Blackboard Mobile Learn: Best Practices for Making Online Courses Mobile-Friendly

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1 Blackboard Mobile Learn: Best Practices for Making Online Courses Mobile-Friendly STAFF GUIDE

2 Contents Introduction 2 Content Considerations 5 Discussions 9 Announcements 10 Mobile Learn Content Compatibility Guide 11 Other Sources of Help and Support for Staff 12 1

3 Introduction Mobile Learn is a free downloadable mobile application 1 (soon to also be available as part of the Edge Hill University app) designed to mimic the functionality of Learning Edge (Blackboard 9.1) through smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices. The application provides faculty staff and students with access to their courses on Apple, Google Android, Blackberry and Palm mobile operating systems. By default all Blackboard courses created in Learning Edge will be accessible to Edge Hill University staff and students on the Mobile Learn application, though not all the familiar features available in the desktop environment are optimised for viewing in Mobile Learn. In comparison to Learning Edge, Mobile Learn is only a subset of features that are relevant to a mobile user. The following diagram summarises the positioning of Mobile Learn in contrast to Learning Edge in the context of features and access. Learning Edge Mobile Learn The point of access and the features available in Mobile Learn are only a subset of all the features available to staff and students on Learning Edge. 1 eshare mobile device installation guides and support 2

4 At present the following Learning Edge Blackboard 9.1 features are augmented within Mobile Learn: Grades: This feature only provides students with access to their released grades. Tasks: Any tasks created within Learning Edge (Desktop environment), can be updated through this feature. Announcements: Only faculty staff will have the ability to post announcements from the Mobile Learn application. Students can only read announcements, providing them with instant on the go access to any important messages. Discussions: Identical features to the Learning Edge desktop environment. Faculty staff and students can respond to each other through threaded discussions. Other features for both staff and students include the ability to review and create new threads, plus the ability to upload and attach a new or existing photo from your mobile device to a discussion post. Journals: Students can view and create entries from their mobile devices; faculty staff will have the ability to view and comment on student entries. This area does not include access to Campus Pack Journals. Blogs: Both Edge Hill staff and students can read, create and comment on blog posts from their mobile devices. The ability to upload new or existing photos from mobile devices to blog posts is also included. This area does not include access to Campus Pack blogs. Roster: This feature simply gives all users the ability to see fellow student names for the module area. Media: Students can access music, videos and images uploaded by their tutors and experience directly from their mobile devices using the appropriate mediaspecific software. 3

5 The format and delivery of content that s added to Blackboard module areas will be accessible through Mobile Learn depending on how each mobile device associates individual file types. No matter which mobile platform you are using, adapting to the Mobile Learn interface will come naturally through continuous practice. Displaying of content and the layout differs from the way we view it on the desktop version. Staff must take into consideration a few rules regarding mobile compatibility as not all mobile devices handle file formats in the same way. Some devices may be able to access certain content while others may not, causing frustration for some students on particular devices. To effectively provide consistent to students through Mobile Learn, the best practices outlined in this guide will ensure cross device accessibility and communication for all your Blackboard courses. 4

6 Content Considerations Adding content within Learning Edge Blackboard 9.1 using the visual editor with large areas of text or HTML will cause visibility issues within Mobile Learn on most mobile devices. Any HTML created content will not render within Mobile Learn but simply appear as a string of text. Alternatively, vast amounts of text created or copied into the visual editor will appear to a certain extent, though we recommend you avoid this method as text will not appear in a clear format. Users will not be able to use mobile device viewing features to maximise and minimise text size. 5

7 The best practice for this is to publish information as document attachments; this enables the mobile user to open the attachment within the mobile learn application. To achieve this, use the Attachments feature below the visual editor to upload your content. This will provide the mobile user a link to open the content clearly. Similar to the desktop environment within Learning Edge Blackboard 9.1, applying basic information within the Link Title field will provide the user with basic information of what the attachment is. 6

