eLearning TrendWatch: HTML5

As a learning professional, you already know how important it is to stay on top of all the latest developments, and while many have probably already started working with HTML5, even more have yet to jump onto that bandwagon. In this article, I’ll cover what’s important to know about HTML5 and what to keep in mind as you make the switch.

Incorporating rich media into your eLearning courses and modules is a must, and when Flash came along, it opened up new worlds of possibilities for accomplishing that. It’s power was in its ability to create vector-based animations to highly complex interactive applications. It has its own built-in ActionScript programming language, giving users maximum flexibility in scripting to communicate with an array of backend database languages. It took eLearning to a whole new level, allowing designers to create animations for step-by-step procedures, easy integration of audio in a variety of formats (WAV, AIF, MP3, M4a, and so on), course navigation that actually communicated with your learning management system (LMS), creating simulations, incorporating video in different formats, drag-and-drop interactions, incorporation of components, dynamic text, built-in quiz templates, and SCORM/AICC support.

For a while, it felt like Flash was all you’d ever need to create rich eLearning content, and that was true up until mobile devices like smartphone and tablets started taking over the world. Logistically, it meant developing different versions of your eLearning courses for delivery on mobile devices versus laptop/desktop computers. But what really did in Flash was that it just wasn’t working well in the mobile environment – it sucked up battery power way too quick, and video renderings were inevitably choppy. Adobe finally pulled the plug on mobile Flash in 2012.

Luckily, HTML5 has come along and solved all the problems Flash couldn’t address. HTML5 is the mobile-friendly alternative to replace Flash on smartphones and tablets, most of which don’t even try to support Flash anymore. This means if you really want to deliver rich eLearning content to mobile users, HTML5 is the only way to go. The nice thing is that it’s a single programming language that adapts to all different screen sizes, and smart meta-tagging allows you to optimize for mobile devices. HTML5 therefore lets you reach the widest audience possible, even when they’re on the go.

HTML5 offers the greatest amount of customization possible, extending to every aspect of your eLearning content, making everything interactive, including graphics. All this is accomplished through the programming, none of which relies on any kind of plug-in. And it renders effectively well on whatever browser is being used, whether Microsoft Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Apple Safari, or Mozilla Firefox. In the days of flash, video could be incorporated, but the user still had to have the right player or plug-in. All that is done away with in HTML5, which allows video content to be accessible from any browser or platform, and the same goes for audio as well. Multimedia presentations in eLearning are the way to go, and HTML5 allows it to happen seamlessly.

For learning professionals, HTML5 builds on the elegance of its web development origins for creating a flexible and simple way to program while also furnishing a robust, flexible, and high-performance framework well suited to rich and demanding online learning experiences.

It is clear that HTML5 is going to be the new industry standard, so if you haven’t switched yet, now is the time to take the plunge in order to keep up with everyone who is already making the switch. Compared to Flash, HTML5 is more flexible, takes up less CPU/battery resources, doesn’t impact SEO, allows movements, doesn’t need any plug-ins, works across browsers and devices, and has overall better performance. YouTube is already phasing out Flash in favor of HTML5. It has also been endorsed by and is being used at Facebook, Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Samsung, and Apple. If all of that doesn’t show you the writing on the wall, then you’d better make an appointment with eye doctor!

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