In a world where technology continues to shape the way we live and work, more and more organizations want to make their corporate e-learning accessible to employees via mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones. This heightened interest in mobile e-learning content has spurred a debate in the training industry about which design approach works best for e-learning: a “one size fits all” approach for anything mobile, or designing specifically and separately for phones and tablets?

In short, should a course be instructionally designed in a completely different manner for a phone versus a tablet device? Let’s take a look at some important differences that exist when developing training for multiple devices.

What’s the Difference?

Apart from the physical differences between tablets and phones in terms of screen size, memory, and technological capabilities (which are diminishing as smartphone screens get larger), there is often a different use case for each device type.

Tablet devices are typically employed in what’s called a “lean-back experience.” This is when a learner uses the gadget while sitting, relaxing, and taking time to consume the e-learning content or media before them.

Smartphones are used for more of an “on-the-go experience.” This means the user of the device is busy, often interrupted, active, and only has short snippets of time available to view the information at hand.

So, what do these two different device experiences mean for e-learning?

Tablets: A More Immersive Learning Experience

Because people are usually able to devote more time to the task at hand when using a tablet, it makes sense to use these devices to present e-learning in a way that is very similar to desktop learning. There may be some minor differences (lack of a hover state and lower memory and video capabilities), but the technology lends itself to more detailed and immersive courses.

Smartphones: Well-Suited for Performance Support

People using their smartphones are usually more pressed for time, so it makes sense to chunk e-learning for these devices into very small lessons or modules, and to gear the content more toward performance support. The goal should be to help learners get the information they need in the moment, versus engaging them in something more lengthy and intensive on their tiny phone screens.

Do you have your own opinion or thoughts on the topic of e-learning design for tablets vs. smartphones? If you do we’d love to hear from you in the comments section below. Follow us on Twitter and come back to E-learning Heroes regularly for more helpful advice on everything related to e-learning.

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