Digital proposal and design specialist, Michelle Wolfswinkel, explains the shift to mobile-first in online learning at Stellenbosch Business School Executive Development (SBS-ED).
With the boom in the digital arena, the increased demand for online learning and the consumption of online content over the last few years, business schools and learning providers have faced the challenge of rapidly transforming and accelerating the migration of learning solutions to the virtual learning world. What does it mean to be “mobile-first”?
“Mobile-first” is essentially a technical term that describes the way in which online content is formatted to respond to the device that is accessing and engaging with it (i.e. desktop computer, laptop, tablet or mobile phone). It is trending globally. Research reveals steadily increasing mobile phone penetration rates, higher demand for exclusively mobile learning content, and impressive mobile learner satisfaction and experience ratings. Being “mobile-first” is a direct driver of responsiveness. At SBS-ED, digitally-enabled learning happens in synchronous, remote learning sessions on Zoom or MS Teams, asynchronous self-paced online courses, or a combination of these in a blended/hybrid solution. All participants, regardless of the course or programme, are required to access and engage online via our learner management system hosted on Moodle. As such, in the modality of online learning, mobile phone user interfaces are urged to be prioritised during the design, development, and deployment of online learning. Indeed, South Africa and other African countries are taking note that the online learning mobile-first race is actually being led by India, China, and Malaysia – all developing countries that may be considered less tech-savvy and less likely to need or want mobile, online learning.
Is Stellenbosch Business School Executive Development mobile-first?
Until recently, it was assumed that the mobile learning experience might not be at the forefront for us. It was thought that participants mainly engaged with our online learning platform via desktop computers or laptops. However, when tested, it was shown that more than 70% of all user interactions with our learning platform in 2022 took place via a mobile device. Hence the need to prioritise being mobile first!
Embracing mobile, first!
As the mobile-first paradigm is embraced by SBS-ED, two major changes are at the forefront.
- Designing learning content for mobile
Learning content needs to be packaged in shorter bits, with tables and columns removed, and figures and graphs adapted. This ensures an easy, straightforward viewing/learning experience on mobile interfaces. Wordy learning content that requires deep scrolling and runs across various columns is simply not practical on mobile devices. Videos embedded in course content, resources that are expandable inside course content, and quiz formatting also need to be avoided, while changes such as mobile-friendly viewing in separate tabs and wider access options like downloads to suit mobile users need to be implemented.
2. Mobile-friendly menu and navigation options
A cleaner look and feel for the learning platform, with tiles that allow seamless mobile selection and navigation enhances the learning experience better on mobile devices. Mobile-friendly hamburger menus, minimal horizontal scrolling, and prominent navigation buttons that are easily tapped on a phone screen are included in this.
Cleaner, new look online learning platform on Moodle
This differs from the desktop experience, which typically offers more horizontal space for menu sidebars alongside learning content, with navigation buttons embedded therein.
Mobile user experience is now the most crucial matter in online learning design and development for Stellenbosch Business School Executive Development. We look forward to implementing and improving these changes to optimise our online learning experience!
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