iPad & eBooks: A Game Changer for Blended Learning

I was on Nigel Paine’s blog on Friday when I saw and commented on his post The Mash-up Begins. There have been countless blog posts about the theoretical potential of the iPad on mainstream media, most notably eBooks, so it was nice to see a real-world example of static content and video done in a way that equals, and even improves upon, the quality and design of the magazine layout.

Obviously, my mind shifted to learning as Nigel’s example got me immediately thinking about how we can apply these same mash-up concepts to traditional instructor-led training materials like study guides, manuals, and presentations. While training departments have been busy spending ridiculous amounts of time and money converting these training materials to e-Learning, Steve Jobs has (surprise!) changed the game by providing us with a new direct channel for ILT materials – the eBook. While eBooks of course aren’t new, the iPad now affords training departments the opportunity to add dynamic and interactive media to textbooks and other traditional learning media. In his insightful Influential Marketing blog post How The iPad Will Transform Mainstream Media (But NOT The Web), Rohit Bhargava provides a great description how the iPad will affect traditional textbooks:

“The one prediction I have heard that I do agree with is how the tablet could change the way that we read books. Everything from integrated links and images to live note-taking, to sharing notes with others in your community are all major shifts in behavior when it comes to reading books. For students, the other major benefit (in time) could be that finally you don’t need to lug tons and tons of books around with you for any class, you can just load them up on a tablet or iPad device. Even more importantly, the ease of sharing notes around a particular book will make reading and studying much more informed and perhaps lead to a next generation version of Cliffs Notes where you can get the context of a certain piece by how others have described it.”

And Aptara, in their article iPad: What Does it Really Mean for Content Publishers, provides an excellent illustration of what learning on these devices might look like (you may click on the image for a larger view):

iPad learning

So here we are. The industry is rapidly reaching a point where eLearning is no longer the center of the universe. Training departments who don’t recognize the tremendous implications this will have on their learning content development strategy risk facing significant consequences in terms of profitability and competitiveness.

Apple’s announcement underscores the fact that we are seeing a rapid shift towards standards adherence and open content formats. If you followed the iPad announcement, you will have noticed that Apple embraces a free and open eBook standard called ePub. This non-proprietary media format provides a way to have your traditional print materials in digital format. This is key opportunity for educational publishers, many of whom have already adopted the ePub standard, to realize an even greater ROI on their eBook investment.

So, in less than five years, Mr. Jobs has revolutionized two new delivery channels. We have all heard the advocates of blended learning, and with the introduction of mobile delivery and now the imminent ubiquity of eBooks, it’s time to ask yourself: Does it really make sense to have multiple tools and multiple copies of the content for each of these new delivery formats? Of course not! The time has come for the training industry to let go of their silos and proprietary formats and embrace a single-source content development model. Bob Mosher, in his PERFORMER Support: Learning @ the Moment of Need blog, provides his view of why single-source matters:

“Single-source publishing seems to be the tie that binds when it comes to effectively designing and integrating PS into an already vibrant learning strategy. Most organizations already use too many tools with redundant outputs and out-of-date content. Single-Source publishing has finally come of age and can do an amazing job of serving outputs for all 5 moments of need.”

Training organizations have to be agile and ready to immediately adapt to these new formats with learning content that is open and future-proofed. Are you ready, or is it time to rethink your single-source strategy?