Tablets are a thing. We know that.
Since Apple launched the iPad just a few years ago, and with Google and Microsoft selling their own tablets, it’s become obvious that the tablet stands to overtake the notebook and the desktop PC.
Witness the experts at events like the Emerging Display Technologies conference this year, where research was released that predicted that tablets will overtake notebooks by 2016. Microsoft is a little more aggressive, saying tablets will beat out PCs next year. Guardian News & Media says it already sees times of the day when mobile visits are higher than desktops.
What about education? Will there be a time when a professor will look across the classroom and see the majority of students tapping along with touchscreen tablets instead of clicking around on notebooks? Will there be a time when the students using tablets on the subway aren’t cramming for the exam they’re heading to, but actually taking the exam right now?
Of course there will. It’s just a matter of time.
Is e-Learning Ready For Tablets?
e-Learning and training technologies vary widely. Some focus on presenting a recorded video of a lecture, which tablets can already handle readily. Others involve heavy use of virtual environments, chats, quizzes, and downloads, and are not easily presented on a tablet.
Many learning applications are unfortunately ill-suited for tablets, since they require specialized software or apps that are not treated equally across all mobile platforms. Some require a lot of memory to install a client and store data. This approach is straightforward when dealing with notebook PCs and campus-wide servers, but not easy to manage for tablets.
Schools, software providers and students are all going to have to reconfigure their behavior to accomodate the tablet, and clearly it will be students who are going to force the process forward. Tablets, after all, hold a ton of advantages over textbooks. K-12 educators are going to find this out, too.
In business, the IT department will be the ones to drive a focus on tablets, as they shift purchasing and maintenance activities to take advantage of new technology. HR and training departments will have to face their own hurdles as their companies make changes, and hopefully give some credence to their needs.
Clearing The Hurdles
Let’s look at some of the challenges for tablets in the classroom:
- Technology – Schools already vary widely in their ability to support tablets. Most offer wireless internet access, but it will be those schools that force users to download apps and log in to secure server environments that will have a tough time adapting. Those who are already shifted to the cloud will have a more seamless transition.
- Display – Some tablets don’t support certain display applications like Flash (I wonder which ones…), so learning applications that rely on Flash for display delivery will obviously have a tough time serving everyone. This will be a headache for IT departments as they decide whether to supply tablets to students, specify a certain device and application, or try to support a free-for-all.
- Expertise – Not all students are alike in their experience with mobile devices. It might seem like it should be rare to see someone totally stymied by a touchscreen tablet, but you’d be surprised. Someone used to a mouse-click AOL-type of experience on an older PC might need some re-education when dealing with the often-reduced feature set of a tablet app.
- Cost – Remember the quip in Men In Black – when Tommy Lee Jone’ character Agent K resignedly states that he’ll have to buy the Beatles’ White Album again? Every time a new technology takes over, everybody has to go out and re-buy technology. For millions of students, this means replacing their old notebook PCs so they can keep up with the students sitting next to them. For businesses, this means overhauling their infrastructure and realigning their security procedures yet again.
- Industry – The PC industry is ready for a revolution, but is the textbook industry really interested in being replaced yet? The smart publishers will start making everything they publish available in a secure cloud environment. The even smarter ones will build their own apps and learning platforms. Schools tend to prefer specialized technology that suits their needs rather than making do with mainstream cloud technology. Even so, Google is going heavily into this area with their Google Course Builder platform.
So what’s an educator to do? Obviously there will be some changes coming, and it’s a matter of evaluating the options and deploying them so that all students and employees can get the value of your materials no matter what they are using. The time is now.
Companies like KnowledgeVision are staying ahead of the curve by producing presentation technology that will work with all tablet platforms, including the iPad and iPhone. Trainers using KnowledgeVision for online presentations can publish lectures and learning materials without worrying whether users can see them.
You can also try KnowledgeVision free for 14 days.