad they do it), but they have one.  They offer other apps too, but you have to visit their site.

emTrain? Yep, an app. But wait, it is only tells me about the latest news from them, which is great to know, since when I think LMSs – I think news!

Element K? Yep, an app. But if you can’t recall your activation code, well, then it is about as wonderful as the EmTrain app – worthless.

SumTotal? Yes, they have an app. It works for their Total LMS (Enterprise) and for their Geo Learning Maestro.

Blackboard Learn? Yes, an app.

That’s it. Nobody else in this side of the plate has an app. We are talking 338 LMSs in the worldwide marketplace (commercial systems) and 4 have an app you can download on the iTunes store to use with their product – sorry emTrain yours doesn’t count.

The #1 selling tablet in the world, iPad and its new iPad2 and there are 4 vendors.

Trust me, there are more than that, that identify their solution as working on the iPad, let alone on a smartphone such as an iPhone.

Outstart, who purchased Hot Lava, a mobile learning company, and who advertises in large size on their web site about mobile learning, doesn’t have an app. They are happy to tell you however, that their product works with over 500 different devices.

Content Authoring Tools

Zero.  Rapid Intake is still in beta testing for the app, but as of right now, the total number of vendors is Zero.

Wait, you have a SaaS based version, so I can be anywhere and work on it. Uh, oh. I can’t get Internet access at the airport or at my hotel, it went down. No worries, I have all night to scream and thank you for making my night a living hell.

Despite what the RCAT vendors might think, not everyone has a laptop or desktop.

Mobile Learning Tools

  • iPad/iPad2 – 24 apps, of which 3 are companies with some form of a platform – CellCast, vMobiLearn
  • iPhone – 73 apps, and StudyWiz mobile elocker as the only one I saw that had a platform tied to it

Quiz Assessment Tools

If you type in Quiz, or Assessment – you get a whopping ZERO for the iPad.  If you type in “test” you see 972 apps, for the iPhone – 5,060 apps.

This is wonderful, but who is going to spend that much time trying to find your app.  If you are a quiz assessment tool or solution, then you should be listed under quiz or assessment. Or quiz assessment.

Questionmark has an iPad and iPhone app, but for whatever reason, if you type in “quiz” or “assessment”, they do not show up.

Web Conferencing

Ahh. Here is where you expect the numbers to really shoot up. I mean, virtually all new tablets hitting the market these days, has a camera and a vid/web cam.  Better yet, even without the cam, you can still hear audio on tablets and see a web chat room, with your net access.

This is why, only 4 vendors offer an iPad or iPhone app for download.

iPad/iPad 2 Vendors

  • WebEx
  • Saba Centra
  • GoToMeeting
  • Netviewer Meet Mobile

iPhone

  • WebEx
  • Adobe Connect
  • Fuze
  • Leader Technologies – Audio Conferencing
  • Arkadin Mobile – Audio Conferencing
  • Netviewer

When you search with “conferencing”, 14 apps for the iPad, of which 4 are utility or productivity apps.

  • iPhone – new ones include Free Conferencing, BT Engage Meeting & Conference Plus

So where is everyone else?  Android? Uh, not likely.

I feel bad for those folks who are going with a Windows7, Palm or RIM OS and need apps. If they are rare, like finding a T-Rex fossil in your backyard, you are out of luck.

How Do We Solve it?

The way to solve this issue for m-learning tools, systems, etc., is realize that people who are using tablets and smartphones for that matter, use apps. They prefer it.

What they do not prefer is just clicking on their browser and surfing to your site, to enjoy their mobile experience.

But what about cost?

iPad and iPhone apps, and other mobile device apps can run the gambit, it depends on the complexity, features, capabilities and development overall. That said:

  • YouTube, Mashable and other sites provide guides and how-to, to create your own. You download the SDK development kit and build – the only cost you pay is the developer costs – around $10o to have it in the Apple store.  For other OS tablet systems, such as Android, you download a SDK for it, create it and pay nominal costs
  • There are sites online that will enable you to create an app for free. They are extremely basic, and no pizazz but they do exist
  • Companies in the market will create it for you. The complexity level varies, and so do costs. The range for these vendors are from $99 to over $5,000, and in some cases higher. However for a small size vendor, you can have an app for less than $700 and that includes a 3 year contract and unlimited users (and honestly, not bad looking either, although not to the level of some intense complex apps)
  • You can hire a developer or a company for very complex apps; pricing at the end of the day can go as high as +250K

There are a lot of apps out there

Now that you have your app, time to awaken to reality.  Not everyone knows who you are, so they are not going to search by your name.

If I am going to use web conferencing the first time, I am not going to whack my head and say, “GoToMeeting”.  Rather, I am going to type in the keyword “web conferencing” and see what pulls up.

  • Keywords – #1 priority for any vendor. Just as keywords are important in search engines and some social media to find you, so are they for mobile devices.  When I typed in “mobile learning”, there were products listed above that did not appear. Nor even when I typed in “elearning or e-learning”.
  • Categories – where does your app fit? Education? Business? Productivity? – If you capture screens and can record them – productivity.  If you are a LMS vendor – business, unless your target market is education/academia – then education.

The same can be said for any solution that can be seen on a mobile device. Because the people looking may not search by keywords initially, rather they will search by category.  If you are not selling in the education market, why would you want to put your app under that category? I know if I am looking for an app for the B2B or B2C market for mobile learners, I am not going to search through education.

  • Have a native app – this is a huge problem with mobile learning vendors

When they offer their solution, they will say it works on a tablet, say the iPad. If they do not have an app specific for the iPad, they will use the app for the iPhone for the iPad.

What’s the big deal? Well, if you are not using a native app for the iPad/iPad2, then your solution can not utilize the features of the device. You cannot switch between Portrait & Landscape. You cannot, expand or decrease the size of the text, and so on.

What you get is the “smartphone” version, which really fails to offer the power of tablets and those capabilities. For example, you can create “HD” apps for the iPad. You can’t for the iPhone.

  • Enable offline/online synch – (exception web conferencing products)

Bottom Line

Mobile learning is the fastest growing area within e-learning. It is leaving social learning in the dust.

It is mobile aka on-the-go.

It is everywhere. Unless you are one of the many vendors in this space, who see it as a stationary experience.

In that case, grab your extension cord because you are going to need it.

E-Learning 24/7