In and around the beginning of 2000 and till about 2007, if you wanted to develop an e-learning course you required some programming skills as developing e-learning was akin to writing web pages. You had to write codes for HTML, Java Scripts and you had to rely on Flash to create the interactive objects. You were also required to have a working knowledge of SCORM standards to package your course and host on an LMS.

Playing these courses on browsers which supported flash player plug in was a breeze then. However, over the last few years, technology has changed towards mobile first approach and the entire e-learning community has been adopting this trend albeit little slowly. Mobile learning requires the content to be optimized for these mobile devices and flash is not supported by most of the mobile browsers and OS. That’s when HTML5 evolved as the savior, a technology which could support learning across devices.

What is HTML5?

HTML, the abbreviation for Hyper Text Markup Language, is the popular markup language used to create web pages. Developers are using HTML since 1990s however with the change in technology HTML has been constantly advancing to meet the current requirements. HTML standards are maintained by World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).

HTML5 is the fifth and the latest version of HTML standards and was initially released in October 2014. Some of the functional features of HTML5 are:

• Semantics: allowing to describe more precisely what your content is.
• Connectivity: allowing you to communicate with the server in new and innovative ways.
• Offline and storage: allowing web pages to store data on the client-side locally and operate offline more efficiently.
• Multimedia: Supports several video and audio formats.
• 2D/3D graphics and effects: Supports both 2d and 3d graphics (static as well as motion) through WebGL and SVG.
• Performance and integration: providing greater speed optimization and better usage of computer hardware.
• Device access: allowing for the usage of various input and output devices.
• Styling: letting authors write more sophisticated themes through CSS3

If you carefully look at the functional features of HTML5, you will understand and appreciate why HTML5 is becoming a darling of the web and e-learning industry.

Now let’s understand the role of HTML 5 in e-learning :

• Enhances Accessibility

The biggest advantage of HTML5 is that it supports multiple browsers :

• Google Chrome
• Firefox
• Apple Safari
• Internet Explorer

This becomes quintessential in e-learning as various learners will be using multiple devices and browsers to access the learning content.

By creating a HTML5 e-learning course, you can give the power of accessibility to the learner. The learners can play the course in multiple devices be it a desktop, laptop, tablet and mobile as well and even play the modules both in online and offline modes. It gives the flexibility to the learner to learn at his own convenience.

• Supports multimedia contents

Earlier while playing the multimedia elements in the e-learning course, if the learners didn’t have the appropriate plugin with them, then a black box used to appear and the user was required to download specific plugin (mostly a flash plug in) in order to play it. With the help of HTML5, you can include various multimedia elements such as audio and video and external links, white papers and ebooks as well thus eliminating the need of adding additional plugins and making the learning a smooth process.

• Game Development

Game based learning and gamified e-learning are two of the most trending strategies in e-learning. HTML5 supports game development using HTML5’s tags. HTML5 provides a great, mobile friendly way to develop fun and interactive games quite similar to the flash games developed using AS3.

• Better interactivity

As e-learning course developers we always desire to build great interactivity in our courses to engage our learners. Canvas, the drawing HTML5 tag allows you to do most (if not more) interactive and animated possibilities almost like Flash.

Beyond canvas, HTML5 has some great APIs that allow you to build a better user experience and a beefier, more dynamic e-learning — here’s a quick list of native APIs:

Drag and Drop (DnD)
Offline storage database
Browser history management
Document editing
Timed media playback

  • Multiple authoring tools are now giving HTML5 output

Realising the role HTML5 plays in creating a near seamless experience on multiple devices, many popular authoring tools such as Adobe Captivate, Elucidate, Articulate Storyline, Gomo learning and Easy Generator are now supporting publishing e-learning courses in HTML5 format. Even SCORM publishing is now being supported in HTML5 by using JavaScript.

HTML5 is the future of web development and e-learning so the sooner, we get with it and start using it bit by bit in our e-learning course development, the faster we will be able to master it.