LMS & Desktop Infrastructure Challenges
As we look to mLearning, we cannot ignore the two elephants in the room, one of them being the massive investments that companies have made in their Learning Management Systems and the second one being those pesky desktops. Unless the LMS providers enable efficient, secure, and well thought-out mobile access to the content or catalogs and unless we can address the existing desktop orientation for eLearning, large-scale mLearning adoption is squelched.
Recognizing this, LMS vendors lately have been adding mobile access features, which is fine for new LMS implementations. However, we know many organizations are either behind or way behind in the LMS upgrade path and simply have no way to let users login to the LMS via their mobile device.
It is understandable why organizations fall behind in their LMS upgrades. In one sample case, a customer of ours started to do an LMS upgrade but the new LMS version required a database upgrade. Upon investigation, the database upgrade required a hardware upgrade. Needless to say, this is quite a long and costly process for them and is certainly delaying mLearning support.
LMS technology aside, many organizations require a VPN access to their infrastructure. In this case, depending on the mobile device being used and its ability to connect, it either does not work (e.g. the devices does not support VPN access) or is very cumbersome. In either case, issues from minimal LMS support to simple connectivity matters inhibit mLearning.
Point: If you can’t get to or launch the content from your mobile device, mLearning is stifled.
What about desktops?
Most of the organizations we work with are budget conscious and are searching for ways to reduce expenses. The notion of implementing a “net new” learning delivery technology (e.g. mobile) that does not work in the desktop environment is a no-go. The simple fact is that Mobile Learning is/will be held back if it requires organizations to double or triple their content development efforts.
Why won’t a mobile course work on the desktop? Consider that, as of this post, Internet Explorer 6, 7, and 8 has about 35% of the desktop market share and that these versions of IE basically do not support HTML5 (the language used for building mobile ready courses). Given this, even a simple mobile course that has a video on it just won’t work on the desktop that uses IE 6, 7, or 8.
Browser Market share
Adding to this issue, we face the reality that moving beyond IE8 requires a move to the Windows 7 Operating System, and there is no indication that Microsoft is going to “back port” HTML5 support to XP-based machines. Currently, XP has 47% of the desktop market share, meaning that until organizations make significant inroads into changing their operating systems, mobile will be hampered unless it has a desktop component.
Desktop Market share:
Compounding this desktop dilemma, most mobile solutions out there have people creating content using “device templates”. Using this device template approach, authors build content using fixed screen sizes (e.g. “size your buttons for use on a phone”) for the learning. So, even if the course somehow dodges the IE/HTML5 issue, who wants to take a 300×240 course on a 1680×1150 screen?
Enabling a “new learning modality” such as mobile learning is great, but for large scale or enterprise deployment, failure to address the realities of the desktop world certainly inhibits embracing a new paradigm.
While CourseAvenue cannot upgrade people’s current LMS’s, desktop operating, or dictate a specific corporate standard for a browser, we can help by providing a “light LMS” for mobile delivery and, most importantly, for the ability to publish one course that will support both desktop and mobile browsers simultaneously.
We cannot ignore the existence of the LMS and desktop orientation. Therefore, to capitalize on mLearning, we need to accommodate it on all devices.