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My reaction to the “hot topic” of HTML5 and e-learning

This morning I read a ‘hot topics’ report by Judy Unrein from the elearning Guild on ‘HTML5 and e-Learning: What Managers and Practitioners Must Know’. For anyone who is new to mobile, HTML5 or e-learning, I think there are some great points here. The report also has a decent level of detail for someone who is thinking about what technology to use on their next e-learning programme. Since HTML5 is talked about a lot at the moment in the industry (it’s going to save the world according to some people), it’s useful that that this report gives a good breakdown of the key components of HTML, CSS and JavaScript; comparisons with Flash; things you can do and a list of basic browser support.

Unrein talks about the basics – from accessibility to responsive design – and highlights browser support and the key features of HTML5 that you may be able to use in your learning. Some of the examples in the report feature impressive animation and use of HTML5 features. One such example was the Hello Enjoy website which is a good showcase of how you can use HTML5 to create impressive visual media.

But the report does have some weaknesses. I believe it’s missing some key messages and that it makes a lot of things seems rather simple when this is not the case. Here are a few extra points I think are important to add when you are considering an HTML5 solution:

  • HTML5 is still very new, and therefore, a lot of browsers implement the same features in different ways. This means cross browser compatibility is a common issue and reverting back to HTML4 for certain browsers is actually more economic and effective.
  • Accessibility on HTML5 is possible, but it’s not automatic. Much like HTML4, it needs to be considered when developing anything new.
  • If you are planning on deploying your HTML5 e-learning course to users’ mobile smartphones, then responsive design doesn’t just come out of the box. You’ll need to think about the content and how you want the layout and content to adjust on smaller screens. Just scaling something to make it smaller doesn’t cut it – think about your users’ experience and how you can produce good learning for all the platforms you want to support.
  • Offline caching isn’t mentioned but for tablet and smartphone users or for those with limited bandwidth, this is one method that can improve user experience in a huge way.
  • Using a mouse and touch screen are very different. Your desktop version might not work on the tablet unless you have given it some consideration in advance.

I’m very much a believer in the HTML5 approach. I’m sure in 5 years’ time Flash will be a distant memory, but for now the Flash vs HTML5 debate will rage on. It’s just nice to see the scales are tipping toward a pro-HTML5 world.