Possibly not a catchy title I know, but the following is the first part of the update due to go to our Learning Innovation Strategy Group shortly. I’ve also included a link to relevant project documentation on the right-hand-side navigation:
In recent years, the mobile device market has converged somewhat around devices connected to mobile networks (smartphones rather than personal digital assistants (PDAs)), with multimedia capabilities and photo/video capture, and lately mobile internet browsing and location services through GPS integration. Specifically with regard to mobile internet browsers, an evaluation was required, detailed in the project Business Case, which despite a number of new operating systems has identified a core number of browser classes that we can aim for – namely WebKit, Opera Mini and to a lesser extent NetFront and BlackBerry browsers (to be re-evaluated once these are updated, as well as the future Pocket Internet Explorer).
Another prerequisite for MobileVLE build is to ensure that users can interact with the VLE websites, not merely browse content, and in this regard the fuller functionality of the HTML editor (used in most VLE modules requiring more that one line of text entry) needed altering so that the toolset degraded gracefully for less feature-rich browsers. In basic terms, where currently we have rich text tools akin to MSWord toolbars, a plain text option is required so that mobile users on more limited browsers can add small amounts of text, where appropriate. This should now be available from the September 2009 release – providing the option to users to switch between editor functions depending on their device.
To establish outline design principles for a MobileVLE design, a small number of stakeholders were consulted on which aspect of our course site design to build around, which indicated the Study Planner (central to the Integrated Online Experience redesign) showing current (week or block) information and navigation paths to past or future material. The ability to flag tasks or work through a ‘to do’ list was considered, alongside relevant resource provision and search capabilities. A wireframe was established following the consultation, again detailed in the project Business Case (also on this blog). Consultation with students was then required to identify frequently used areas and priorities over future mobile access.
A mobile-optimised student survey received approval from SRPP and has initially been placed on StudentHome mobile for response over the Summer 2009 period. The questions were targeted at current mobile users to understand better what our students are already attempting while mobile, as usage statistics for this area are consistently increasing, now beyond those for Linux users [the link to stats overview and usage graphs is also available in the project Business Case]. Staff who are also students are welcome to contribute via https://msds.open.ac.uk/students/index.aspx?mobile=1 or via http://www.open.ac.uk/mobile on a device.
Initial internal discussions have now taken place with regard to potential designs, building on previous VLE redesign work, and what is technically achievable within the VLE templates. Once design samples are available, they will be put out for wider consultation amongst staff and students early on in Autumn 2009.
Two initial development timeframes have also been identified – the first, for December 2009 release is to establish the groundwork for the mobile-optimised design and layout, while the second, for March 2010 release is to apply templates to course homepages and appropriate modules or VLE tools.