How Suitable Is HTML5 For Mobile Learning?

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HTML5 is adoption for mobile learning is picking up; perhaps the iPad is one driver of change , rapid improvements in regular and mobile browsers rendering HTML5 another. Recently, while speaking to customers, we encountered one of the primary issues that corporate stumble upon when deciding on HTML5 for pilots or technology exploration initiatives. Large companies, especially in the BFSI market need security built into their technology solutions. We have been aware of the security concerns around HTML5 and the mad scramble amongst browsers to implement ‘their’ way of rendering HTML5.

Also, HTML5 is STILL NOT a standard, which is a big deal from a security perspective. I’d hazard a guess that there are already exploits out there in cyberspace that use HTML5 vectors. There are of course some things you can do to avoid it, but developers can be lazy sometimes. While it may not suitable yet as a transaction based platform because of significant monetary aspect, it is decent enough (in all browsers) to render content and primary interaction. If you look at it, unless you are developing sophisticated games, simulation, or mobile applications, elearning pretty much consists of rendering pages and interaction. It is another debate altogether about if this sort of content conversion to mobile is necessary in all contexts. Yet, just viewed as an information distribution mechanism, this sort of content is a necessity. I’d said in a post First Impressions: mLearnCon 2011 Exposition, ‘Mobile devices markets are still fragmented, differing features, screen sizes and operating systems make singular delivery of learning applications a challenge, HTML5 coupled with persistent data storage and computing in the cloud will offer solace.’ Not much has changed in the few months since then.  From a development perspective, the issues emerge when you try to create something that is cross-platform compatible, right now the great HTML5 samples are typically designed to run in a single browser type, these days, primarily Chrome, Mozilla, IE; haven’t really seen anything specific for Opera so far. This is exactly like the issue we had in the late nineties when developing a page meant having to tweak HTML and JavaScript differently to run successfully in all browsers; and this was when HTML2 was already a standard, 3 just around the corner,4 in draft. (for a history of HTML http://www.w3.org/People/Raggett/book4/ch02.html) Imagine the issues possible with HTML5, that is not a ratified standard yet.  Having said that, I believe all elearning companies must adopt HTML5 sooner rather than later; this despite the future Flash may or may not have. Are our customers ready for it? That is a difficult question to answer; it depends on their needs, and how much they would be willing to sacrifice from the mobile ‘experience’ to ensure cross-browser compatibility. If you want to develop a more significant learning experience for users on their mobile devices, for now it makes sense sticking to smart-phone platforms. I’d also definitely recommend dabbling in HTML5, eventually the web will run on it.  How suitable is for mobile learning? It’s almost there and we should now pursue adoption as an industry. One aspect not to be ignored is the lack of mature development/authoring tools, the sort that Flash provides. Unless a software major with significant muscle moves in, I’m afraid we may be back to the days of using an authoring tool first, and then manually editing the markup to get it running across browser. Given HTML5s complexity and feature set, that is easier said than done.

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