Interactive Content for Mobile Platforms

Akhil Pawa July 18, 2017

Interactive content, in simplest of terms, is self-paced learner-dependent live content. It’s an enhanced mode of educating users by engaging them through the use of interesting tasks with an aim to impart learning. Such content can dynamically change with the input from the user and delivers real-time, personalized results. The point of interactive content is minimal text and more multimedia (images/audio/video/3D models) inclusion for continued user attention and positive feedback. Interactive content through its rich media, encourages user engagement, allowing them to freely interact and learn more effectively than traditional reading. Allowing self-paced learning, interactive content also features real-time appropriate feedback mechanism. Although interactive content could be delivered in a lot of ways, there are some well-defined, standard approaches to engage students.

Types of Interactive Content
  • Assessments :Formal formative or summative questions that require learner input in the form of answers. Such content is useful in assessing whether the students have learned the topic well and are ready to proceed to the subsequent subject/level. Modern techniques of assessment follow the concept of adaptive learning, which assesses learners’ responses and measures progress to customize the assessment questions.
  • Interactive Learning Resources :Compact, modular learning units that are designed for electronic USE & delivery of knowledge to learners, such as courseware, widgets, calculators, templates, etc.
  • Educational Games : Content supporting learning through fun activities that engage participants in learning and understanding concepts through the medium of games. Educational games help increase student engagement and motivation with the use of media-rich gaming/gamification concepts such as challenges, levels, complexity pyramids, rewards and badges etc. which keeps the spirit of healthy competition and helps in improving learning efficacy.
  • Simulations and Virtual Labs : A virtual lab is a simulated environment, wherein different scenarios that are not usually available to learners in real life can be virtually explored. These complex learning resources are exploratory in nature, allowing learners to engage in different ways, assess the outcome to make hypothesis and predictions, thereby enabling self-paced learning. They can be designed for compatibility with learning standards, such as Common Core, NGSS, and others as per the product needs.
  • Interactive Animations :Media rich animated videos involving user interactions in-between to answer questions, make choices, make predictions etc. help in engaged user experience. These can be accessed on multiple platforms and can be created across content (subjects, grades etc.)
The Need

Understanding the expected outcome is crucial to interactive content development. Designing and developing interactive content for implementation across various platforms has little to no reference in terms of a standardized plan of action. Therefore, it’s important to envision the deliverable content along with its method of delivery. For an enhanced User experience, having a clear plan of action is imperative in deciding the overall design outline of the content. This can be achieved by knowing the requirement, the complexity of the content design and the desired medium of delivery.

Key Factors for Developing Interactive Content for Mobile Platforms
  • Cross-Environment Compatibility

Learners have access to multiple devices  these days like mobile phones, tablets, laptops or desktops. Each device is subject to regular updates in both hardware and software which leads us to an important requirement – cross-environment compatibility for the easy access of interactive content.

Cross-environment compatibility follows design uniformity while preserving the usability across different devices, such as mobile phones, tablets, desktops across varied operating systems and hardware configurations. Below are few ways to achieve this:

  1. Use cross-environment libraries to ensure uniformity of behavior. This enables designing content for all environments, screen sizes, aspect ratios, and responsive in behavior for a seamless and consistent user experience throughout.
  2. Use programming languages that are compatible across multiple environments to create content with the same functional behavior.
  3. Inclusion of lighter components, such as colored background gradients more than  static images to avoid performance issues on devices with low-end hardware or outdated operating systems.
  • Catering to User Interactions: Gestures vs. Clicks

The content displayed on a smartphone/tablet or desktop may be similar, but the way it interacts with the user is entirely different. Instead of clicks and scrolls, the actions are converted to gestures, such as touch, tap, pinch zoom, and swipe. Thus, incorporation of components that lets users interact with the device according to its in-built features needs to be done. It requires a thorough UX design along with programming an additional code to respond to gestures, thereby enhancing the convenience and usability of interactive content across multiple mobile devices.

  • Responsive Design

Responsive design is an approach to design any content for it to be viewed in response to the size of the screen one is viewing with. To ensure usability of content across different devices with varied sizes and orientations, responsive design offers the support for allowing seamless viewing experience for the same content, resulting in user satisfaction.

Fluid design structure/grids, flexible images and stylesheet (CSS) media queries, work hand-in-hand to enable content restructure/re-flow as per the available screen size across all types of hardware (smartphones, tablets, desktops or laptops). Responsive design is an example of user interface plasticity.

  • Content Availability – Online and Offline

Interactive content is intended to be available anytime from anywhere, which is why it is primarily distributed online. To prevent this strength from transforming into a weakness, it is important to make the content available in offline mode, too. For learners without access to a steady internet connection, it would, quite literally, prevent them from learning. A careful back-end implementation to package these components as downloadable (standalone) learning objects can easily overcome this hurdle.

  • Personalized Interactive Content for Self-Paced Learning

Owing to the several differences in learners’ approach & ability to learn, there’s a possibility of loss of knowledge if an educator uses standardized (or set) content. Therefore, it’s important for an educator to design content that can be personalized keeping the specific needs of learners in mind, which would eventually promote self-paced learning.

With personalization, it becomes mandatory to understand the usage medium for learning, hence comes the need of designing interactive content for varied platforms (mobile, tablet, desktops etc.) to promote user engagement and enhanced learning experience. This will help the learner develop a habit of learning at their own comfortable pace, while optimizing the advantage of personalized interactive content.

Placing utmost importance on the learner, changes the game. Incorporating feedback and enhancing the user experience accordingly, makes interactive mobile content the future of delivery. Such a content delivery mechanism thrives on personalized output, taking the user input into account before letting the learner proceed on to the next stage. This adaptive learning mechanism helps the learner progresses in a smarter way with content configuring itself as per learner’s pace and ability based on their responses.

Being a highly social and relevant method of learning, interactive mobile content fits perfectly to cater to modern learners in a manner they understand best. UI challenges are quite common when there is a shift from desktop design to mobile platforms. Mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets among others, have presented a huge world of opportunities with respect to interactive content. Thus, educators around the world should, and are already taking to, building interactive content on mobile platforms.

Akhil Pawa

Management expert and the service line owner for solutions and delivery of all Digital Interactive Content offerings in Magic. He has been associated with Magic for more than 8 years and has handled several digital transformation projects in Education domain.