Mobile Design Testing
Mobile testing should begin fairly soon to catch problems early on.
What is Mobile Design Testing?
If you are designing your own course website or are embedding images and video into locations such as Blackboard, taking a peek at what your students will see is an important component of testing your content. Your students may be viewing your class from their phones, tablets, laptops, or desktop computers, it’s important that they have a good experience no matter how they attend.
How can I use mobile design testing in my course?
Why is mobile testing important? Mobile audiences surpassed desktop audiences in 2014 and have only grown since then according to the Comscore 2016 US Mobile App Report. The number of people accessing the internet on their mobile devices continues to rise.
Most popular learning management systems are built to be responsive, or they have a dedicated app specifically for use on mobile devices. Similarly, many website creation frameworks, such as WordPress, offer templates that are designed to be ‘responsive’ across a variety of viewing platforms. This doesn’t mean that all web pages will look exactly the same on each device. It means they have been streamlined to function and perform at the size, aspect ratio, and orientation (vertical or horizontal) of the viewing device whether it be a TV, computer, laptop, tablet, phone, watch or even ring. This is meant to ensure that all viewers have a comparable experience regardless of the device they are using.
The Mobile First approach to course development means that you take mobile devices into account early in the course design process. This is to avoid spending unnecessary time fixing your course later if problems arise. Consider your course content, multimedia, interactive components, and tools you may need for communication. Choose tools that are mobile friendly early in the course planning process. Once your course is built, test the function, look, and feel of your course across as many devices as possible.
Another consideration to keep in mind is that not all students access the internet in the same way. Students with cognitive, motor, auditory, or visual challenges may use assistive devices to navigate the internet. Although this may sound like a simple idea, it is yet another reason there is an increasing number of devices and browsers on which your course should be able to function. In reality, we can’t test our course on every device, but testing commonly used devices is an effective first step. It is a matter of equitable access for everyone.
Questions and Considerations
You’re not a web developer, nor do you have unlimited resources at your disposal. Instead, follow the recommendations below to ensure your course appears as expected on in commonly used browsers and on commonly used devices.
- Test current versions of common web browsers. Chances are that your students will use one of these web browsers to access your site: Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari, or Opera.
- Test the mobile app developed for the LMS (Learning Management System) you are using. If you are using Blackboard, Canvas or another LMS, there is likely a dedicated mobile app for it. Download it, log in, and use it to experience what your students experience.
- Test on common mobile devices. These are difficult to anticipate since there are new phones and tablets coming out constantly. If possible, try and test your course materials on an iPhone, iPad, as well as a phone and tablet running Android. If you don’t have access to all of these devices, ask a friend, a peer, or eCampus to help test.
Items to Test
As you are testing you will find there are occasional differences in what students see and it is important to know where these differences are. Some common elements of your course to check:
- Do quizzes work as expected?
- Are discussions easy to read and reply to?
- Do the video or other multimedia function as they should?
- Does your content flow?
- Are primary structures, like menus, accessible and readable?
Mobile Emulators – How do you go about testing for a variety of devices? Ask friends to help you test if they have a device you do not, or use some of the free online tools that help with emulating a viewer’s experience:
Helpful How-To Instructions
Plan proactive steps to prepare your course for users with mobile devices well before the start of the new semester. Testing early will allow you time to fix issues you uncover.
- Identify the browsers and devices you will test your course on. The suggestions in the Questions and Consideration section above are a good place to start.
- Select or replace multimedia and interactions for your course that work well with mobile devices and similar touch interfaces.
- Create a checklist of points to check in your course (navigation, discussion, quizzes, multimedia). This not only helps you ensure the important pieces are checked, but will also help anyone else assisting you during testing.
- Solicit assistance from family, friends, peers or designers at UAF eCampus to help test your course materials. Fresh eyes may find things you might have missed as the course creator, and they may have access to different technologies that you do not.
Elias, T. (2011). Universal instructional design principles for mobile learning. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 12(2), 143-156.
Herrington, A., Herrington, J., & Mantei, J. (2009). Design principles for mobile learning. University of Wollongong, Wollongong.
UAF Instructional Designers
This page has been authored collectively by the experts on the UAF Instructional Design Team. Let us know if you have suggestions or corrections!