Chris Noessel > Masters Project: Free Range Learning Support> Why a Service?
Introduction  |  Process  |  The Service  |  Experience Prototypes  |  Conclusion  |  Appendices

Why a Service?

  Trying to envision a viable business model for such technology, a device- or lesson-centered model seems too limited for the long-term engagement required in the unfolding of our experiences in the world. A long-term service model gives interaction designers opportunities to provide blended learning, provide prompts for learners, further market penetration of baseline technology, tightly integrate components, and provide external learning motivation.

Blended Learning

The long-term relationship implied by subscription to a service provides a broader structure for blended learning across multiple devices and appropriate channels, i.e., the learner’s mobile device, the Web, a physical location like a classroom or office, or even the mail (post). Though this complicates design and maintenance of the content in a number of ways, it does enable service designers to place components in the environment where they work best. It also allows learners to use the tools they prefer that match their subjects.

Technology Market Penetration

Early explorations in m-learning, such as those conducted in 2001 by Melissa Regan¤ at the Stanford Learning Lab, indicate that modern cell phone displays with current network speeds are not engaging enough for mobile learning to be effective. A service model can further market penetration of the latest and greatest technology.

One of the reasons learners do not upgrade their mobile equipment is that the perceived benefits of upgrading do not outweigh the costs. A service model provides customers with a clear value proposition, e.g., “If you choose the deluxe package with the new Nokia tall-screen Java-enabled phone, you will be able to download and use over 50 new learning modules.” Since hardware costs can be distributed over the life of the service, perceived price decreases.¤

A secondary benefit to the “trade-up” model is that as devices are traded in, Fresh can resell or recycle them, keeping them out of the landfills and underscoring a commitment to sustainable business practices.

Low-tech service components offered in a “starter” package also indirectly aid technology penetration. As the learners gain mastery and confidence in the starter services with the low-end devices, they notice points at which better hardware would give them more options, providing experiential motivation to upgrade.

By using these practices to get recent technologies into the hands of its subscribers, the service benefits from being able to develop and release cutting-edge software. The service also benefits from word-of-mouth advertising as subscribers respond to inquiries about their sophisticated devices.

Learner Prompting

Research regarding learning and attention tells us that the efficacy of new devices suffers as they fade from learners’ attentions.¤ One way to overcome this “fading effect” is to incorporate learner prompting into the designs. With deviceuctured business models, we would have to re-initiate contact with the learner to provide this prompting. Since there is no relationship established, such contact would be perceived as intrusive and unwanted, as is often the case with advertising. Framed within a service and controlled by the learner, however, prompts may be welcomed as a helpful aid to learning, and can encourage continued use of the service.

Tight Integration

Conceiving the components as a single service reveals opportunities for data sharing between the various inputs and outputs. For example, in this project, one component involves the delivery of location-based information and another allows the client to ask questions of the service. By logging the locations where questions are asked, we can build the database on which the location-based component relies. Similarly, one component allows users to ask free-form questions of the service, which is forwarded for real-time answers by experts. Since the service has relationships with many clients of diverse interests, we can use this client base as the pool of experts.


Having an ongoing relationship between service and member allows the service to announce-as opposed to advertise-new technologies, hardware, and service components as they become available.

Learner Motivation

In a device- or lesson-based model, the primary value exchange occurs at the point of purchase. Afterward, issues of quality or guarantee may come into play, but these are meant to be exceptions and not the rule. Learner motivation between transactions is often a matter of luck and circumstance. In a service-based model, the learners are reminded each billing cycle that they are paying, and that it is in their best interest to maximize their use of the subscription. Additionally, as the learner reviews the charges on his bill, he reviews his recent learning activities, reinforcing them.

NEXT> The process.

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