Recently, students have begun using mobile devices to complete online courses. In some cases, this trend has emerged as an alternate means of remote learning for students without internet. In other cases, though, students prefer using mobile devices, rather than laptops or desktop computers, for online learning.
In fact, a 2019 study found that 56% of online college students use a smartphone or tablet to complete course-related activities. Among the most likely to use or want to use mobile technology in education are either graduate students or younger students who have grown up using digital devices in every aspect of life.
As instructors are thinking about digital innovation in education, it will become increasingly important to create a mobile-friendly learning experience for online students.
Why Students Prefer Mobile
For educators accustomed to more traditional classrooms, it may be difficult to imagine why students would prefer mobile learning. For many students, a key reason is convenience. Mobile devices can be used in situations where laptops and desktop computers cannot.
The need for convenience is especially relevant for graduate students who are typically balancing work and personal responsibilities alongside coursework. These students require the flexibility of completing tasks on a mobile device while dividing their attention between work and/or family needs.
Students are especially likely to use mobile devices for quick tasks such as:
- Checking grades
- Verifying assignment due dates
- Reviewing course schedules
- Communicating with professors and students
Though these are the most common uses overall, they may not be the most common for your students. Survey your students to understand what devices they are using and how they are using them. The information they provide can help you develop your mobile-friendly online courses.
If your students only use mobile devices for the above tasks, you have a great foundation for a mobile-friendly online experience. Crowdmark makes it easy for students to check grades and assignment due dates. Also, most LMSs allow students to review course schedules and communicate with the class.
Creating a Mobile-Friendly Online Course
Once the foundation is established, you will be able to focus on creating a mobile-friendly course. Wiley and eLearning Industry have some recommendations for adapting online classrooms for mobile learning.
Simplifying the User Experience
When a course is not designed with mobile users in mind, students can have difficulty using mobile devices for online learning.
Smaller screens and limited typing options mean that mobile students may struggle to navigate online classes. Whitespace and easy touch-navigation are vital for successful mobile learning. As you design a course, think about how close together course material links and buttons are. Also, be sure to test the look and feel of the mobile experience before pushing it live.
Another consideration is file sizes. Mobile devices load slower and have limited space and data for downloads. Use small file sizes to reduce load times and data usage for mobile students. Communicating file types and sizes will further assist students in planning their mobile device usage.
Designing Courses for Optimal Mobile Learning
Course design is integral in optimizing an online course for mobile learning. Luckily, best practices for online courses align well with those for mobile-friendly courses because both aim to reduce the likelihood of cognitive overload.
For instance, modular class design chunks lessons to help students absorb information easier. Whether students are on a tablet or a desktop computer, they will benefit from having course material that is broken into logical groupings of equal sizes.
Similarly, focusing each module on a single student learning outcome will assist students in absorbing material even when they are using mobile devices in an environment with multiple distractions.
Using Tools that Complement Mobile Devices
Using mobile-compatible and complementary tools are a basic, but essential, contributor to successful mobile learning.
PDFs are commonly accessible on mobile devices, whereas file types like .docx and .pptx are not. Consider compatibility when selecting software to create course materials. Offer content on platforms such as Google or Vimeo, that are designed for sharing content. Mobile-optimized platforms enable students to access materials without having to switch devices.
Using Crowdmark to grade assessments will also help. Our grading and assessment platform allows students to easily complete and submit assessments, whether on a mobile device or a more traditional computer.
As educational technology for teaching and learning evolves and digital innovation in education progresses, educators must begin to consider the needs of students who prefer mobile learning.
Although building a mobile-first online course can be challenging, creating a mobile-friendly online course can bridge the gap for online learners who learn via mobile device.
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