Flexibility as a new challenge
The number of smartphone users is on the rise, bringing increased demand for mobile websites. Sites that are not optimised for mobile devices can adversely affect the user experience, meaning visitors are less likely to return, which damages the company’s image.
The same can also be said for e-learning in a mobile context. Those who want to provide learners with content on smartphones or tablets are faced with a number of new challenges. As a developer, you have to consider the features and limitations of the mobile end devices, for example, different screen sizes, browsers and operating systems. As the available display space is small, this poses the challenge of designing applications in such a way that it is still possible to present the information in an attractive manner.
In the discussions about responsive e-learning design, the format and processing of the content is often addressed as a main problem. However, it is more than just content that contributes to the mobile learner’s user experience. The learning management system, or LMS (Totara LMS or Successfactors Learning), is equally important for managing and distributing the content. Aspects like user management, how content is displayed in catalogues or personal curricula and the learning history log are key – just like on a desktop computer.
Mobile learning: Technical requirements
In order to be able to make the best use of an LMS in a mobile context, the interface needs to be optimised for mobile devices – just like the e-learning content. What this means is that depending on the screen size, interface elements need to be adapted to the appropriate size and position. Elements that are not essential can be omitted from the mobile version if necessary.
Another point that should not be ignored is learner progress tracking. The biggest challenge in a mobile context is the availability of a stable Internet connection.. If you develop an application intended for mobile usage, you cannot assume that the user has constant access to the Internet. We will go into more detail on this topic in the coming weeks.
How mobile is the new theme? The LearnChamp test
A first version of the standard responsive theme was included with the release of Totara LMS 2.5. According to the roadmap, it is not yet fully functional and will be entirely supported in Totara LMS 2.6. The following example illustrates how it looks like:
Scenario: We accompany one of our learners run a simple application and compare how it is displayed on a mobile device (smartphone) and on a desktop computer. The learner logs into Totara LMS, opens the Responsive Web Design Basics course and participates in a survey. The screenshots show how it is displayed on a smartphone and a computer/laptop.
The version optimised for smartphones is on the right, while the desktop version is on the left. The learner logs into the system.
The learner is now on the course catelogue page. As you can see, the smartphone only displays the most essential points and is structured differently to the desktop version.
After selecting the course room, the learner sees the activities available. Like on the home page, the reduced menu is available on the right above the logo.
Just like in the desktop version, the learner can carry out the selected activity without any problems. However, you can see that the navigation block is displayed incorrectly.
Solid, with room for optimisation
According to the screenshots, one can see how Totara LMS is displayed on a mobile device. Although the functionality remains guaranteed, there is still potential for improving the display. It can be assumed that these errors will be rectified in time for the release of version 2.6, planned for 30 April. Overall, I think this version of the responsive theme makes a strong impression. All of us here at LearnChamp are looking forward to the next developments!