Last updated: 16.12.13

Will the predicted growth in tablet sales at Christmas herald rapid change in the way we learn?

As Christmas approaches more and more tablets are being released onto the market and prices are continuing to fall. Retailers have taken the tablets from Apple ‘aspiration’ price levels to the ‘value for money’ prices of Argos’s MyTablet, CarPhone Warehouse’s Avoca and Tesco’s Hudl. Here at Virtual College we have watched these changes with interest and our team are ready to help you make sense of this evolving market and the consequential impact upon e-learning.It is very likely that Tablets will be one of the top presents gifted over Christmas 2013. Laptops, Smartphones and tablets have fundamentally changed how people consume media. Multi-device, multi-tasking and multiple device ownership has emerged in recent years, with ’second screening’ now being the norm across many households. You’ve probably done it yourself without realising, seeing an advert on the TV while browsing on your laptop and doing a quick search for more information on the product.This huge increase in availability means that it’s only a matter of time before Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) becomes a common practice in the workplace and education settings.With devices now starting at £49.00, a class of 40 pupils that would have previously needed £16,000 to cover the cost of iPads can now be supplied for £2,000. Increasingly students will expect tablets to form a significant part of the education experience, flipped classroom will become both a reality and a new challenge to schools and colleges.There are several studies being launched in the UK to try and give value and understanding to the role of tablets, flipped classrooms and other technologies in schools. For example, the BBC recently reported a £3.5m strategy by the Education Endowment Foundation and Nominet Trust to evaluate the impact of technology in schools is now underway. The tablet study is perhaps a little late, as many educational establishments have been using tablets for some time, the real question is how to use these devices to best effect and how to manage the plethora of tablets now on the market.Colleges, schools and companies need strategies to deal with the explosion of tablet ownership and the desire of many people to integrate their devices with how they live and learn this is the new BYOD challenge. e-learning is set to play an increased role in our lives with Apple, Microsoft, Google and Amazon all dabbling in the education and e-learning markets whilst being at the forefront of the tablet revolution. Samsung is clearly a key player in this market too, with a reported 18% market share in the second quarter of 2013 (source: Device design and Apps have been the main features of tablets that have attracted the attention of commentators, but the usage of tablets in education and increasingly in workplace learning and training cannot be ignored by new vendors seeking to gain market share.e-Learning for tablets is an emerging area and the Virtual College team has analysed the market closely. We have developed several App led e-learning projects for clients already, and the pros and cons of tablet usage have brought new challenges for our e-learning designers to overcome.These include:•The exceptionally high screen resolutions provide for an excellent interface, and materials such as video and other images must be able to impress through these high-resolution screens.•Tablets are much more tactile in usage, with touch and drag functionality playing as important a role as the keyboard. Keyboard usage can be limited, especially on 7 inch devices that are priced at a much more achievable £49.00 and likely to be the gift of choice this Christmas. •Voice interaction is an interesting opportunity not fully exploited for learning in our view; and the stylus is another device that, although around for some time, new innovations are breathing life back into the device to offers new ways of interaction and input that is also interesting.While e-learning might not grab headlines, it does play an important part in the “tablet orientated eco-systems” of content provision. With more than 1 million learners having used the Virtual College e-learning platform and a team of excellent UK based e-learning designers and technicians working behind the scenes, I am very confident we can make sense of all the competing eco-systems and devices for companies and colleges who wish to integrate and utilise tablets for their employees or students.Indeed I would go so far as to say to the new generation of tablet vendors looking at how people learn in on-line environments….talk to us….we have the experience and the insight to make e-learning work. We can work with you to develop strategies for using e-learning with tablets; we can develop bespoke e-learning for tablets and crucially advise you how to make tablets work for your college or your company to the best effect.By Rod Knox,Virtual College CEO.