Archive for the ‘Mobile VLE’ Category

Reporting on mobile usage of OU Learning Systems

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012

Since we’re now in the process of monitoring and reviewing the uptake and feedback on the latest mobile optimisation work, I’ve had a few queries now from colleagues, and so the following may be of wider interest:

Initially we had a need to move to a more systematic approach to obtaining data and making it meaningful to provide trends and insight. The OU has been monitoring mobile usage of the main StudentHome portal since 2006, and kudos to Steve Bannister in our IT team who has kept this up to date with new devices coming on to the market. However, with the more recent addition of a range of tablet devices we also needed a more granular look at handheld mobile devices and the newer tablets to better inform future approaches.

To move away from the high degree of custom queries and ‘hand-cranking’ on this, the OU has been working most recently with comScore on Digital Analytics (DAx). This area has historically been more within the purview of our communications, marketing and public-engagement teams, but it was deemed timely to have a consistent mechanism to house all pertinent records (including prior VLE reporting) in a data warehouse approach and then interrogate in a consistent way (and with consistent rules and calculations in place).

Of course the needs of what is now Learning Analytics are different from tracking the success of a campaign, time onsite, bounce and click-through conversions, rates and patterns – but there are similarities. So in the interests of preparing for more targetted queries, we needed to compare some of the top-level data.

With this in mind, the DAx framework (and device-specific granularity) has been applied to the different learning system platforms and comparisons made against prior calculations to establish confidence and robustness before iterating further. The most recent quarterly picture of mobile adoption is shown below (old method):

The more recent DAx approach to trending mobile device access overall is illustrated as well:

Looking at the new VLE2 on Moodle 2.x, we see a reasonably balanced picture with regard to handheld/tablet usage, albeit with smaller proportions of BlackBerry users:

The now legacy VLE1 on Moodle 1.9 showed much more prevalent iPad usage over the same period:

In addition, we took a snapshot in July to see how the distribution panned out across live modules and observed some peaks that can be explained partly by:

  • Residential schools giving rise to more access on-the-go
  • Some reference to mobile use in the workplace or as part of the curriculum, leading to possibly a more mobile-savvy constituency
  • Past reference to access via mobile, while not as yet officially promoted nor supported.

In conclusion, this is very much an ongoing test case, with the longer-term aim of providing more drill-down granularity to compare device usage within queries on the use of resources and activities – and also how much active contribution comes back from the students.

The charts shown here were originally prepared for the 1st Moodle Research conference and for a poster session, including a handout.

Review of mobile connections: coordinated work around the OU

Thursday, November 24th, 2011

Having completed a talk on a range of mobile-related topics and work delivered, underway or in the proposal stages at the OU – for the IET Technology Coffee Morning series – here’s a slightly amended replay to incorporate demos and overlay prompt slides.

Since chaptering the podcast feed isn’t working as I’d hoped, please use the timecodes below to help find something of specific interest ['scrub' around using the playhead/slider below the video]
UPDATE: The timecodes below are also now hyperlinked to the appropriate segment on the IET YouTube channel as an alternate:
00:01:40 Overview
00:03:27 Student Usage [incl. background/context]
00:16:13 Student survey ’09
00:19:57 Mobile VLE beta [VLE1 on Moodle 1.9 – current, incl. staff demo via]
00:26:07 Student survey ’10
00:34:17 Mobile-optimisation: VLE2 [incl. live demos using mobile emulators]
00:50:48 Mobile support [covering some proposals before wider release/publicity]
00:59:07 Mobile coordination [practitioner info, strategy, mobile-friendliness, improved interfaces]
01:08:06 Mobile web applications and third-parties [reflection on OU web-based approach]
01:12:03 Mobile apps & resources [outline of ePub eBook work]
01:14:40 Mobile exposure [proposal for OU Home mobile]

You may also find the prompt slides useful to identify an area of interest [via]:

Mobile VLE – v2 wrap-up & wider context

Friday, November 4th, 2011

In the last 4 posts, I have given an overview of new features and enhancements along with some rationale as part of the move from mobile-optimising Moodle 1.9 to 2.1 at the OU. There are a select number of modules that have now migrated to OU VLE2 in the October/November presentation period and more will follow through to February 2012 and beyond. Currently our students will continue on the same basis as before when using mobile – that is on an (open) beta trial with opportunities for feedback and some further enhancements due in December.

In parallel, work continues on proposals to better unify the OU mobile presence from the top down, which will be discussed in the upcoming IET Tech talk, but also mocked up in outline using Google Sites – all subject to approval. Part of this will be to offer commonly-accessible guidance and provide self-help where possible for novices and less familiar users of the (OU) mobile web – again an approach expected to be trialled in early 2012.

