Faculty + LMS + Smartphones = ūüôĀ

Published by eric on

The new 2017 EDUCAUSE almanac for Faculty and Technology Survey was released a few weeks ago, and I’ve finally had a chance to read through it a bit. ¬†Here is something that jumped out at me:

  • 93% of faculty own a smartphone
  • 75% of faculty feel the LMS is critical to their teaching
  • 35% are dissatisfied with how the LMS performs on their mobile device
    (the highest dissatisfaction of all LMS-specific aspects)

In general, LMS vendors have been behind the mobile curve, but many have improved. ¬†We recently took a look at offerings by Schoology and Instructure, and both behaved very well on mobile–Instructure’s Canvas LMS basically being the same experience on mobile.

Our current LMS–Desire2Learn BrightSpace–though, has struggled with mobile. ¬†Early on, they put their bet on RIM/Blackberry, whose influence was already on the decline, and, for all intents and purposes, was killed off by Apple’s iPhone. ¬†It was only a year ago (2016) that they finally came out with a responsive design solution to mobile, which they call Daylight, but it was far from complete.

Wait, what is “responsive design,” you ask? ¬†Well, it’s been around since 2010, but really picked up steam in 2013. ¬†Prior to responsive websites, developers effectively created two versions of a website: ¬†the full website for computers, and a “lite” version for mobile devices. ¬†As you can imagine, that took a lot of effort to maintain. ¬†Responsive design, on the other hand, takes one website and effectively modifies its layout based on the type of device access–in other words, it “responds” to the device. ¬†The caveat to a responsive website is that it is more complicated to set up, but maintenance is easier, as you are only dealing with one set of content. ¬†I first taught responsive design in 2015, so it was pretty entrenched by then, and was pretty straight forward to do, given CSS3 and HTML5.

So, to back up, it was not until 2016 that D2L started to come up with actual solution to mobile.  Daylight has matured since then, but basic things like Course Mail still do not function on mobile devices, which severely hampers communication with students.  On our last survey, fewer than half of our instructors (46%) and and students (47%) were satisfied with Course Mail.  For this reason, as well as the substantial change to navigation it entails, we have not yet enabled the new interface.

I suspect that our users probably have a much higher dissatisfaction with their mobile experience. ¬†Hopefully D2L will iron out the other wrinkles and actually make their Course Mail tool functional on mobile devices. ¬†That said, it’s been a decade since they’ve made any substantive change to Course Mail, so I’m not holding my breath.

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