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GCN : March 2013
MOBILE LEARNING FEATURE 26 GCN MARCH 2013 • GCN.COM advances to enable continuous learning in the workplace. ADL both researches the need for mLearning and builds and tests prototypes of various learning sys- tems. In 2011 it conducted a study in which it found that, though mLearning was still immature in terms of its technological and pedagogical capabilities, it never- theless "demonstrated the positive im- pact of providing a mobile alternative for mandatory eLearning courses" in DOD. Also that year, ADL published the Mobile Learning Handbook, a resource guide to mobile learning basics, design, develop- ment and best practices. It's now looking to take things further by investigating what's needed to effec- tively design courses for mobile learning. In February, it began a needs analy- sis for a design-based research project called the Mobile Training Implemen- tation Framework. MoTIF is intended "to explore the intersection of multiple design and research methods in order to better understand ---and potentially influence --- how education and training professionals can best use mobile-based technology to develop training and per- formance support solutions," according to an announcement. The goal of the project is to support education and training professionals moving from eLearning to mLearning by providing a catalog of micro strat- egy examples they can use to take best advantage of mobile technology in their courses. There are some potentially significant Mobile Learning is starting to turn up on the radar of many govern- ment agencies. IT departments are receiving requests to build "an app for that" for many of the training and information-delivery applications their organization o ers. Part of a mobile app's appeal, of course, is visual, but starting by thinking about what the app should look like or do is like starting a jour- ney halfway down the road. There are so many things that need to be considered before app development can even begin. This is what Matt MacLaughlin, technology integration branch chief for the Army's Combined Arms Sup- port Command (CASCOM) Sustain- ment Center of Excellence (SCoE), has learned over the past four years. Since 2009, his team has developed 77 mobile applications, some of which have been declassified and are available on commercial venues such as Google Play. "My shop is completely di er- ent from other organizations in the Army because we are the only ones who actually have an institutional- ized process for app development," MacLaughlin said. Many divisions are now trying to follow its example, but the SCoE mobile app development process remains at the forefront. MacLaughlin's team often will help other groups with their mobile proj- ects, such as the mobile app for the Joint Electronic Library for the Joint Sta and mobile apps for the Defense Department's O ce of Wounded Warrior Care and Transition Policy. After the SCoE team held a forum for future endeavors in mobile in 2010, it seemed that everyone came to them for mobile apps. When subject matter developers come to MacLaughlin with an idea that they think should be a mobile app, the very first step he takes is to help them determine whether it needs to be a mobile app at all. Then ideas are structured and boiled down to an app design. "Because mLearning is a hot topic, everyone wants an app for everything," he said. "We need to determine whether it even needs an app, or whether it could be better served with a Power Point presenta- tion, for example." Only after they have decided that they really do need an app for that does the design and develop- ment process begin. MacLaughlin's development team consists of three employees who, in addition to himself, develop the apps. One is an Apple iOS expert while another works pri- marily on Android, BlackBerry and Windows platforms. The third is well-versed in HTML 5, which can be used to bridge across any of the platforms. And MacLaughlin helps out where the workload happens to be largest at the moment. What is sometimes the more strenuous portion of app devel- opment is having it reviewed by CASCOM's app approval board. The board comprises personnel from the o ces of the Judge Advocate General, Chief Information O cer/G-6, Public A airs, and CASCOM O ce Records Manager, in addition to MacLaughlin and one or more of his team. They all sit around the (sometimes virtual) table and determine whether an app can go out to the mobile mar- ketplace. Although there is some concern about what the app can do and who it can help, the main focus of discussion is on what information it has access to. If it satisfies all legal and national security concerns, it is approved either for use by the public or solely by Army personnel. SCoE's mobile app development is putting out more mLearning apps all the time, but MacLaughlin doesn't foresee this taking the place of all other forms of training. "It will always depend upon subject matter and need," he said. "While many people think their mission specialty should be taught on a mobile device, there are many who think it shouldn't. The sweet spot' for mLearning will be when a user needs access to information before a classroom training session, and re-access of information to keep up with current training." Also, a consideration for mLearning is the same as for any other method of training --- how it maintains rel- evance over time. "You need to do your best to determine whether it is going to be used like seven years down the road," MacLaughlin said. "Then will you be able to assess whether it is worth the development/ approval e ort." --- Greg Crowe MOBILE LEARNING THE ARMY WAY