CTL Blog

Improved Mobile Support for Online Courses

November 07, 2011 | 3 Minute Read

Students, faculty, and staff who work on online courses often need to take a quick view at a class website to confirm a date on the schedule, see the latest BBS activity, or quickly review material. More and more, mobile devices such as iPhones and Android phones are being used to visit class websites — especially for these kinds of quick visits.

We recently made a large number of changes to class websites to make them more mobile-friendly, and better supporting these kind of quick view activities.

If you browse online courses with an iOS or Android-based mobile phone, you will see a new layout designed specifically for mobile smartphones. This new layout makes text easier to read, makes pages load faster on mobile devices, and provides a quick menu for accessing both the various parts of an individual course website (About the Course, Course Content, Communication Center, etc.) as well as other courses to which you currently have access.

In this iteration of improving support for mobile devices, we focused on the student reading experience as more reading and browsing is done on mobile devices at this time than creation or editing of content. As such, most pages which let you create or edit content have not been given a mobile makeover. This would include taking quizzes, contributing to a wiki, sending a class email, and composing messages on the BBS. Most faculty tools have also not been given a mobile makeover because of the complexity of the tools and the wide array of features in many of those tools. All pages which are not mobile friendly have been given a "Going to full desktop view" icon so that you know when you're moving from a mobile-friendly layout to a standard desktop layout. As we continue to refine our course websites to better support mobile devices, we will be looking at improving the mobile experience across all the tools.

Additionally, the rich text editor which is used in online courses does not currently support mobile operating systems such as iOS and Android. This makes it difficult to compose a class email, Announcement, or BBS posting. With this same mobile-friendly update, if you are using an iOS or Android-based mobile device (this includes both phones and tablets), you will see a simple, editable text box and will be able enter text. You will not have any formatting controls as the rich text editor is not currently supported on mobile operating systems, but you will be able to enter text, and make your posting.

There's no change in the playback of online lectures on mobile devices, however. As the iOS (iPhone/iPad) operating system does not and will not ever support Adobe Flash, there's no way to play back online lectures on an iPhone. You can view online lectures on an Android phone if you have the Flash Player for Android installed on the phone. While we certainly look for iOS-compatible alternatives to the tools which let us build online lectures, this situation is not likely to change in the coming year. In the meantime, though, you can listen to MP3s of course lectures and review lecture slide PDFs on an iOS device.

We definitely want to hear your feedback about the changes we've made to better support mobile devices. If there are particular areas or tools where you'd like to see improved mobile support, please let us know!