Sunday, November 20, 2011

E-Learning - Snagged on the Saw Tooth

At this week’s meeting of the Atlanta chapter of ISPI, students from the University of Georgia demonstrated various tools relevant to e-learning. While introducing the session, Gregory Clinton (one of their professors in the Department of Educational. Psychology & Instructional Technology) showed a sawtooth diagram that elegantly summarized the history of e-learning authoring tools:


Clinton reviewed the early days of e-learning, when Authorware emerged as the tool of choice. It got more and more capable and powerful, then suddenly: disruption. The Internet bloomed and abruptly e-learning had to go online. Delivering applications within web browsers over slow connections radically changed the authoring tool landscape and limited the capabilities of what authors could build.

Over the next 15 years of course the situation gradually improved: wider bandwidth, more capable browsers, plenty of interactivity. The new king of e-learning was Flash. The SWF format enjoyed almost universal support and was the output type for all the leading tools.

But now we are in the midst of another dip, and e-learning creators are again snagged on the tooth of the saw. Flash for all its enormous virtues was never efficient on mobile devices, and two weeks ago, Adobe gave up trying to make it work.

On hearing the news, I visited the Flash and Captivate sites and looked into the patchwork solutions Adobe has been working on to export from these authoring tools to HTML5. Judging by the community reactions, the results have been underwhelming, to say the least. Meantime, Articulate seemed to be in denial; their site having no mention whatsoever of plans for exporting to anything but SWF.

Of course, we are early in the process. Eventually, the tool makers will catch up and robust interactive e-learning will get easier and easier to produce on IOS and the other mobile platforms. Things will be great again...For a while...Until we hit the next tooth of the saw.


What do you think? What tools and methods will emerge to deliver robust e-learning on mobile devices?

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