Other features of mobile delivery include the extensive work now underway in providing better solutions to ‘long-form’ content previously available only in print. Early prototyping using Structured Content materials in OpenLearn have yielded a range of more interactive and enhanced eBooks in the ePub format [currently implemented for iBooks, with Kindle on its way]. This is a precursor to being able to provide similar materials to students, accessed through OU VLE2 – with some early trialling underway in the OU Business School, Faculty of Business & Law.

Mobile VLE v2 – Quiz improvements

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011

Another shorter post to be followed up with more detail at a later point… In this v2 of the Mobile VLE, we also intended to offer greater support for quizzes or interactive computer marked assignments, along with whatever integration was feasible with OU eAssessment tools.

In the first release, support for the more common web form-type quiz activties has been mobile optimised – which includes multiple choice, list selections and simple text box answers – as shown in the screenshots below:

In addition, support for questions involving multimedia are also possible through use of HTML5 media players:

As noted elsewhere, keeping parity between desktop and mobile views is important and so this has been rendered to mobile as well (including indicators on completion and correct/incorrect answers). Where question types aren’t currently supported, students receive a note to prompt completion when next at a desktop:

At this present time, drag-and-drop activity support is being worked on, along with rich text answers and those using scientific/maths notation, and the advice currently is that formative quizzes can be carried out while mobile, but students may prefer to conduct timed or summative assessment on more consistent desktop connections and browsers.

Mobile VLE v2 – Comms/Collaboration

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011

Only a short post on this set of features for now, but in the interests of maintaining the ability for students to keep on top of their studies, we have optimised as much as is feasible for the Forum, Wiki and Blog tools. However, in evaluating the v1 beta, we found that the plain-text entry form we needed to use gave rise to some potential issues particularly with the wiki, where small errors in adding to or amending the code view could have [detrimental] impact on a group activity. As such we’re still reviewing the best approach.

In the OU ForumNG tool, optimisation also includes being able to collapse and expand messages or threads in addition to replying and posting [with appropriate permissions]:

The OU wiki has been optimised to show a read-only view at present, and will be reviewed alongside other features added at a later date:

The OU blog has also been optimised and comments can be added to existing posts, with the ability to add [rich text] posts again under review at this time:

Going forward, we are also watching with particular interest how apps such as the official Moodle app can be used to enable devices to capture rich media and upload directly to a user filespace for embedding in the collaborative tools. Similarly, the great mobile-optimisation work done by Google on Docs [rich text editing] in particular may be of benefit as we integrate this further with the VLE.

Mobile VLE v2 – Learning content

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011

In line with the OU push to implement more of the curriculum narrative, scaffolding, signposting and activities online – rather than solely relying on a mixed blend of physical artefacts – the central study planner is a key route through a module. As mentioned in the previous post, this is carried through to the mobile view and in adopting Moodle 2.1 we are now using sub-pages to better structure what was essentially flat navigation [albeit with some inventive workarounds involving 'stealthing'] to a number of assets.

At the same time, while resource pages and PDFs of printed material remain, much of the OU resources have moved to being implemented according to structured content methods – which give rise to many outputs – web content being the main one available on the VLE. [Alternative formats are increasingly available, with personal preferences now simplifying the range of options]
Mobile optimisation of structured content is demonstrated in the screenshots below, with the ability to access the contents page for navigation:

Where possible, some of the more complex layouts including images, tables and sidenotes have been reflowed to better fit the smaller [default portrait] screen of a mobile device. Also similar to the desktop view, the document also indicates what section you last read [and this is carried through to whatever browser you use]:

At this time, some of the interactives, in particular Flash assets, may not work on some devices, but work is now underway to implement HTML5 versions of much of our rich media, including audiovisual clips. An additional feature that can be turned on by the curriculum team is to link (unfamiliar) words in text to the glossary, which has also been optimised in the mobile view. The glossary can also be accessed independently if made available as a resource.

Mobile VLE v2 – New look-and-feel

Monday, October 31st, 2011

Further to previous blog posts [1][2][3], the new version of our Moodle 2.1-based VLE (or OU VLE2) has been designed with a mobile-optimised view or render in parallel from the beginning. Module websites were released on VLE2 in the last few weeks, and students are already starting to engage with the new implementation, with good feedback so far.

To give a better context, here’s a sample of a demonstration workspace, using examples as if it was a student account viewing the site (hence the full 3 column view) on a desktop – note that the current week is week 4 (offscreen):

On a current, popular handheld mobile (touchscreen) device the same site looks as shown, with 3 columns aligned into a single optimised view covering key aspects of the site with updates, learning materials and activities:

This particular view is optimised for higher-end mobiles, expected to become mainstream over the course of the staged migration cycle to the new VLE2. In particular, students arrive at an enhanced overview or ‘launchpad’ page containing updates on news items and notifying any unread forum messages, followed by the narrative and activities for the current week of study [week 4 highlighted above]. Students can then go to other pages on the new tabbed view to explore prior and future weeks in the study planner, all of their forums and any resources placed alongside for common access throughout the study period. The following screenshots are from an actual live module [D171 : Introduction to counselling]:

At any point, if the user determines that their mobile device is capable, or they prefer for other reasons – they can switch to a desktop view of the site instead (and switch back). Additional features to note are that the student can use the tick-boxes to keep track between devices/interfaces and that if they personalise with a note against any week this is also visible on mobiles.

