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Interview with RJ Jacquez on Mobile Learning

Today ELC interviews a mLearning thought leader RJ Jacquez.   We first met RJ when he was an Adobe evangelist and are thrilled to get his thoughts on the rapidly changing mLearning arena.   If you'd like more information from RJ, please go to his blog at

ELC: RJ, for our readers, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

RJ Jacquez: Sure. I spent the last 12 years of my career working as an Evangelist for various companies, including eHelp, the original makers of RoboDemo, which later became Captivate. I also worked for Macromedia and more recently for Adobe Systems, for the last 6 years

Since leaving Adobe last year, I have been focusing entirely on Mobile Learning (mLearning). I call myself an mLearning Analyst, Podcaster, Blogger and Consultant, focusing on all-things mLearning.


ELS -2013 Houston RegistrationELC: Yes, you put out a tremendous amount of high quality content around learning. What made you choose to focus on mLearning?

RJ Jacquez: Thank You. I got really excited about Mobile in general when the iPhone came out in 2007 and immediately saw the potential and the impact it would have on every industry but since my focus has been on eLearning, I started thinking about learning through mobile devices. So when I left Adobe I decided to build a business around mLearning.

ELC: Yes, mobile devices are changing a lot of industries. I think we're alike, the more we looked into the mobile device industry, the more excited we got. Like the computer's before them, and the internet they're reshaping multiple industries

RJ Jacquez: Absolutely but unlike the PC revolution in the last 30 years, I strongly believe the Mobile Revolution is bigger, faster and it's changing our lives even beyond the mobile devices we carry around with us. I think a lot about how mobile has changed me as a person, I no longer look at everyday things the same, I'm always analyzing User Interfaces, even my microwave, my car and all the desktop software I use. Somehow Mobile opened our eyes to the world around us and we now have extremely high expectation as users. It's pretty awesome I think.

ELC: I want to get back to that thought in a second, but Let's start at the basics, how do you define mobile learning (mlearning)?

RJ Jacquez: Great question and something I get asked quite a bit. I recently blogged about this a bit and I said that while I appreciate the current definition we have on Wikipedia about mLearning, I think it goes far beyond just the mobile devices. I proposed designing mLearning with a wider perspective in mind, thinking about the "ecosystem of screens" that we use today and that we will use tomorrow. I see most people developing an mLearning strategy around the iPad and while I think the iPad is a great start, we need to think about all other mobile devices, including the desktop, why not? In my post I wrote about how I envisioned a future full of screens everywhere we go and regardless of the screen, our data will follow us via the Cloud in a very personalized way. So today's mobile devices play a big role, but it's bigger than that.

I also think that designing great mobile learning experiences should be a lot more than simply converting what we currently have on the desktop as eLearning and publishing as HTML5.

ELC: I really thought your post on is learning on tablets e-learning was spot on. Can you tell our readers a bit about what you said in that post

RJ Jacquez: Thanks, I'm happy with the results the post has generated, I think it shows that current state of mLearning and the need to understand more about it. The question actually came from one of my Blog readers who asked it in the comments section. I thought a lot about it and saw an opportunity to share how I look at experiences on the desktop vs. mobile.

I think they are completely different

Just as Apple didn't exactly take their Mac OS and simply shrink it for the iPhone and the iPad, neither did Adobe take their desktop Photoshop application and shrunk it for mobile, both companies did a lot of thinking about what make an experience "uniquely mobile" and we should do the same thing in mLearning.

ELC: Perfectly expressed.

RJ Jacquez: So in my post I proposed a series of questions that we should ask ourselves when thinking about designing mLearning. The goal was to get people thinking outside the eLearning box and hopefully challenge all of us to think different about mLearning, some sort of a "reset" button if you will.

ELC: What is mobile learning is one of the most common questions we get at ELC. What are some of the other common questions about mLearning do you get in your practice?

RJ Jacquez: I get a lot of interesting questions in general when I speak to clients, but I also get a lot of request that make me think that we need to do further thinking about mLearning. For example most clients that come to me ask me how I can convert their existing Flash-based eLearning over to the iPad and I do my best to explain the real benefits of mobile and steer them toward a much more holistic view of mLearning. Sometimes it works and sometimes it does not.

ELC: It is a common place to start--guess just like the first computer monitors looked like TV's and the first use of the Internet was a menu based system (Gopher)

RJ Jacquez: Yeah, I absolutely agree. One of my favorite quotes from Marshall McLuhan is that we march backwards into the future in other words, we want to bring with us old paradigms into the new thing because as humans we don't like change and sticking to things we know makes us comfortable. However I think we have to let go of the PC paradigms as much as possible in order to fully take advantage of mobile.

ELC: My first hand built computer had 8Kb of Memory (not Mb) and stored it's software on cassette tapes. Smartphones are a marvel, the computing, capture, and communication capabilities are amazing. What are some of the ways you think people will use these capabilities in the future to improve learning? Things like cameras, location awareness, etc.

RJ Jacquez: I think we are just starting to fully take advantage of the amazing 'sensor superpowers" that are built into the devices we carry in our pockets...

When you look at how the banking industry is using the built-in cameras on smartphones to enable us to take pictures of checks front and back in order to make a deposit wherever we are, that's pretty awesome use of mobile. Or when you think about apps like "checkmark" which allows you to create reminders and to-dos based on location awareness, you think wow, we need to figure out how to apply this to Learning....

I think a lot about Learning by consuming what someone else created but why not start thinking beyond 'consumption" and more about enabling mobile users to help us learn by creating stuff based on activities that can be powered by a lot of these sensors, like students when they take a field trip armed with their mobile devices.

ELC: Agreed. I think of learning examples like Sky Chart which uses location and orientation to teach us about the night sky or even Wolfram Alpha which allows you to do searches based on location (try typing in Flights Overhead into that search engine)

RJ Jacquez: Yeah exactly, the thing is "mobile sets Learning Free" and we can now learn virtually anything, anywhere and anytime and that's amazing.

ELC: RJ, you had talked about how mobile has changed how you think of user interfaces. When you design learning are you doing "mobile first"?

RJ Jacquez: Absolutely! Thinking Mobile-first and desktop-second is the way to go and I highly recommend it to anyone designing content.

I recently did a book review where I outlined the benefits I see about thinking mobile-first in mLearning design. It's worth mentioning that even if you aren't doing any mobile design now, your desktop design will still benefit from thinking mobile-first.

ELC: RJ, as with your colleague I could keep going, but I know your time is limited. Are there any parting thoughts for our readers?

RJ Jacquez: I hear you and I can talk mLearning all day long. In closing, I'd like to encourage everyone to start paying attention to mobile now, this is the biggest computing revolution to date and we need to embrace it, we are at a point of no return. My advice for those starting out with mLearning is to first become observant mobile users, get yourself an iPhone or an Android smartphone, get a Tablet, start downloading apps and pay attention to the user interfaces you encounter, and to how an app makes you feel (User Experience). I believe there's a lot to be learned about mLearning design when we do this. The future is extremely bright for all of us in Learning Design and we should be excited about it!

Thank You!

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