Monday, July 12, 2010

Moodle for iPhone and Android

Unfortunately I missed the keynote presentation for Moodle Moot Au 2010 as I was still trying to get my slides to work. So my first session was Mobile Learning
with "Moodle Mobile" by Romain Mallard, Angela Branco Moreno and Cesar Barizon (Digital SK), followed by myself with "Using Moodle for Postgraduate Professional Education with eBooks and Smartphones" (ANU) and "Moodle4iPhone project" by Julian Ridden (Pukunui Technology). All three of us had a similar message: don't build special phone "apps" for Moodle, instead make sure the web features used are compatible with smart phones, including the Apple iPhone and Google Andriod.

Julian talked about the Moodle4iPhones project, which has expanded to now include Android phones as well as iPhones. New code is due shortly. Limiting smart phone development to iPhone and Android seems a reasonable compromise, until there is more HTML5 standard support on smart phones.

Julian pointed out that a link to the Moodle content could be placed on the Apple iPhone front page, so it looks just like an App, without needing to develop an app. One issue the
presentation raised was that it can be assumed there is "Flash" on all devices, except Apple iPhones and iPads. Given that Apple devices are so popular, there will need to be a way to support them. Moodle4iphone uses th clever workaround of replacing the flash video file extension with a mpeg4 one automatically if the user has an Apple iPad or iPhone. This
just requires the content creator to remember to provide a version of their video in both flash and Mpeg 4 formats (should be possible with configure video creation systems to do this automatically). I did wonder if a simpler solution was not to use Flash in the first place.

My takeaway message from this was not to worry about software for mobile devices, just worry about suitable course design for mobile users and assume Moodle will be able to support them. This still raises issues about how a student is likely to use a mobile device in a course compared to a desktop computer. This has implications for course design.

One issue I raised in my presentation and not addressed by the other speakers, was what to do about offline access. An app (or even a printed book) has the advanatge that once you have it you do not need Internet access. As discussed in my presentation HTML5 has an option for off-line access. It should be feasible to easily enable this for mobile and other browsers. HTML5 seems to be progressing much quicker than I was expecting, and, as an example, my conference presentation was done using HTML5, not Powerpoint.

An interesting unrelated comment was that Moodle 2 is taking up a lot of the time of Moodle developers.

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