For lower-end phones, such as ‘feature phones’ and some smartphones, depending on capabilities a different [and more read-only] view of the module site is available through a version of the launchpad similar to that available on VLE1 (or Mobile VLE v1 – beta).

Tablets are catered for in that the desktop experience is shown, but with the option for users to switch to a mobile view if they prefer. It should be noted that some of the interactive tools such as Elluminate will not work (nor will Flash, depending on device and the installation of plugins/apps).

As mentioned previously, the redesign has followed positive student feedback on the current Mobile VLE v1 beta and surveyed responses, to maintain quick access to enable them to keep on top of their studies. This was validated by usability testing and will now provide a common framework for faculties and curriculum teams to build on more mobile-specific activities as appropriate.

Upcoming updates on the Mobile VLE v.2

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

It’s been a while, and a lot of development work has been going on with Moodle 2.x, alongside preparatory work for a more holistic mobile presence and support provision in recent months. Over the next couple of weeks, I will be providing more detail on the mobile optimisation work that Stewart Nixon and Anthony Forth in particular have been doing for the just-released new version of the Mobile VLE.

For OU staff there will also be an overview screencast [as part of Online Learning Systems pages for mobile] showing some of the new features, in addition to being able to view the current implementation. Further detail and the wider context will be covered in an IET Technology talk later in November.

Watch this space…

Progress with developments and mainstreaming

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

A quick post on this today, to be followed up with more detail once confirmed.

Mobile VLE v2 (for OU VLE2 = Moodle 2.x)
Development work on this has been proceeding at a very good pace, where pre-existing modules and themes are available. Some of the recent alterations to design work naturally rising from implementation are due to management of space on screen. In particular some tweaking has been made to the study planner view to improve any redundant spacing – remembering of course that the amount of content per block is flexible. Similarly, the ForumNG improvements have meant that the indenting of threads (which are an issue for some) have needed a re-think on mobile, which will be achieved by indicating the position in the thread by preceding bullets e.g.
. Original
.. Reply to original
… Reply to reply
.. 2nd Reply to original

Mainstreaming – support
Before any publicity or announcements are made on mobile support for our learning systems, we’d like to get a microsite up and running so that there is a blend of official guidance, but also self-help materials and embedded FAQs. In particular however, our students surveyed indicated a willingness to peer support on device specifics, so an unmoderated (but alertable) forum tool will be trialled for this purpose. I’m hoping that this work will be able to be developed before July for use over Summer 2011 and beyond.

User feedback and moving forward with Mobile VLE v2

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

Since the beta release of what we’re now loosely calling Mobile VLE v1 (aligning with OU VLE1 which is on Moodle 1.9.x), the development team has received a number of very positive responses to the implementation, with a few requests and suggestions.

In addition, some key findings from the most recent Oct 2010 survey included the following:

  • Use of ‘dead time’, mobile use also includes that on sofa
  • Mobile phone contracts predominate [from current user sample]
  • Usage: Touch phones (up) Smart phone (down)
  • Device change in 2 years, not 18 months – possibly contract related
  • Surveyed users largely Tablet agnostics [at the time]
  • Assessment [scores] remain a key driver
  • More frequent visits via mobile over the 2010 period
  • Reading updates and forums are the most completed activity
  • Accessing different parts of Study Planner important [validating 'launchpad']
  • Switching view or mode depending on requirement [make as easy as possible]
  • Downloadable resources preferred in standard formats
  • OU app for adding multimedia desireable rather than 3rd party/intermediates
  • Self-help, FAQ-based and crowd-sourced online support sufficient for device-specifics

User testing on some of the new designs has taken place and these have been refined to the point that a concerted effort is now in place to prototype and implement new features on OU VLE2 (Moodle 2.x) in preparation for staged rollout from the end of 2011. This is alongside migrating the design rules and principles to existing OU Moodle modules.

Samples of the latest designs below show the improved ‘launchpad’ view – with increased user customisation on being able to show or hide specific sections and also some new features such as contextual notes and better switching between views. The OU mobile header and footer will also be standardised in parallel with learning systems development.

Some of the above was shared at a recent m-Libraries workshop on ‘Evolving Mobile Content’ with JISC and a number of educational publishers. The relevant slides are also available.

We have also been able to report that use of [handheld] mobile devices is now consistently around 10% of the student body on the StudentHome portal, with ~6/10ths of those converting through to use of the Mobile VLE v1 – over 11,000 individuals both months in 2011 so far.

Tablet use is also now increasing to around 2% of the student body – so mobile use exceeding that of our Mac user base, while tablet use is on par with that of Linux.

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