Multiple learning channels – Paul Maher



Multiple channels of learning on WhatsApp or Snapchat.

I like the idea of creating learning experiences for new spaces like WhatsApp as discussed recently by Dr.Michael Cosgrave UCC. I feel that it would be useful to make courses available on as many channels as possible, so I decided to briefly look at two of the channels mentioned namely, WhatsApp and Snapchat.

Using multiple platforms or channels for online learning is not unusual. Consider how business uses digital marketing, it’s the same technology and marketing departments regularly deliver similar messages over several social media channels at once. Consider an educational marketing campaign with a demographic of 18-year-old males in third level education and then it is only natural to seek the channels or platforms more preferred by them. Similarly, could using the appropriate channel be key to learners successful interaction with a course of study? Possibly it could. Segmentation of the target audience is natural in business.

Imagine the creation of an open source version of this type whereby one creates an accessible  learning experience using a variety of channels. This would have obvious benefits to the wider community not just a select few and could provide a blueprint for future online learning. It could also provide good research opportunities providing insights into a cornucopia of human behavioural processes with regard to online channel use and usability. However as appealing as this sounds there may be problems presented by the channels themselves. Consider their built-in limitations and what they were originally designed for.

Usability experience is where one might find the main problems with multiple channel output. Especially with limited capability channels like Snapchat. Let’s look at the UX (user experience)  and UI (user interface) reviews of both Snapchat and WhatsApp. UX is a medley of functions that the channel must perform and is usually and easily mistaken for UI which is more simply the design interface of the channel. This is where the functionality is presented in an efficient and agreeable way. Back then to our channels, Snapchat has been criticised widely for its fun over function  limitations and this is I would argue a result of its design and limitations.

Funnily enough, WhatsApp has a favourable UX /UI and this is mainly as a result of being taken over by Facebook. Their engineers got into it and tweaked it into shape and now it’s very useful little engine, suited for all types of tasks. Take a look below.

The UX/UI considerations aside there are other worries for a course designer to look at when using multiple channels. The main one is the time element needed to design and provide a course of study using the channels simultaneously. I know myself just posting short PR statements or online marketing blurbs takes many hours even when the content is agreed upon and ready to go and you use dashboards to aid you. But if you built a learning experience or course of study, to be cross platform and multi-channel from the beginning, it should become easier for the designer/supplier, as they build up expertise and knowledge of how to do it efficiently over time.

My opinion is, it is possible with a great deal of effort and time, but is it really worth the effort?

It may be a case of Mohammed going to the mountain, as opposed to bringing the mountain to Mohammed.