Why I’m Excited About the iPad

After months of rumor, speculation and hype, Apple finally revealed its latest (and greatest?) new product, the iPad. Personally, I can’t wait to get my hands on one, but I’m most excited about the possibilities of incorporating it into Blueline’s client solutions.

Many bloggers in the elearning space have already written about its use in mobile learning. And clearly it provides a more robust platform for mobile learning than the current smartphones. With its large screen, fast processor, ability to handle HD video, and full web browser (minus Flash, of course), it overcomes many of the restrictions associated with mobile devices.

In case, you’ve just returned from a lunar expedition and have not already been inundated with information about the iPad, here is a link to Apple’s demo of it. While I’m sure we will be developing new mobile learning applications for the iPad, I’m equally excited about how it can enhance our other custom solutions.

In this post I explore how we might enhance Blueline’s programs that utilize a learning visual.

learning-visualFrequently we are asked if we can put one of our Learning Visuals or Blueline Blueprints‘ online. And while I have adapted some learning visuals for use on the computer for refresher training or information access after a classroom session, I have never been totally satisfied with the overall user experience. In the live classroom session, you can see the overall visual, point out content to team members, focus on the parts that are relevant to the current discussion, and easily scan for the information you need. On the computer screen this process of scanning, zooming and focusing becomes a cumbersome process of using the view menu to enlarge the image, dragging the image around the screen, zooming back out to scan, then zooming back in, dragging to just the right piece of information, then scrolling through it. Whew — makes me tired just thinking about it!  And to this point it hasn’t proven to be as immersive or as effective as working with the table-size visual in the classroom. Of course, the other approach is to chop the visual up into small segments that fit on the screen when enlarged — again not elegant or as effective.

Now, if the Blueprint visual is being experienced on the iPad, you will still need to zoom, drag, and focus.  But with Apple’s touch and multi-gesture interface, using your finger to drag the image or quickly swipe across it to the area you need, or pinching it to zoom in and out, the learner’s experience will seem much more intuitive and thus immersive. This level of physical engagement mirrors the physical engagement that we often see in the classroom — in which people use their fingers to trace a path along a visual or touch certain graphical elements as they are reading the accompanying data.

But even more exciting to me are the possibilities for enhancing the classroom experience. The iPad offers new and engaging ways to augment the already powerful learning experience offered though the use of our Blueline Blueprints. In fact, several immediate opportunities came to mind as I watched Apple’s announcement.

One of the challenges with a team of 4 to 6 people sharing a table-size visual is making sure that everyone is able to see all of the details from where they are sitting. Now, if in addition to the table visual, everyone also had the visual on an iPad, they could quickly and easily zoom into any part of the visual as it was being discussed.

Another design challenge we face is finding the right font size that allows us to provide the rich depth of data desired on the visual, while still enabling those, who like me, have reached the bi-focal stage of life, to see it clearly. Again, zooming could help with this, but even more exciting is Apple’s new interface element called: pop-overs. With this technology we could easily overlay a full text case study on the visual that is easily readable.

ipadBut more than just addressing some of the physical challenges, the iPad also provides an elegant way to make the learning visual experience truly multi-media. Imagine a Blueprint that is being used to introduce a new sales model or product line. At points throughout the experience, the learners touch a point on the visual on the iPad and an embedded video of a customer starts playing.  Another possibility is live polling, in which the learners touch a section of the visual on their iPads and a poll pops-up in which everyone votes on a question or topic. The results are then instantly available to the team for discussion and review. The visual could also contain embedded links to additional information available on the company’s website or knowledge management portal. And if the iPads belonged to the learner, rather than being part of the classroom equipment, they could have a live, collaborative, note-taking element, in which learners create their own personal record of their experience that is tied directly to the visual on their iPad, thus providing a powerful anchor back to the entire learning experience.

Just as the iPhone opened the door for developers to create whole new categories of apps, I believe over the next couple of years, we will see whole new approaches to enhancing training delivery being stimulated by the iPad and the inevitable clones it stimulates.

What ideas do you have for the iPad and your training solutions? Let’s share the journey together.

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