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Martin Blazey The end of eLearning as we know it

I recently had cause to create some content in Adobe Flash, and it reminded me of how easy it is to create hand-drawn animations and interactions relatively quickly within one tool.  It also reminded me that we don’t use it anymore for eLearning in the same way, and for a moment it seemed a shame. 

I remember the time when Apple dropped support for Flash and it seemed likely the iPad, like the iPod and iPhone, would see huge take up – even if people did not know what to use it for yet. Over time these events combined with the ubiquitous use of mobile phones, and the arrival of other tablet form factors meant that there are now a considerable volume of people accessing content with these devices.  An article in the Independent pointed to a report suggesting that there were more active mobile devices than people in the world.

Today, demand for mobile delivery (whatever you think about the pros and cons of doing so) has applied pressure on eLearning developers to deliver content that meets these requests and maintains the expectations of the clients, in that clients remember and still want content that looks ‘flash-like’.The End Of E Learning

Alternatives to having Adobe Flash content as part of the eLearning development bundle include creating individual assets using HTML5 and/or video for a given chunk of eLearning and inserting into the eLearning  authoring tool. Alternatively you could use Adobe Air, build a native app, or build the whole course in HTML and add in TIN CAN or SCORM APIs. Any of these options would work and they would all have different impacts on development timelines and skill requirements.

As a developer of content, consistent cross medium delivery is a big challenge and we have to really consider our tools and do it in the context of a rapidly shifting technological landscape. With every upgrade in phones, tablets, laptops (maybe even watches), and the software that they run, there is potential risk to a functionally break in existing courses.  This also means that a previously reliable method of production may no longer be failsafe, and this is a worry.

The mismatch between off the shelf tools and the quasi rapid development they offer, versus the more flexible but longer to develop routes like HTML5, are hard to reconcile in order to meet the lifecycles and variations of possible devices learners use. So what approach might we use to move forward?  In an attempt to offer an ‘out’ I think we should declare eLearning dead (at least figuratively speaking) and begin a process of remembering and reacquainting to help us create a positive learning landscape.

As mentioned earlier, the client for the most part comes with expectations as to what they want their eLearning to look like (or ‘feel’ like) – even if that does not match their own brand guidelines.  You may even still be working on eLearning that looks dated – especially if you have been working on projects that are more than six months old.

Oneof the most positive things to come out of all the fragmentation in devices that we use today is an effort to standardise the way in which ‘things’ and ‘stuff’ are consumed on them. HTML and more recently the latest version HTML5 came out of that desire, as did responsive design, and, to a lesser extent, native apps which aim to provide a great experience for us the user.

In general, the technology and delivery of content has become more standardised and less bespoke. This sounds like crazy talk – but currently the requirements of cross medium delivery and the methods to successfully achieve are less bespoke, and more standards driven in order for content delivery to work in a stable and accessible way.

From a personal point of view this means that the learning content and how it is delivered must change.  Think of all the possible screen sizes the content might be consumed on and how this will affect the overall design. We already know that chunking information aids the users to learn, but we also now need to really think about using the right words to convey the learning point.  Less is more and consideration needs to be made to the textual content.  Is it necessary or does it stall the user’s progression, or the learning point?  

Keep an eye out for my next blog where I will discuss how eLearning design and development needs to adapt and change to take into account the multi-device world we now live in. 

If you want to know more about our eLearning capabilities and how we can help develop the perfect learning solution for your organisation, contact us now.


Martin Blazey, Senior eLearning Developer, Bray Leino Learning

In my blogs I will be talking about what to look out for in eLearning, what good eLearning might look like now and in the future, and what some of the most interesting ideas might mean for eLearning as well as a fixation on game-like technologies and how they might be good for eLearning.

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