Posts tagged ‘training’

Updated mobile learning app on Google Play

I’ve just made the updated training application available on Google Play, you can get it from here:

As before, when you first start the app you’ll be asked to login or register and then you can install some of the modules to test out (once logged in you’ll see the link to ‘install modules’). For initially logging in and installing the modules, you’ll need a data/wifi connection, but after this the app will work fully offline.

Also (and as before), the video content is not included in the module packages (mainly to keep the download size down). For trying out the videos, you can download them from here (all the .m4v files): – just copy these files directly into the /digitalcampus/media/ directory on your phone SD card.

If you have any problems/comments etc then please leave a message below.

Video of updated training content app

Over the last few days I’ve made quite a few updates to the app. The key difference has been to add the functionality to switch languages. Here’s a quick video of the app in action now:

The updated app package is available here if you’d like to try this out for yourself.

I’ve also started working on the server side where we can track the user activity. So far I’ve only made a couple of very basic pages, just for demo purposes, which show graphs of the recent activity for each module and another page which gives a list of the users for each module and their progress so far:

Graph of recent activity in modules

Table showing detail of which users are taking part in the module, their progress so far and the last time they accessed the content

We need to think a little more about what information is useful to show here, for the tutors/supervisors/managers etc and also to work out how we may be able to present this information on the mobile device – similarly to how we developed the mobile scorecard application for patient management.

New mobile HEAT application

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve recently been rewriting the mobile HEAT application and I now have a first version ready for people to test out. You can get the app here for installing on you Android phone. As it’s just a first version, I’d really appreciate any feedback (either email me directly or post a comment below), which is also why I’ve just posted it up here, rather than making it available on the Google Play store – which I’ll do once it’s been tested a little more.

Few notes comments on how to use the app and what it does:

  • As with the previous version, you’ll need a MQuiz login account (though you can register for this directly in the app). So you do need an active internet connection on your phone for this step.
  • Unlike the previous version, this app comes with no course content. This was one of the main reasons for rewriting this app: to decouple the content from the app. So after you’ve first logged in, click on the ‘manage modules’ button and you can get a list of the available modules you can install, so you can select which content you’d like to download. You’ll also need an active internet connection for doing this, though I have built in a way in which you can just put the course package directly on the phone SD card and it will auto install.
  • Once you’re logged in and have downloaded some content, an active internet connection is no longer needed.
  • For testing out the video content (in the “video demo” course), the videos are not included in the course download package (as it makes the download packages too large). If you’d like to test the video content, please download the .m4v files and place them all in the /mtrain/media/ directory on the phone sd card.

There are 3 main areas I’d really appreciate feedback on:

  1. Tracking: as you navigate through the content (play videos and take assessment exercises) the app records your activity to submit back to the server (for example, so your course tutor/supervisor can see how you’re doing). The app tries to do this whenever you complete an activity (so connects to the internet at this point), but it may be that you’re offline at the time. Note that a text page is only considered as being completed if you have spent at least 3 seconds on the page before moving to the next one (to at least give some pretence that you may actually have read the content ;-)). To cover the possibility that you may be offline when using the app, but you still want your activity logged, the app also installs a service to try to connect once an hour to submit your activity, even if you’re not using the app. I’m a little unsure that this is the best approach, since I’m not too keen on applications connecting to the internet in the background, but I haven’t yet thought of a better way to handle this. I may just add a preference to allow you to decide if this service is allowed to connect or not. But any comments/thoughts on this appreciated.
  2. Navigation: once inside a course module, I’d like some feedback on the navigation between the activities for each section in the course. Currently you can’t see a full list of all the activities for a given section, without clicking on the previous/next arrow buttons, as I wanted to avoid the user needing to go through another list selection page to get to the activity, but I’m not sure that what I’ve done so far is quite right.
  3. App name: I’m not too keen on the app name ‘mTrain’, so any suggestions for alternative names welcome!

In the next days, for those of you who don’t have an Android phone to test this on, I’ll post up a video of the app in action.

Rewriting Mobile HEAT application

I’ve spent the last few days starting to rewrite the mobile HEAT application. The two main reasons for doing this are:

  1. To create the app as a native Android app. The original app was using PhoneGap and although I really like the fact that the app can be written in HTML5 (and so easier to port to other mobile operating systems), I was just finding that the app ran far to slowly. It would take several seconds just to load a page and it made the app really annoying to use. The fact that we could create an app for other mobile operating systems isn’t a huge bonus for us, it’s likely that we’d be providing the hardware for users of this system, unlike, say Moodle Mobile, which has recently announced it’s moving from a native app to an HTML5 app.
  2. I wanted the app to be a general mobile training content application, so it’s just a shell app into which you can drop or download the specific modules you want to use (although I could have implemented this in the previous PhoneGap/HTML5 version)

Here are a few screenshots:

Homepage showing list of installed modules

Module index page

Activity page

Quiz activity

With the new app I can drop in new training content zip files (generated by an output script in Moodle) and it will automatically load in the app. I can track my progress with a given module and the activities within a module. I’ve made a new navigation for the activities in each section, the previous app had a set of tabs to navigate, but this meant there was a limit on the length of the tab text and number of tabs before it started wrapping and nasty. Not sure if what I’ve now got is exactly right, but it seems a lot more flexible for having more activities within a given section, and for longer titles.

