My Dangerous Mobile Learning Native App Bias?

Looking for examples.

September 25, 2013

If I'm wrong please stop me.

I like native apps.

I like native apps for mobile learning better than responsive websites that scale from big screens to mobile screens.

The problems with my bias towards native apps for mobile learning are many:  

Expense: It is expensive to develop learning platforms for both the web and the app. A good argument can be made that it is better to invest resources to design one platform for all screens.   

Focus: A strategy of releasing responsive web platforms rather than both websites and native apps enables a company, or a university, to focus all development efforts on one platform. Constantly updating apps can be a distraction, reducing the attention available for the core platform.

Flexibility: A really well designed responsive website will work on any device that can run a browser. Apps need to be developed separately for iOS and Android, maybe even for Windows 8. A browser based approach for mobile learning increases the flexibility of what devices the learner can utilize.

Consistency: I'm continuously frustrated by the native apps available for our major LMS platforms. Today's learning management system apps feel like they are hobbled by the origins of the LMS as a website. The experience between browser and app is not consistent. We don't have feature parity.   

Can you show me a responsive mobile platform that works as well as a dedicated app?

The beautiful features are native apps are:

  • Content can be download and synced for offline usage.
  • User controls that are not constrained by the limitations of the browser.
  • Fast and seamless operation.
  • An ability to store data from session to session, so that the app remembers where you were last.

I have completed migrated my NYTimes reading to the NYTimes native app. I've gone from paper to browser to app. The native NYTimes app (on an iPhone) is by far my preferred method to interact with the newspaper.  I have the full daily NYTimes with me wherever I go.

Do you have an app that you spend lots of time in?

What would a learning platform app that is as good as the NYTimes app look like?

Can you provide examples that can push me off my mobile learning native app bias?

Can you stop me from advocating for an app-centric evolution in mobile learning?


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