Why HTML5 is the New Standard for eLearning Tools

These days, HTML5 has become somewhat of a buzzword. It’s touted as the next frontier for eLearning tools, but, for many non-technical folks, it’s unclear what it does differently than Flash or why it’s so important to have now.

With the right eLearning solution, you shouldn’t have to be an HTML5 expert, but it’s still helpful to know what all the fuss is about. In this post, we’ll explain what HTML5 is, what it does for your eLearning material, and why, if you haven’t adopted it already, now is definitely the time.

What is HTML5?

To put it simply, HTML5 is the latest version of HTML, the standard markup language used to create webpages, along with JavaScript and CSS. To get a sense of how these pieces work together, it’s helpful to imagine your webpage as a house. HTML can be thought of as your structure (the walls and beams), CSS is your interior design (paint colors or carpeting), and JavaScript is your interactive features, such as the TV remote or garage opener. Together, they communicate a particular set of designs and functions for each webpage.

So, what does this mean for you? The web has become the standard way of presenting high-quality, well-rendered content to users across the world. It means that when you write content in HTML5, you’re working on top of technology that has been evolving over the past decade: a system targeted at ease of authoring and ease of reading. Plus, as an open standard, HTML5 is not controlled by a single business that can lock you in to using proprietary tools to access your content.

Why now?

Several key trends shaping the modern workforce favor HTML5, and ignoring these trends could put your business at a serious disadvantage. Today’s learners expect:

  • Mobile optimization.
  • Increased engagement.
  • Availability across their devices today, and into the future.

Here’s how HTML5 plays a huge role:

Mobile optimization:
Mobile devices are already commonplace in the office, are rapidly gaining ground in the retail environment, and are the primary devices for field staff. In fact, 71% of organizations are now using or experimenting with mobile learning, and 78% plan to do so in the next two years. While most mobile devices do not support Flash, HTML5 renders across a wide variety of platforms and browsers, allowing learners to access your content wherever they are. Whether on the job or out in the field, HTML5-based content gives employees greater flexibility to learn, reference, and repeat from the devices they prefer.

Increased engagement:
Your employees’ expectations have been shaped by modern, responsive experiences on the web and in mobile apps. To be appealing (and effective), your content needs to meet that same standard. HMTL5 has built-in support for audio and video (no plug-ins required) and a wide range of interactive capabilities, creating a much more immersive experience. What’s more, since HTML5 content is effectively a webpage, it can be searched and indexed using standard web tools, unlike a PDF or Flash content.

Cross-device availability:
Not only is HTML5 supported on today’s mobile devices, but it’s a safe assumption that it will render beautifully on any future device, whether that’s a watch or a refrigerator. Web content written 20 years ago still renders in a modern browser almost exactly as it did then. Your HTML5 content will continue working for as long as you need it to. While older interactive formats like Flash won’t disappear overnight, the trend is clear: Flash usage has decreased by 25% in the last year alone.

How can I get there?

If you haven’t started already, now’s the time to build and test your learning content in HTML5. Here are a few helpful tips for transforming your existing assets, and choosing the right tool to help you along the way:

1. Start by examining your existing assets, and then make an honest assessment about how many of them are still effective and well-tailored to your training goals.

2. While text content is relatively straightforward to port from ‘flat’ formats into HTML5, there’s no magic bullet for converting existing Flash assets. Most likely you’ll have to re-author some portion of your interactive content.

3. Look for a tool that was built from the ground up to support responsive design in native HTML5, rather than one where the content is authored in a fixed, slide-based layout and would have to be refactored for different screen sizes and then converted to HTML5.

4. Make sure that you only have to author once to cover every platform (desktop, tablet, mobile). If in doubt, when evaluating a tool, ask to see exactly the same content rendered on desktop and a mobile device. Responsive content will reflow to make the most of the available screen size, not just shrink the desktop view to fit.

The bottom line:

Today’s learners require engaging and flexible learning content that reaches them no matter the device. HTML5 is the de facto technology platform for sophisticated, responsive content. While transforming interactive content from legacy formats isn’t always easy, the switch to HTML5 is worth it, and can be made easier with the right tools. Now take a deep breath, and dive in!

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