Although there is still much work to be done, I much prefer the new application already, being a lot quicker, it just feels a lot nicer to use, plus I find it really handy to be able to drop in training modules for installing. The main areas for me to focus on next are:

  • Submitting tracking and activity output back to the server
  • Selection and downloading of modules (rather than needing to manually copy zip files onto the sdcard)
  • Figure out how to switch languages within the app

Once I get the app a bit more finished I’ll make it available for download so you can test it out.

OpenLearn content on mobiles

Here is a brief overview of how I created the Android application with the HEAT content. It is very much a demo/prototype application, so I’m sure there are many other ways this could be done (maybe in a more generic approach).

I used the plain zip download format of the HEAT modules (eg: – which essentially provides a set of static webpages of all the module content. I noticed a couple of issues with these downloads, for example some had incorrect references to images, and the contents page wasn’t in quite the right order, but no big problems.

I then used the PhoneGap framework to turn this content into an Android application, just applying a revised stylesheet and adding a new header/footer for navigation. Initially I tried working with a whole HEAT module, but we found there was just too much text for anyone to be able to read comfortably, so we cut the content down to just the essential parts (introduction, learning outcomes, summary and SAQs). This was the part that probably took the most time, since it was a manual process to refactor the content in this way.

I’m sure there are ways this could be done in a more generic and less-manual way, perhaps using the OU XML to generate only these specific sections, but I suspect that we will always want to edit the content slightly for mobile devices, especially since we’ll be adding videos and perhaps some audio content too. Using the PhoneGap framework means that we should easily be able to transfer this application over to iPad/Blackberry/Windows Mobile applications with very little effort.

For embedding the videos, I used a PhoneGap extension to allow the embedding of local video content. The videos we’re testing out are from the Global Health Media Project, and are stored on the phone/tablet local SD card. We could include the videos directly in the Android apk package, but this is likely to make the apk quite large, plus we’ve not yet finalised which videos we’d like to embed.

The final part to all this is the interactive self assessment exercises. This is using a web app I have been developing over the last few weeks (mQuiz) and is designed to allow quizzes to be run offline. The quiz can be created then stored as a JSON object and a javascript library is then used to display the quiz to the user. If the user has an active internet connection then their responses are sent back to the mQuiz server, if they are working offline their responses are kept until a connection is available.

So we now have an Android application which can be run completely offline, with all the content, videos and quizzes pre-loaded onto the phone.

All of this is a work in progress, the code is up at: I’m sure there are areas where improvements to this could be made – any suggestions welcome.

Videos from HEW training

Couple of short videos from our recent HEW training sessions:

Initial HEW training with smartphones

I just posted this up on our Digital Campus blog:

Last weekend Araya and Florida ran the first training course for Health Extensions Workers (HEWs) who will participate in our feasibility study. We are starting with a very small group of HEWs – just 5 in this first training session – and the 2 day training consisted of:

  • the basic functions of the HTC hero phones, contacts, making calls, messaging and switching between Amharic and English keyboard layouts
  • charging the phones using the solar lamps and chargers we provided – as most of the HEWs do not have electricity in their Health Posts
  • using the EpiSurveyor client application for entering and sending data, plus using the GPS
  • practice completing and sending the Ante Natal Care protocol forms set up in EpiSurveyor

This first training is simply to get the HEWs used to using the phones, find out what problems and issues they may have, especially with battery life, recharging, completing forms etc – at this stage we’re not looking to collect real data – though we hope they can practise using the forms with real patients.

The feedback we have received is that the training went very well, the HEWs seem very and eager to learn how to use the phones and soon became quite comfortable using them. Over the coming months we’ll introduce the phones to another couple of small groups of HEWs and we’ll find out what challenges may exist and the feasibility for using smartphones for protocol and data collection in this environment.

The dog ate my homework

Have been hearing a few critical comments from some staff regarding the Certificate in Online Education and it’s content. Apparently some staff feel that learning about some of the techniques that we have been showing them is beneath them, or they already know how to perform these functions (for example use of graphics editing software). In my mind it’s just another excuse not to participate in the training. It also shows that they aren’t coming to the training with an open mind and consider that elearning is simply a technical issue, rather than a way of truly improving the quality of their course content and activities. I’m quite sure that some staff are capable of using some of the software, but in order to give them a certificate they need to prove is to us by actually demonstrating their skills with the courses they deliver to students.

