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Mobile Device Use in e-Channel Programming

Prepared by: Tamara Kaattari

For: Contact North | Contact Nord

March 2016

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Executive Summary

The rise of mobile device use is meteoric and adult literacy programs – particularly those that rely on technology as a means for learners to access learning – need to consider the implications for program delivery and design presented by the increased use of mobile devices. This report, commissioned by Contact North | Contact Nord, is a first step towards examining the use of mobile devices within e-Channel programs and the context in which such programs are operating.

The trends in mobile device use that may have the greatest impact on e-Channel programming are ensuring that all forms of content are mobile-optimized – a challenging feat since most online content was not developed with mobile devices in mind. As the use of mobile devices continues to rise, e-Leads may wish to develop a deeper understanding of who is using what (in terms of devices) and why.

Client Perspectives:

This research provided an instrument to interact with the e-Leads (e-Channel lead delivery organizations) to create opportunities to ask learners about their current experiences in accessing learning via mobile devices and to assess learner desires regarding the use of mobile devices in the future. These are some highlights of the information received:

  • For Good Learning Anywhere (GLA), 18.2% of survey respondents said they used a mobile device to access their Career Technical Education (CTE) courses.
  • There is interest from Good Learning Anywhere clients in using a mobile device as 54.5% of respondents said that if they had a mobile device, they would use it to access e-Channel.
  • For the LearningHUB, fewer clients are using mobile devices to access live classes (5%), but there is interest in that 35% of clients would consider using a mobile device. A quarter of respondents (25%) said they could consider using a mobile device to access Independent Study and about 1/3 or 33.64% of HUB short classes survey respondents said they would consider using a mobile device.
  • Large number of learners are “not sure” if they would use a mobile device or not, demonstrating that mobile device use, while increasing and popular, may not yet have hit its zenith with adult learners.

Program Perspectives:

Many e-Channel learners access e-Channel programming as part of a blended approach – doing some learning independently with e-Channel and some on site with an adult learning program. Given that many e-Channel learners spend at least some of their time in community programs – literacy, employment services, or Ontario Works – Contact North | Contact Nord launched a survey to ask Employment Ontario (EO) services and Ontario Works organizations about the extent to which they encouraged mobile device use amongst clients. Here are some of the results:

  • There is a trend towards agencies providing ways for clients/learners to provide feedback via social media or mobile device, with 42.9% of survey respondents citing that they are currently providing ways for clients/learners to provide feedback via social media or mobile device.
  • When asked what methods programs are using to garner client feedback via social media, many survey respondents identified more than one method. Most programs are currently using Facebook with texting being the second most common method of connecting with learners. Twitter and email share the third spot.
  • In terms of effectiveness, it appears that the use of social media and mobile devices to gather client/learner feedback, at present, is somewhat limited, with only 12.50% of respondents defining such use as “very effective,” but under half of respondents (42.5%) considering their efforts in this area to be “somewhat effective.”
  • Survey respondents suggest that using social media and mobile devices to gather client/learner feedback may be more appropriate for some populations (i.e., youth).
  • Respondents who have had positive results with the use of social media/mobile devices to get client feedback have noted several trends. These newer approaches are more client-centred, being about what works for the client and not for the agency or program. Other respondents noted that they receive more feedback and possibly higher-quality feedback because they are using social media/mobile devices to get client feedback.
  • There are challenges to using social media/mobile device use. Just under half of respondents (44.3%) noted that they have to change the way they do business in order to maximize the use of social media/mobile device use amongst learners. A slightly lower percentage of respondents (39.3%) cited lack of time to research and investigate the use of these methods as the main challenge.
  • Programs are still at various levels when it comes to adopting social media/mobile device use, although several respondents noted that such methods are becoming the “norm,” regardless of the challenges related to implementation. The anticipated learning curve may be preventing some programs from adopting social media/mobile device use as it takes time to learn new programs and use them.

Mobile Device Use and Current Learning Platforms for E-Channel:

At present, the main learning platforms used by e-Channel leads are Saba Meeting, Learnscape, Moodle and Plato. Deaf Learn Now delivers its asynchronous programming for Deaf/Hard of Hearing students using the Desire2Learn (D2L) Brightspace Learning Management System. The compatibility of these learning platforms with mobile device use is a primary concern for some e-Channel lead organizations. All learning platforms are making strides to accommodate mobile device use. Saba Meeting has made a free mobile app available and Contact North | Contact Nord has made video and .PDF resources available to highlight this app. Moodle, Plato and Learnscape are also acknowledging the increased use in mobile device use.

Recommendations for Planning:

The purpose of this research was both to examine the current and potential use of mobile device use among adult learners, but also to assist e-Channel leads in preparing for the increased use of mobile device use. The following are recommendations that e-Leads and Contact North | Contact Nord may wish to consider:

  • Encourage e-Leads to not just follow the mobile use of learners but to try to influence it. E-leads could put information on their websites to provide insight to learners about which mobile devices
  • work best with their programs. For example, add content to websites along the lines of “Are you considering buying a mobile device? We recommend the use of XXXX for our programs…”
  • Are there key messages that all e-Leads may want to develop and incorporate into their websites, perhaps in the form of FAQ, that go beyond recommendations of purchases for learners?
  • As a result of blended learning and the fact that many e-Channel learners are participating via a blended learning approach, e-Leads may want to review how they connect with other programs in the province around mobile device usage.
  • Analyze e-Channel users – into demographic age groups. Research suggests that some demographics prefer different social media to communicate. Do e-Leads know who is using their services via mobile device use?
  • Encourage e-Leads to review the section “Creating Moodle Mobile friendly courses” before they create new Moodle content:
  • E-leads that use Learnscape as a learning platform may want to look at how Learnscape is being used in Africa to facilitate learner involvement.
  • The Desire2Learn (D2L) Brightspace Learning Management System appears to be making strides towards accommodating mobile device use. More information can be found here:
  • A collective e-Channel effort could be mounted to identify and review potential feedback programs and perhaps apps (recognizing that the use of apps is on the decline amongst users) that could be made available to all upon the program selection.


Mobile device use is on the rise – in life in general and in education. Ensuring that e-Channel learning programs are compatible with the most common mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) and that information about using mobile devices to access learning is available and promoted on e-Lead websites is critical. Certainly, the development of new online e-Channel programs should be undertaken with mobile device use in mind.

The use of mobile devices to access e-Channel programming offers opportunity as well as challenges. The opportunities lie in the realm of increasing access for learners, while the challenges lie in the area of programs changing business practices and keeping on top of rapid developments in the technological realm. Employment Ontario programs, including literacy, employment services and Ontario Works, are motivated to further explore the successful implementation of mobile device use, if not for the purposes of learning, then for the critical ability to maintain communication with clients.

Obviously, the use of mobile devices – both to assist clients in accessing learning activities and for programs to explore meaningful ways of staying connected to clients – is paramount. This conversation needs to be embraced and ongoing and e-Lead programs need to be more explicit in assisting learners in understanding the role of and directing the use of mobile device use in programming.