Evolvement of Training Methods: The Tablet Era

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Asli Soyler Akbas | March 3, 2012

Rapidly advancing technologies introduce new challenges and requirements for individuals on a daily basis. Whether it is a new household tool or software, individuals feel the necessity to look for solutions that would help them learn, understand or advance in their area of interest, forcing a demand in continuous learning. Some of the methods, that has being used to support the learning efforts, included computer-based simulations, interactive class material presentations, online training, and traditional teaching methods. While the empirical researches comparing the effectiveness and capabilities of these methods were still ongoing, we were recently challenged with a new environment: Mobile products.  It wasn’t that long ago when the first computer-based learning environment, PLATO (Figure 1), was introduced. Yet, here we are – only 50 years later – experiencing computation, on a extremely mobile, touch screen, wireless device and looking for options to deliver knowledge to users through these devices. Learning products for tablet PCs are in their considerably early stages since commercial tablet technology was not introduced in the market until very recently. However tablet PC technology has the potential to change learning in many ways as more powerful tablet PCs are built with advanced touch screen technology. Powerful platforms allow designing complex applications and touch screen technology eliminates the needs for a mouse or keyboard while extending human computer interaction.

Figure 1 Newspaper Article (Brian 2011)

The developments in wireless infrastructures started a new era for mobile learning environments. It became very popular since simulation based e-learning provided animated, cheap, easy, reusable, solutions to trainers. Interactivity is another factor contributing to this popularity, however, for the sake of marketing, some commercial product providers may use interactivity for applications which are only based on user navigation.  Kolb (1984) defines interactivity as a capability that allows participants to hypothesize their understandings, and helps them learn from their mistakes and unexpected outcomes. Some of the technology platforms that enabled interactive learning included computer-aided instructional packages, games and automated tutors (Cannon-Bowers & Bowers 2008). The integration of these platforms and the tablet technology introduced new and exciting research areas in training. Even though it would be too early to make any assumptions, as the commercial tablets were released to the market only two years ago, the current statistics may reflect the popularity and potential of these platforms on a recently introduced technology. Having said this, according to a recent study focusing on the types of downloaded applications, games were found to be the most popular among all (Budiu & Nielsen 2011). So, why not start with the most popular application group to start delivering learning content? For example, a game for K-12 users that allows running experiments on some basic physics rules. Figure 2 captures a screenshot of an interactive, simulation based game application that is currently available on the application market.

The two operating systems that are currently used in tablets have different capabilities and limitations. Adobe AIR and Google/MIT’s easy-to-use application developer, App Inventor, allow more people to develop applications with less platform specific knowledge about Android and its development tools. This environment also allows integrating mathematical models and simulation using Java (Webdeveloper 2011).  IOS does not support Java to run on the iPad. Instead, for programming, the developers are required to use C-code (preferably objective-C). Later the code can be generated according to the models that are required by the simulation scenario (Apple 2011).

Figure 2 IOS–Experiment App (Exploriments 2011)

Figure 3 Forecasted Shipping (Alpha 2010)

Currently both of the discussed OSes have dedicated education categories. Within these categories, interested users can find simulation-based game applications. However, the research for adapting, simulation based learning systems for SCORM compliant applications and intelligent tutor systems are under development. Considering the benefits of learning environments that are interactive, accessible and adaptive, developments that integrate simulation into the existing mobile learning environments will increase significantly.


Alpha, S., 2010. Tablet Sales to Overtake Desktop PCs by 2013 – Seeking Alpha. Available at: http://seekingalpha.com/article/241196-tablet-sales-to-overtake-desktop-pcs-by-2013 [Accessed January 12, 2012].

Apple, 2011. IOS App Programming Guide. Available at: http://developer.apple.com/library/ios/#documentation/iPhone/Conceptual/iPhoneOSProgrammingGuide/Introduction/Introduction.html#//apple_ref/doc/uid/TP40007072-CH1-SW1 [Accessed January 16, 2012].

Brian, 2011. Plato II Demo. Available at: http://www.platohistory.org/blog/timeline/.

Budiu, R. & Nielsen, J., 2011. Usability of iPad Apps and Websites. Nielsen Norman Group, pp.1-115. Available at: http://www.nngroup.com/reports/mobile/ipad.

Cannon-Bowers, J.A. & Bowers, C.A., 2008. Synthetic Learning Environments. In Handbook of research on educational communications and technology. pp. 317-327.

Exploriments, 2011. Exploriments. Available at: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/exploriments-weight-mass-force/id483875230?mt=8 [Accessed January 16, 2012].

Kolb, D.A., 1984. Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development, NJ: Prentice Hall: Englewood Cliffs.

Webdeveloper, 2011. WebDeveloper. Available at: http://www.webdeveloper.com/java/ [Accessed January 14, 2012].

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