A conversation about HTML5 tools

All the buzz … find an elearning authoring tool that can convert a course into HTML5 with just the click of a button. Voila! Not only do you get a Flash-based course for desktops/laptops, you get the same content all nicely transformed for mobile users on tablets or smartphones. … … … Ummmm … … … a bit of a problem here. I had a conversation with someone about this just the other day.

Colleague: “Okay, so it’s a bit kludgy. But it has a lot of promise. Being able to create a course that will work in the LMS and on mobile devices is a ‘win.’ This is probably going to be the way things are done in the very near future.”

My response was that although I understand the wish to have a tool like this, it really is going to set us up for some bad experiences – particularly when it comes to offering elearning courses on mobile devices. The reason is that mobile learners DO NOT (and will likely not want to) take courses with their small-screen devices. I know that I don’t. And I think that I’m probably a typical user.

As a mobile user / learner the times I pick up my smartphone is when I need to know something right away. I’m looking for a quick answer to a question or situation that I’m facing. I want something that will allow me to get the information I need easily and quickly, and then I put the smartphone down to continue with my work or task at hand. Maybe – just maybe – I’ll want to go a little more indepth into a topic, process, procedure, or whatever. And when I do have that hankering I’ll appreciate being able to explore the topic at my own pace, in a self-directed manner and not dictated by some linear approach of, “click next to continue.”

HTML5 offers a lot … but having it just be the output of some Flash-conversion of a formal elearning course isn’t what makes it useful or exciting in the world of mobile learning.

And if we go down this path without really examining HOW mobile learners use their devices, then we’re going to turn off a whole bunch of people.

It’s not so much the tool itself; it’s how we design (or don’t design) for mobile learners in the context of how, when, where, and why they pick up their devices to learn or to get something done.  Sure – it would be great to have the ability to offer Flash-based courses for mobile learners … but that shouldn’t be the primary reason for using HTML5. It’s a matter of DESIGN … designing for the mobile experience, which is different from the desktop/laptop experience … designing for the mobile learner’s needs and expectations, which are different from those who use a desktop/laptop.

And it really bothers me when a vendor makes bold statements about how their HTML5 conversion option is THE ANSWER to solving mobile learning development. It bothers me even more when someone buys into the idea that an HTML5 conversion tool or option is going to solve all sorts of problems and get us onto the track of accommodating mobile learners.

I’m looking for a tool that will help guide the process of design for a mobile experience … a tool that addresses the context in which a mobile device is used. And then it can spit out all the HTML5 it wants because I’ll be more confident that it is intended for mobile learners – addressing what they want in a manner in which they want it.

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About Rory

I make my home in the central part of the Garden State along with my family. When I'm not working as an Instructional Designer (focusing mostly on Web-Based learning ... and other eLearning technologies) or researching something, I'm found at home playing computer or video games. Among other things, I volunteer as a choir member and catechist for 8th graders at my parish.
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