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We know that students are accessing instructional content online more than ever before, but most recently; the mobile learning trend is also becoming common. For many instructors it is still a challenge to provide online content that is also readily accessible through mobile devices. For Moodle users, for example, the challenge is lessened by installing the MLE-Moodle plug-in component which allows instructors to make lessons, self-assessments/quizzes, surveys, forums, wikis and other mobile learning objects available to students with very little effort. To most of us, who depend on a specific course management system to deliver content to students, contrary to common belief, our options are not limited and the “connected anywhere” trend should not surprise or scare us. We should be glad to have many options to deliver our instructional content, and that these options allow us to deliver content and expect dynamic interaction from our students. The “Semantic Web” has certainly opened the doors to facilitate “user-led” media consumption and the students’ need to produce and create content that enhances their learning. This is a very exciting opportunity for instructors as we have now in our hands the mechanisms that will assist students in the enrichment of their own learning as they practice retrieval methods of important learning material. All we have to do is find the right tools that will do the job well and introduce those tools to our students.
The flexibility, portability and relative ease of use of some of the tools available for producing online mobile learning content are important to note; however, the design of the content for mobile consumption is much more important to talk about. I have been recently looking at Mobl21, a product from Emantras, a company that specializes in e-learning content development for fortune 500 companies and leading higher education textbook companies, such as Cengage, Mc Graw Hill and Pearson Education. The most interesting aspect of the usage of this mobile delivery technology is not the technology itself, but the model used for delivery. The idea is that instructors will only deliver context accompaniment and “smaller nuggets of learning consumption” to support the user-led environment so inherent in mobile learning consumption. After reviewing their product, I decided not to mention the technology itself because I did not see it as important as the idea of content presentation model for students in mobile environments; which is really what mobl21 is doing well: simple learning asset delivery to mobile with just-in-time, user-led access anywhere.
To bring more power to the evolution of e-textbooks availability to students, Aplia is one of the most notable tools in the market. Aplia is an integrated online interactive textbook assignment application from CENGAGE Learning. Within the tool, students access their digital textbook along with interactive learning exercises that, at the instructor’s discretion, can be graded assignments, or simply practice homework. According to Aplia’s website, the company supports more than 1 million students at over 1,300 institutions on disciplines such as business statistics, business communication, accounting, and economics.
The power of Aplia as an interactive e-textbook homework tool is its capability to keep students engaged with chapter specific textbook assignments, and providing instant feedback mechanism that students can appreciate. The Aplia interface is minimalistic and effective. Digital textbook pages are published as FlashPaper and are easy to read. When a concept needs to be reviewed further, a student also has the option to review the material in a very interactive manner. The interactive assignments often offer options to review the e-textbook material as short interactive tutorials for challenging content.
Distance learning can be isolating. At least this is what I hear from students who choose to take on the challenge of an online class. As an instructor, you can use a variety of tools to connect with your students online and some tools allow features to be a little more personable than others and some are definitely more flexible than others and more accessible. I believe it is a matter of preference.
To connect with students and encourage students to connect with each other, a distance instructor can use TokBox. This is a free service that allows you to embed a video “chatbox” anywhere and send personable messages. Office hours for an online instructor don’t have to be just plain old text chat or even launching a web conference tool and sit there by yourself for a period of time waiting for someone to “enter the room”. If you are connected to your personal online messenger, chances are that TokBox can detect that you are online and you can make yourself available for a video chat. Paired with SlideShare, TokBox can serve as a fast way to view a slideshare presentation or document and collaborate without having to install a chat client and using your preferred messaging client: AIM, GTalk, Yahoo or MSN messenger. For instructors utilizing online photo repositories such as flickr and Picasa, TokBox allows sharing these applications right inside of your personal video web conference call.
For the technically inclined, TokBox also offers an API (Application Programming Interface) with specific calls and routine references to apply the TokBox video chat into any custom web application. Certainly the use of TokBox is geared to get quick response and collaboration with video chat and messaging and nothing more. With a limit of 20 users per personal conference call and its document sharing limitations, it is not a web conferencing tool robust enough or comparable to enterprise tools such as Adobe Connect or Elluminate Live. TokBox catches my attention for instruction and I can see some convenient use of it. Can you see the possibilities?