My iPad is drowning in interaction…

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A little while ago I was asked to consult on a learning solution. I’d been brought in to the middle of the sales process and negotiations between the eLearning vendor and the client. What was positioned to me was this:

  1. The customer is releasing a suite of training, the first module of which really needs polish… they need bells and whistles, they need learners to open their eyes, appreciate the investment in training (in them) and be waiting for the next instalment.
  2. It’s about 15 screens with no assessment.
  3. It’ll need a big opening animation which the client can use for other purposes too – good collateral for face-to-face presentations etc…
  4. It needs to be both PC, MAC and tablet friendly – no need to design for mobile.
  5. They’ll be signing up for the ‘Gold’ level of interactivity, so lots of animations and other media – think video, audio, the whole kit and caboodle.
  6. It will be SCORM 1.2 compliant, running from their Learning Management System (LMS).
  7. Time’s an issue, we have about a month to design and build it, but content should be reasonable – a short handbook, about 30 pages (a little culling necessary).

I was being asked – ‘what do you think? If we worked with your company to do the production, can we get all this done for $XX.XX in such and such a time’. Do you see anything wrong with this scenario? It’s not really an uncommon conversation in the vendor land; where a solution is proposed and THEN midway through the negotiation it’s actually consulted upon with a production and capable learning design team.

My answer was, ‘yes, we can get it done for $X – but why would we want to? Your customer will not have the right product?’

The problems I saw were that the Internet speed enjoyed on Australian wireless networks for iPad; particularly when running through enterprise LMSs, is generally abysmal. Why aim to deploy the full ‘bells and whistles’ from a media and interactivity perspective on an iPad, particularly with the timeframes? Who cares that the client is happy to pay for all this, it’s completely the wrong solution as they will have a lot of internet drop outs, raising help desk calls to their LMS admin; they will have long load times and simply very poor user experience. Certainly make it graphically rich, in fact, exploit the iPad’s shockingly beautiful retina display capabilities. Focus on creative writing, flair and great learning design – but not complex interactions – it’s only 15 screens!

In my opinion, and as of 2013, high-end multi-media learning solutions are NOT worth the effort on mobile devices when user experience will be poor due to Internet speeds (let’s hope the NBN and/or other solutions really improve this). The client needs this information to make an informed decision. In this example, it was a lazy solution that really was just finding a way to spend budget. But because it will not work well, it’s worse. Vendors can show customers great value in their instructional design and graphic input. If a vendor knows the customer’s budget, of course, spend it, the customer probably wants to use it and has a valid reason to… ‘we really want to impress our learners, we want some WOW, and we’re ready to invest’. But choose the right way to spend for the right solution; not the stock standard – ‘more money means more interaction’. eLearning vendors should be able to show the value of spending more on ID, writing a very creative and engaging course that doesn’t need so much media input; and swap this for extra investment in graphics and a special richness to the visual presentation (which will look even better on tablets).

The Learning Hook has been working on lots of tablet friendly solutions for a while now and from user experience to date – KISS is still king – particularly with the tablet.

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