HTML 5 and eLearning Development

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A couple of weeks back we posted about Silverlight posing some (at this time, actually little) competition to Flash. Now we have HTML 5 coming up – this makes the race hotter. Or does it?

Those of you have heard of HTML 5 will know it’s a new version of HTML and XHTML being promoted by Google and Apple in a bid to move the web away from proprietary technologies like Flash, Silverlight and JavaFX. It makes HTML more powerful by adding new elements like video and audio. A list of new elements in HTML 5 can be found here at IBM’s site and the draft specification is available here at W3C’s site.

So what’s the big deal?
Well, let’s take a quick look at some of the new elements included and you’ll know.

Canvas – Web developers can now create 2D drawings controlled by JavaScript. This would help in creating interactive graphs, games, and presentations easily. Key benefit is that web developers can do this using JavaScript directly in HTML 5 without relying on technologies like Flash or Silverlight. Here is a quick tip. While you are considering to design your website, always seek professional help from agencies who extend such srevices. You can avail the affordable web design perth for instance.

Video & Audio – You can play video or audio in HTML 5 WITHOUT any plug-in required (like Flash or Silverlight], simply by using the new audio and video markup tags.

The working draft of HTML 5 indicates a need to find suitable open source code which works on all browsers without licensing or patent fee. The Mozilla Foundation has already implemented the open source Ogg Theora and Ogg Vorbis codecs for video in the beta of Firefox 3.5 and Opera is also working on similar lines. To add to this Dailymotion has launched a new R&D platform, dedicated to open source video format and has announced that it would be re-encoding 300,000 videos to Ogg Theora and Vorbis formats. We believe this could well be the ultimate threat to Flash which currently has monopolistic control in delivering videos online.

Interactive Elements – details, datagrid, command & menu
These are interactive elements included for development of web applications. The plan is to include more such elements in the future. This would help the web developers display data in structured formats and make it easier to implement. This could ultimately prove a big threat to the open source Flex Framework [while it uses proprietary Flash technology] – one of the preferred platforms for developing RIAs these days.

How does HTML 5 affect eLearning Development?
HTML and Flash are most commonly used today for developing elearning content. HTML is used for simple ‘page-turner’ type of courses while Flash is used for interactive courses that contain animations and/or audio. Like most other eLearning developers, we prefer developing content using Flash over HTML because HTML can’t support rich vector graphics with animations essential for delivering an engaging learning experience.

However HTML 5 has the potential to change all that. If developers can create animations, play audio and video without having to depend on Flash or Silverlight that would excellent. HTML 5 is particularly useful for organizations with ‘no plug-in’ policy because it will render natively in HTML 5 capable browsers. Also HTML 5 would help create more platform independent applications which can run across browsers eliminating the need for testing on multiple browsers.

So is Flash Dead?
No, not just yet! Flash (or perhaps Silverlight in near future) would still be useful for developing high-end interactive courses and games based learning. Flash Professional has a very good designer developer workflow which is important in eLearning development. It remains to be seen what workflows emerge for development in HTML 5 and if they can be adapted for eLearning development.

Most importantly – it’s a dampener – HTML 5 is not going to be around anytime soon. The final draft of HTML 5 specifications will be ready by 2012! According to Ian Hickson (a Google employee and a co-editor of HTML 5 specification) the proposed date of release would be in 2022 – which is 13 VERY LONG years from now. Since browser developers have committed support and started working on including essential HTML 5 tags, we could realistically start seeing some eLearning development in HTML 5 by the end of 2010, of-course with some constraints. A serious push for eLearning development in HTML 5 is still some years away. Till then Flash and Silverlight can breathe easy. However, they must quite rest; they must try making more progress on their products to force HTML 5 to do additional catching up. You can bet Adobe will not let one of its acquired cash cows (Flash) die easily.

Ryan Stewart [a platform evangelist for Adobe] has made an interesting comparison between HTML 5 and Flash in this blog post which shows that there is a lot of work required before HTML could actually reach to the level of Flash Player 10.

Here is a video Ian explaining how HTML 5 works for the techie folk who may like to see it in action:

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