8 All mobile devices can view PDF files as standard within Mobile Learn, making this the ideal format to use. MS Office documents and Flash files can typically be viewed, though most devices will require the use of an associated pre-paid application, causing cost issues to the student. Prior to attaching your file to an area in Blackboard, the best practice is to use the Save As function within MS Office 2007/2010 and save the associated file as PDF 2. This format will safeguard your content to ensure the attachment will open across all mobile devices and also prevents accidental edits by students. The following table highlights compatibility across different mobile platforms and which document formats to avoid: Content Flash Manufacturer restrictions Visual Editor & HTML Word Excel Powerpoint PDF Associated application required Associated application required Associated application required Will open within native browser A similar rule applies for most multimedia content. Instead of embedding a video or audio file into an area or a URL within a PDF document, the best method is to either post media as attachments or create a URL within the Build Content option, and use direct links (instead of the Mashup features within Blackboard). 2 Learning Edge:Good Practice in Building and Teaching your Course 7

9 Note, if you are using the attachment method (i.e. uploading a video into your module area) be aware of the format of the media attachment to ensure cross platform compatibility. We recommend using MPEG4 format for videos, and MP3 format for audio so that students can seamlessly view the media in their devices native applications. The following table highlights compatibility across different mobile platforms and which process to avoid: Content Embedded Audio Attached Audio Embedded Video Attached Video Audio URL Video URL Ensure format is MP3 Ensure format is MPEG4 Create as 'Item' or 'URL' within Bb Create as 'Item' or 'URL' within Bb 8

10 Discussions Both students and tutors have the ability to read, create, upload and comment on discussion posts from their mobile devices. On occasion, loading times can be quite long if the discussion area focuses all interaction within a single discussion thread. This causes the mobile device to load all comments at once, which potentially could discourage students to reply due to the time it takes to open and eventually locate the final comment. Avoid the use of a single discussion thread if you anticipate heavy usage of the discussion tool. Breaking discussions into a larger number of more finely focused threads will keep all comments relevant and speed up interaction through a mobile device. 9

11 Announcements Students can receive announcements that are also available in the desktop versions. Tutors also have the ability to create new announcements as in the desktop browser version of Learning Edge Blackboard 9.1. Becoming accustomed to Mobile Learn via your own device may increase ad-hoc course communication regardless of location and time. Students will also benefit from this by accessing instant on-the-go updates empowering them to respond to course updates, notifications and needs as and when they emerge. Note: When creating announcements you should remember to set the Display Until dates so only new and relevant announcements are displayed. If old announcements remain visible they will take longer to load and display within the app. 10

12 Mobile Learn Content Compatibility Table Content Flash Prezi Manufacturer restrictions Flash plugin restrictions Visual Editor & HTML exe Xerte Word Excel Powerpoint PDF Flickr (Bb Mashup) Youtube (Bb Mashup) SlideShare (Bb Mashup) Audio URL Embedded Audio Attached Audio Video URL Embedded Video Attached Video HTML restrictions HTML restrictions Associated application required Associated application required Associated application required Will open within native browser Create as 'Item' or 'URL' within Bb Ensure format is MP3 Create as 'Item' or 'URL' within Bb Ensure format is MPEG4 11

13 Other Sources of Help and Support for Staff - The Help link within the Course Control Panel Click the Help > Blackboard Help link within the Course Control Panel at the bottom left of your course to access Blackboard Help for Instructors. - Mobile Learn Collection Visit the eshare collection of Mobile Learn documents for mobile device installation guides and additional support information. eshare: - Learning Edge: Good Practice in Building and Teaching your Course This eshare document offers advice and good practice guidelines about simple, practical steps you can take to enhance the educational value of online resources and activities within Learning Edge to improve your students experience. eshare: - Learning Services Wiki Visit the Learning Services wiki within the GO Portal to access a range of information including, policies, guides and resources. Wiki: > How do I? Develop my Learning Edge - Learning Technology Development Contact the Learning Technology Development if you need further assistance or have any further queries. Telephone: LTD3019 Version: [2] Date: Sept 2012 If you require this information in an alternative format, please contact Learning Technology Development, on or 12

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