Unfortunately, it still seems far too common here for staff to receive a lot of training, but never follow the training up by implementing what they have learned.

There are a wide variety of other reasons (excuses) I’ve heard as to why staff haven’t participated in the training, but there are few I believe as anything other than excuses.

More positively, except for the England v USA result, I’ve now found a few good places to watch the world cup matches. Apparently some students here have requested alterations to their exam timetables so they are able to watch all the games. I don’t think they received a particularly sympathetic response!

Otherwise, another busy week, spending much of the time with the new Institute of Technology (officially the Tigray Institute of Technology, but this results in an unfortunate acronym!), working on an action plan for the implementation of elearning into the new institute. They certainly seem to have more commitment than we received from the rest of the university over the past year. But hope that the Institute will be able to set a good example of how changes can be made in the rest of the university.

A team of staff (Joern, Selamawit, Haileleul and Oliver) from ECBP on.e arrived yesterday to begin working with the Institute and the new elearning team here. We’re planning how we can integrate our two separate training programmes for staff (elearning team and the tutors) and assisting with planning the technical/ICT infrastructure required.

Return to Ethiopia

Havana Club, Mekelle

Have now been back in Mekelle for a few days – I arrived on Monday evening, and got back into life here amazingly quickly when I think how strange it all seemed when I first arrived in Sept 2008.

I’m staying back at my old house, even have my old room back for the next month. Meeting up with everyone again has been great, it feels as if I’ve been away for such a long time, even though it’s only been around 2 months and I had expected more changes, but then I guess things don’t change here that quickly. The road that had been dug up near the house is still unfinished, in fact in an even worse state than before. Almost everyone has mentioned how fat I’ve become being back in the UK, but with the amount of eating out I’ve been doing the past few days seems unlikely I’ll lose any weight whilst here

I got straight back into work at the Uni on Tuesday morning, Jaime had been here for the week before I’d arrived and we’re ran the third of our face to face training weeks with our tutors. On Friday evening we had another meal out at the Axum hotel and had a short presentation of the tutors certificates (Basic Certificate in Online Education, accredited by Alcala University).

My to-do list for this visit seems to be getting longer by the minute, there are still a large number of technical and management issues that we need to get resolved. There is still confusion over who is responsible for the opening of one of the labs and there needs to be better coordination and management from the university. At the moment it seems that no-one at the university has overall responsibility.

On the plus side, the Engineering College (now an independent Institute of Technology), has employed 3 new staff as elearning specialists, so I will spend some time training them over the coming weeks. As they’re part of the IoT rather than the university generally, we can’t get them to support the Health Sciences college. So I can see a big divide opening between the IoT and the rest of the university in elearning infrastructure, capacity and capability.

I can see my time here flying past, I’ve already been here a week and only have 3 left, so will be back in the UK before I know it!

Second week of Tutor Training

Tutors from Health Sciences and Engineering Colleges

Last week we had our second full weeks training course with our elearning tutors. Jaime came over from Alcala University to deliver most of the training and I was there to help out with more of the technical aspects and generally lend a hand.

It was a completely different week to the previous training week we had back in November. Then it was the start of the training so it was much more hectic and we had more participants – who seemed to flit between attending or not – so it was difficult to manage with everyone working at different paces. In November we gave people plenty of time for practical work as well as giving presentations – but at the end of the week, some people thought there was too much time to work on their own. I suspect that many of these were the people who were more interested in getting the certificate to say they’ve done the training than actually implementing anything.

This week we had a core group of about 12 tutors who attended the whole week, which was almost entirely practical sessions – just a few presentations. Jaime had much of the previous week meeting with the tutors for individual tutorials and catch up, which worked out to be time well spent. The outcome was a very productive week and we now have many courses (around 15) almost fully uploaded on our Moodle server (see: – many of the courses allow guest access if you would like to take a look. Next challenge is to make sure the student accounts have been created and that they have received some form of induction to the lab.

Unfortunately we still have some unresolved technical issues in the labs which has been making things a little tricky to manage. None of the issues by themselves are show-stoppers, but all the little issues add up and we’ve already experienced the fact that we’re not always told when there are issues – instead people just don’t use the lab. So we need to make sure there are plenty of ways in which staff and students can communicate when they are having difficulties.

Enjoying a meal at Axum hotel

At the end of the week we had a nice meal out with all the tutors at the Axum hotel. Even though it was a Friday night, most places are very quiet – it’s still fasting time in the run up to Easter and many people won’t go out to restaurants/bars if they’re not able to eat meat!

Some of our first elearning students

Today I held the first student induction session for Seyoum’s ‘Marketing Management for Industrial Engineers’ course. All seemed to go very well, we had far fewer problems with the students logging in than I was expecting – I think this was mainly due to Seyoum being able to explain in Amharic what they needed to do.