Apps have invaded the world. As the famous quote goes, “They’re everywhere! They’re everywhere!” They’re in the marketplace. They’re in the entertainment world. And they are certainly in the educational space. So, the question is: How can a mobile app actually help me learn? In other words, how can I progress in my studies by using an app and how will it help me improve my capabilities and build my skills?
Educational app developers need to constantly think of the end-user and how the finished product will affect each learner. To do so, we must think in terms of these two important questions:
- What does the learner really want?
- How does the app answer this need?
In many cases, the student wishes for something that is broad. For example, if you ask English learners what they want, they often answer in generalities, like ‘I want to improve my English.’ or ‘I need to get better scores on a test.’ But how does this translate into real needs? What do they mean? And how do you build an app for that?
Do they want to have a larger vocabulary? Then build a fun vocabulary builder game. Maybe they want to have a better knowledge of English grammar? If that is the case, make a mobile grammar book. Or perhaps they just want to be able to read a passage and answer questions, simulating what they are required to do in reading comprehension exercises provided by a teacher in the classroom. If so, find progressively longer reading texts with lots of multiple choice questions and build an easy app for that.
But is this what they are really saying? Is this what their real needs are? When they say ‘I want to speak better English.’ what if this really means that they want to get a job that requires good English speaking skills? Or what if their real needs are to be able to comprehend a business presentation given in English and then ask the presenter intelligent questions? Or to be able to negotiate an international deal? Or to ace that scholarship interview? What should go into these kinds of apps? What if the translation of their need to ‘improve my English scores on a test’ is really ‘How can I build up and integrate my language skills so that I can do better in a section of a test that combines reading, listening and speaking skills? What would this kind of app look like?
The point is this. You can build an educational app because it is easy to do so. Or, you can take the path more rarely taken, and try to offer solutions that answer burning real world needs. In other words, it is necessary to think of how your app user answers this question: “How will this mobile app help me learn so that I can succeed in life?” If you have a clear cut answer to this, you have a great app!