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Challenges to Interactive Content Development across Mobile Platforms

Ashu Bhatnagar July 18, 2017
Interactive content, being one of the most effective modern content delivery approaches, is delivered in various core types, such as simulations, apps, digital learning objects, games, assessments, etc. Such responsive content holds a lot of relevance in the current k-12 education system owing to its many advantages, such as the dynamically-changing content which delivers real-time, personalized results on the basis of user input. Thriving on personalized input, interactive content produces meaningful user-specific content while strengthening collaboration and creativity. Owing to its personalized approach interactive content engages learners on a deeper level than traditional textbook-style learning.. As opposed to this, in a traditional classroom setup the textual approach of education methodology deals with the issue of low retention level of students. When academic concepts are delivered through mobile phone as snippets, games, and quizzes, students are able to retain them better. Therefore, a learning session involving various interactive tasks stimulating a personalized and engaging experience proves to be much more effective.
Importance of Cross-Platform Interactive Content
We live in a highly evolved, interconnected world. Today, most students utilize their computational devices, such as laptops, mobile phones, tablets, etc., for learning. Be it for writing essays or creating presentations, a computer system is an integral part of the learning resource for the current generation of students. This has placed easily accessible electronic devices like mobile phones at the center of EdTech. There are several mobile applications that can perform a certain task, which otherwise a conventional desktop computer is designed to achieve. With this, it has become easier than ever to access a video or a web-application just by using a mobile device.   While it may seem to be a seamless switch to the learner, it’s a different ball game altogether when it comes to designing and implementing a cross-platform ecosystem of interactive content. Some of the challenges to reach the right audience while achieving the desired goals in a multiplatform world are:   1. Pre-planning to Avoid Interface Issues Mobile devices essentially eliminate the issue of mobility faced by their larger counterparts at the cost of two limiting factors – smaller interface and slower hardware. The reason why mobile device users rarely realize this distinction is in the ingenious design implementation framed by content and application developers. User interface (UI) is part of the content, used to communicate with a learner. For a website, this could be a page with the information displayed on areas that require an input from the user. There is a distinct difference in the way responses are fed into the computer as compared to a mobile device. Instead of clicking a link or navigating through scrolls or typing a word on a computer, learners tap letters, swipe pages, and touch a URL on a mobile touchscreen. On the other hand, a desktop monitor, with its bigger screen size, would display more components of the content than a mobile phone’s screen. With this in mind, the content should dynamically adapt to cover only the keywords and essentials. Lack of space is not the only concern arising from the smaller display size. Limiting the content to a bare minimum puts immense pressure on content providers to classify essentials with detailed information.   For achieving effective e-Learning outcomes, the space crunch problem can be solved by incorporating design optimization solutions that change their structures based on the platform from where they are being accessed. As these optimizations do require a lot of fine-tuning, it’s a time-consuming procedure. Therefore, careful planning for such implementation should be initiated at the conception of the project to facilitate better and desired results for learners accessing content on their mobile devices.   2. Keeping the Experience Clear and Simplistic The resultant effect of user interaction with the provided content is categorized under user experience, also known as UX. Another challenge here lies in the UX development. Not all content stays interactive across various platforms. An image that could have been dragged by a mouse and rotated across the page on a laptop/desktop might stay absolutely static on a mobile device. In most desktop operating systems, when we move a mouse pointer over an icon, we are provided with a pop-up message with additional information w.r.t. to that icon. Such a hover-effect becomes an impractical feature if we intend to implement it on a mobile platform.   The solution for this problem is to bridge this gap and avoid platform specific add-ons while incorporating platform-independent responsive content that maintains the design flow, while enhancing the simplicity and clarity of content. For instance, educators can design interactive videos that can be run as smoothly over mobile devices as computers. This means providing a simple yet flexible learning solution.   3. Compatibility and Test-run Due to the presence of various operating systems, the compatibility of the content becomes crucial in determining its accessibility. Conventional content development methods have been targeting a specific audience accustomed to a specific operating system, for example Apple’s macOS. Nowadays, users require an application to be accessed from their home computer, which might be a Windows PC, as well their office Mac running on macOS. Same goes for mobile devices that could be powered by any one of the major operating systems, such as Microsoft Windows, Apple iOS, Android, Symbian, Research In Motion, etc.   The distinction among these operating systems is in their feature implementation that’s related to information security and data accessibility. For instance, flash content isn’t inclusive in Android. This means, if one were to access a website that contains flash-powered content in an Android OS, s/he would require an additional software application to do the same.   There are several bumps on the road to developing interoperable content for K-12 learners. This is especially tricky when you wish to minimize branching and replicating information while optimizing the same content to be seamlessly accessed on every device. Such technical differences between devices shouldn’t limit user experience or hinder content delivery.  Content developers should then focus on delivering videos, images, quizzes and other material that enjoys multi-device compatibility.   These limitations can be tackled with smart programming, frequent compatibility checks, regular updates to operating systems, and consistent user feedback. As is evident from the rise of EdTech, we’ve already reached a stage wherein technology is an important resource for teaching and learning. Though it may still be in a transitional phase, it is certainly headed towards enhanced accessibility and multi-platform support. The inclination of young learners towards this essential technological aspect is indicative of their cellular devices becoming the most resourceful gen-next learning platform.  
challenges to mobile content, interactive content, interactive content development, interactive mobile content
Ashu Bhatnagar

Head of Delivery at Magic Software, is engaged in building exciting new content and technology solutions for education.