There are two distinct environments where mobile testing gets consistently brought up by organizational leadership: academic and non-profit/business.  In this article I’ll explore the pros and cons of both.  But first, what is mobile testing?

Mobile testing can broadly be defined as any electronic assessment performed on a non-traditional, mobile computing device.  At this point in the mobile lifecycle, I might also add that mobile testing is new and not particularly vetted.  Yet due to “mobile” being the L&D modalité du jour it’s not uncommon to for one manager or another to pop into the training office and ask about iPads.  It’s even more apparent in academia, where getting an institution’s name in the paper often has images of kids tapping and swiping away on a tablet.

Assessment Types

Assessment doesn’t have to mean test in the traditional sense.  Of course an assessment can be multiple choice, fill-in-the-blank, etc. where the test-taker sits and answers questions with or without resource materials.  This type of information memorization has its place in certain disciplines.  But what about active assessment?  Consider assessing groups of participants on a large project or having a participant demonstrate knowledge by performing an action.  This is where mobile fits in.

Where Mobile Fails

As of this writing, the two types of devices usually defined as mobile are the tablet and smartphone.  Now, not all tablets are created equally, and many perform identical functions as a desktop computer (like the Windows Surface).  But for standard tests on standard mobile devices, the following are concerns:

  • Many testing platforms use Flash, which most mobile devices cannot access.
  • Smartphones, and to a lesser extent, tablets, are typically used in public areas.  That means wireless access can be unreliable and spotty.  Or, using a 4G cellular connection can pull huge amounts of data.
  • The screens are much smaller and difficult to read.  Analyzing an image, typing a response or tapping a hotspot could be problematic.
  • Being in a public area may mean breaks in concentration.  (The sound of steaming lattes breaks mine, at least.)

Mobile Opportunities

Think about the second assessment type I outlined above.  Mobile is perfect for demonstration and active assessment.

  • Employees can take a live tour of a facility and demonstrate understanding of processes by taking pictures of correct objects.
  • Groups could produce an easy Prezi with sound and video and let users tap and swipe to explore.
  • In a machine shop with stations, students watch a demonstration video of a procedure.  Then, students record themselves on the device performing the same procedure for review.

A mobile device is not just a mobile computer.  As with any modality, tools should make sense for the learning activity.