Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Mobile enabling e-learning solutions

Introduction. Education systems have evolved over a period of time starting from the traditional class room based systems to Distance education systems to where we are today. The inability of the working elite, to attend class room based sessions generated the need for distance education. Technology has come a long way and has added great amount of value in the success of distance education. The growth and reach of technology to the common man has been so enormous that, today, e-Learning has become a part and parcel of each and every distance education working model. 
Convenience and technology being the prime drivers in the evolution of education systems, the next obvious step is to recognize the amount of convenience provided by smart phones and the rapid technological advances which are working wonders on the smart phones. Considering the fact that the number of mobile phones has already overtaken the number of personal computers, it is a matter of time before smart phones repeat the same. And it makes all the sense for the e-Learning industry to extend their solutions to get into the m-Learning mode. This article delves into the growth trends of both e-Learning, smart phones, the shortcomings of the e-Learning mode and how m-Learning fills the gap. Apart from the same, the article also covers a high level overview on the readiness check that the e-Learning solution providers need to perform to ensure that they are ready for the m-Learning revolution and how Endeavour could help them in their journey.
Growth of e-Learning. A report from Ambient Insight claims that the demand for e-Learning is growing by a five-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 12.8% and revenues will reach $49.6 billion by 2014. North America will remain as the biggest market. The growth rates in Asia are astounding as well. The compound annual growth rate in Asia is a very healthy 33.5%.By 2014, Asia(which includes Australia and New Zealand in this report) would overtake Western Europe to become the second largest market after North America.

Shortcomings of e-Learning. As detailed earlier, convenience and technology have been the prime drivers of the evolution of educational system. Looking at the current trends on convenience, e-Learning has its own shortcomings when it comes to catering to people on the move. Consumers are bound to a specific location as they have to depend on a Personal Computer with Internet connectivity and the dependent resources. Though laptops seem to bridge the gap, they have their own shortcomings, as one need to go through the hassles of opening a laptop, power on or booting time, ensuring connectivity, limited battery capacity, space and comfort levels while travelling to name a few.   
How Smartphone fills the gap? On the contrary the Smartphone fills the gap perfectly, where the consumer can access the content anytime and anywhere as long as they have network connectivity, making the learning solution truly mobile.  The Smartphone proliferation and its penetration in the society have grown leaps and bounds over a few years and the future growth trends are amazing. These facts obviously make m-Learning as the next step in the evolution of the educational system. The statistics on the growth rate of mobiles and mobile internet from Tomi T Ahonen, depicted in Fig 1. , stand a proof for the same.

Figure 1: Growth of Mobile devices and the Mobile Internet
What does it take to mobile enable an e-Learning solution? Having established the fact that, m-Learning is the way forward, let’s take a look at what it takes to extend the existing e-Learning Solutions to the mobile devices. At a high level the Solution architecture is the key and if the solution has been architected with SOA (Service Oriented Architecture) as the base, things become easier, as the extension to the mobile devices is the only missing link. However, the other solution elements also need to be studied in detail as we get into the finer details of mobilizing any e-Learning solution.
Here again the mobile extension can be either web based or a native application can be built, depending upon the type of the e-Learning solution. Native mobile applications are applications which reside on the mobile device and interact with the server side components for the data. Mobile websites are nothing but enabling the existing websites to work on the mobile. To provide some more clarity, websites do not work the same way as it works on a Personal Computer, when it is accessed from a mobile. So essentially there is an effort involved in mobile enabling a website and this effort depends upon the complexity of the website and the technology involved.
How can Endeavour help? Endeavour Software Technologies can help you perform a detailed assessment of your existing solution and can come up with the cost and the schedule for mobile enabling your e-Learning solution. Endeavour also has the advantage of designing and implementing a m-Learning solution which can be a hybrid solution having elements of a native application as well as a mobile website, thereby bringing in the best of both the modes, resulting in a perfect user experience.
Act Now. To tap the immense potential being generated by the m-Learning revolution, the e-Learning solution providers should act now, before it is late.

About Endeavour – The Mobility Company TM
Endeavour is a specialist Mobility company since 2002. Endeavour has been providing strategic consulting and product development for Mobile enabling businesses in the Manufacturing, Media, Print, Healthcare, Consumer solutions, Telecom and Business Intelligence verticals. Endeavour has a strong mobile application development team on all mobile platforms in the market today, including, RIM, Apple, Symbian, Android, Windows Mobile, Palm Pre, micro Linux, Brew. Endeavour is based out of Austin, Texas, Bangalore India and London, UK. 

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