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Knowledge on the Go
2004, Q1 (March 04, 2007)
By Ann-Marie Grissino and Harman Singh

Editor's note: This article is excerpted from a copyrighted white paper, and is here published by permission of the authors.

Businesses and universities are now capturing the mobile environment in their corporate conference rooms, travels, and campuses. Organizations can send their memos, documents, and even presentations to an individual's handheld device. Organizations realize that content portability contributes to their business processes — and to the bottom line. With this portability of content, companies can leverage source documents and reuse them on PDAs. This article looks at current PDA applications and touches on PDA presentation technologies.

Using mLearning in Universities

Has mobile learning (mLearning) arrived in our industry boardrooms, university lecture halls, and travel locations? Yes, and it is coming faster than you think.

Look, for example, at the University of North Carolina, where students grab a PDA at the door to a lecture hall. While waiting for the professor, students review their typed notes from last week's presentation and the presentation itself on the PDA. The professor arrives, unpacks, and beams this week's presentation to the students. During the lecture, the professor needs to collate data from the students and so beams a poll to the PDA. Students, who might not otherwise raise their hands, are now participating directly with the instructor. Students answer and send data back to the professor, who then shows the results on the projected screen.

Is this really happening? Yes, UNC Wilmington and several corporate and government supporters are promoting the use of mobile computing devices such as handheld PCs and Pocket PCs in teaching college-level science and mathematics. See http://aa.uncw.edu/numina/ for details.

Finding other mLearning Applications

Man with PDA in hand
Voice-enabled presentations available on the PDA are seen in more and more places, as PDA technology advances. Currently, PDA memory cards can hold 10 hours of content, more than enough for a sales rep on the go or a university student attending the week's lectures. Voice-enabled presentations on PDAs become knowledge in your pocket. There are other current mlearning scenarios, such as training demos on the go, where corporate trainers review presentations anytime, anywhere. Traveling employees can see corporate annual report presentations, review presentations they will deliver, or read messages from the CEO.

Mobile learning has even moved into live presentations similar to WebEx(R) presentations. An image of someone giving a live presentation can appear on your PDA accompanied by voice and slides. The impact will be enormous.

Other applications could include the following:
  • Automated attendance at classes. As soon as a student logs into the class with his PDA, the integrated wireless system can automatically record the student's attendance in the class.
  • Pharmaceutical sales demos. Sales reps view voice-enabled presentations detailing new drug initiatives, clinical trial studies, and projected sales strategies while on the go.
  • Medical student learning during rounds. Medical students download courses to their PDAs as they walk through hospitals.
  • High school courses. High school students in Lewisville, N.C. are required to use a PDA to access some course materials as part of the extended classroom.
  • "Knowledge for Nomads." One group is empowering occupational travelers, such as circus performers, with courses available on PDAs.
  • Automated building security. Building security improvements enable staff to track movements of officials using PDAs through corporate, government, or university buildings. New security staff could review building floor plans while trying to locate a specific area.
  • Young adult literacy. A European company initiated a project to help young adults improve reading skills. The company used PDAs and gaming technology to deliver reading curriculum and portals to research resources.

mLearning trends indicate an emerging technology that has found its application in realworld situations. Empowering Technologies (http://www.empoweringtechnologies.net) provides these statistics:
  • Over 50 percent of employees spend up to half of their time outside the office.
  • Mobile devices will outnumber landline PCs this year.
  • Worldwide mobile market will reach $200 billion by 2004.

According to research firm IDC, Pocket PC statistics show a surge in use leading by 56%. IDC forecasts that by 2004, Pocket PCs will be deployed at a rate of two to one compared with Palm Connected Organizers.

Looking at PDA Presentation Technologies

Two competing technologies have been fighting for center stage for some time:
  • Pocket PC(R) device with its Pocket PC 2002/2003 operating system
  • Palm(R) device with its Palm operating system
The Palm device has fewer presentation players than the Pocket PC. The Pocket PC uses Flash 6 and Windows Media players, while the Palm device uses a RealOne player with limited functionality and a Kinoma player (http://www.kinoma.com) that has its own player and format. Because of Palm's limited presentation player functionality, the more common presentation device is the Pocket PC.

Pocket PC Tips

The following tips will help you prepare files for the Pocket PC:
  • Most Pocket PCs have 320x240 resolution.
  • Macromedia Flash 6 is available for Pocket PC 2002 and up. Flash runs in Internet Explorer for Pocket PC.
  • To run Flash files as a stand alone file, you must have extra software. AntMobile provides $15 per user software that lets you play Flash files in a standalone player on the PPC in full-screen mode. Macromedia provides $500 software that allows developers to create Flash files that run in a fullscreen application (outside of IE) on a PPC.
  • Do not include complex Flash animations for PPC due to low processor power. Use the minimum number of key frames.
  • We found that you cannot import MP3 files as streaming sound into Flash 6 on Pocket PC.

Palm Tips

Two notable delivery methods currently exist for Palm V5:
  • Kinoma player: This provides good compression. We have seen the free Kinoma player included on the installation CD for Palm handhelds.
  • Real Player for Palm: This plays only Real Media audio, video and MP3 files. It does not play SMIL files.
  • The Flash player is not available for Palm devices with an exception of the Sony Clie, which has a Flash 5 player.

For more information and for demos, see http://www.authorGEN.com.

Ann-Marie Grissino (amgrissino at keypointconsultants dot com) is President of Keypoint Consultants, Inc. Harman Singh (hsingh at authorGEN dot com) is CEO of authorGEN and Sikhya Solutions. Both authors have received international awards for their work. End of article.

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