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By Blair Hunter, Lead Instructional Designer, TP3

When I became an instructional designer in 2003, the platform of choice was HTML - the cornerstone technology of web page design since the mid 1990s.

Slowly, we began adding rich content created in Adobe Flash which at the time was the only way to deliver a rich, interactive audio and video experience over the web. By 2005 we were working exclusively in Flash.

Now here we are in 2016 and we’ve transitioned from Flash back to HTML – specifically the latest version HTML5.

So what does HTML5 mean to us as instructional designers? What are the benefits of using it? What are the drawbacks? And, having been through a platform migration before, what insights can we offer?

Why HTML5?

The eLearning industry evolves with the platform that best supports it. Today we need to reach a wider audience, using a range of mobile devices and demanding flexible and secure learning on-the-go.

With fewer and fewer devices supporting Flash these days, HTML5 offers a device-agnostic alternative – and it has quickly become the platform of choice.

The benefits

HTML5 allows us to craft eLearning that contains rich content that was previously only possible in Flash. It’s a platform for engaging interactivity, immersive graphics, and media content that can be accessed on any device.

Let’s take a look at five key benefits of HTML5 for instructional designers:

1. You can reach more people

Unlike Flash, you don’t need to have a player and plugin installed to view HTML5 content. It works directly in the browser that comes with your device.

We know that the number of people consuming content on mobile devices is booming and mobile learning is playing an integral role in learning and development strategies. By using HTML5 you ensure that anyone, on any device, can run your content.

2. You can optimise for each device

Screen layouts no longer need to be fixed. HTML5 uses liquid layouts that intelligently wrap content for the user’s device. This provides the best possible user experience whether you access the content from a laptop or a mobile phone.

3. You can rely on browser support

Browsers such as Chrome, Firefox, and Safari are already fantastic at comprehending and providing the best user experience of HTML5 content, and new features are being added all the time. HTML5 isn’t just the platform of choice for eLearning, it’s the new standard for web development.

4. You can make learning more accessible

HTML5 is inherently accessible and this is handled by the web browser. It doesn’t require special programming to be read intelligently by screen readers. Keyboard, mouse and other accessibility shortcuts are also available.

5. You can customise with ease

Each year we work on maintenance projects to update and customise existing eLearning content for our clients. HTML5 keeps those content solutions flexible and agile to change. When you want to update Flash content, you need the original source files. Many business move too fast to keep source files hanging around, and this leads to re-building content rather than simply maintaining it.

With HTML5 you only need the end-user content itself (i.e. the eLearning module) for maintenance purposes. The content can be kept up to date, flexible and agile in the face of change with no dusty source files required!

The drawbacks

Currently there are two drawbacks of using HTML5 for learning content:

1. Legacy browsers

Older versions of some browsers, such as Internet Explorer 8, still don’t comprehend HTML5 code very well. HTML4 would be the better platform for businesses running legacy browser versions

2. Limited flexibility with animation

HTML5 doesn’t currently provide a high degree of flexibility with animations. However, most animation tools can export to video and this can be integrated into HTML5 without the use of the third party plugins.

What insights can we offer?

The most important insight is to be patient and transition from Flash to HTML5 slowly.

If you’re a large business, your operating environment might be running a legacy version of IE, and there could be resistance from IT in allowing mobile devices into your Learning Management System.

In this situation, begin down the HTML4 path and upgrade to HTML5 code slowly as your browser allows.

Pilot mobile learning and demonstrate that allowing learners to consume content on-the-go is a great thing!

Wondering how HTML5 can power up your learning design?

Take advantage of our digital learning expertise. Contact us on 1300 658 388 and we’ll show you how you can use HTML5 to unlock the eLearning shackles with mobile learning.

Further reading

What is an Instructional Designer?

Should you develop your eLearning in HTML or FLASH?


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