The Genericization Of Content

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This proliferation of devices is having a strange ‘dumbing-down’ effect on a lot of the eLearning courseware being created right now. We are starting to ‘genericize’ content, it is starting to look the same, feel the same, and function in a similar manner. Whatever happened to those interactive engaging pieces of courseware that made one go ‘cool, I like this’; not much of that to be seen.

Why do I think this way?

We are falling back on the most portable form – HTML, which cannot compare to Flash. HTML in its current form is really incapable of providing the sophisticated artistic and media abilities that Flash provided. It’s like building experiences for today’s technology using a markup language that is ancient, and in all likelihood obsolete before becoming a standard (HTML5). Portability demands scaling of experience, that is really not happening with HTML5 unless it really gets into the game and there are several authoring solutions that ‘designers’ and not ‘coders’ can use.

Why doesn’t the courseware we make scale across platforms as we have come to expect from most mobile/cloud applications? Scaling of experience in my eyes is simply being able to leverage the hardware and software feature-set that the platform provide i.e., the courseware/content should be able to use the feature-set to enhance the experience, not just provide a baseline function. So if I were looking at a course on a Nokia Symbian phone vs. a Apple iPad, I’d expect the iPad to provide a much better user experience than on the Symbian phone simply because it is capable of much more. Developers are looking at it the other way – you want it to run on Symbian, that the is the least common denominator, so expect that experience on all devices. Why? It’s probably about time and money, it mostly always is.

Buyers/Users of eLearning are giving up on developing engaging interactive learning experiences and attempting to replicate a more basic experience across multiple devices, multiple platforms. I am not sure this is the right way to go. Sure, it’s great to have courseware that runs across platforms and devices, but is that really what you need? For just-in-time, simple to read and use information, mobile delivery is a great strategy to support performance and learning; but there will always be learning needs that must be addressed by courseware that does not require mobile delivery, what counts there is an engaging, interactive experience. Simulations, games, scenario-based learning, the options are huge. Choose wisely.

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