Make Your Content Portable: Technology Decisions Can Impact Your Ability to Repurpose eLearning Materials
The need for eLearning may be clear, but deciding the best way to deliver it can be tough. With the rise of mLearning, mobile platforms abound — from Apple's iOS, used in iPhones and iPads, to Google's Android.
These technology differences can create real content delivery dilemmas. For example, if you've spent the last decade building a library of learning resources in Flash and suddenly discover that the majority of your customers are buying iPhones that don't support Flash, it can throw a major wrench in your plans.
One way to address this is by creating open-standard learning objects (OSLO™) that increase content portability across platforms and devices.
Although the Web itself has seen its share of changes in recent years — from the rise of Web 2.0 technologies to the move toward the new HTML5 standard — the rising popularity of mobile computing is raising a host of new issues. Beyond the obvious challenges of making your content accessible on different mobile operating systems and devices, learning providers also need to decide between delivering material via a dedicated app or a mobile Web browser.
Apps generally provide faster performance and greater capabilities. But an app must be coded for a particular mobile platform (and occasionally even for a single device). This can significantly raise development expenses.
Content delivered via a mobile Web browser, on the other hand, can generally be used on any device with an Internet connection and a compatible browser. Mobile Web content, however, is generally much slower to access, even on faster 3G phone networks. It also can’t as easily take advantage of features available on different devices, such as accelerometers and GPS chips.
The best way to surmount these technical issues and changing technologies is to know your audience and plan carefully. If you’re trying to reach your company’s employees, who all carry a company-provided iPad, your decision is easy. A dedicated iOS app will probably be your best option.
But if you want to reach a mass audience using a wide array of devices, you will need to either invest in building an app for each platform you want to cover or create a more limited mobile Web experience.
If you need to maximize your content's portability and reusability — making it accessible to both PC users and mobile browsers — you’ll want to carefully consider putting it online using open-standard coding languages, such as HTML5, XML, JQuery, PHP, and Ajax. Although these standards are evolving themselves, they provide a number of advantages for eLearning content providers, including:
You can also reduce your long-term development costs by creating collections of the elements you use most often in your online courses. For example, Monarch has developed a library of open-standard learning objects (OSLO™), which offer customizable, plug-in functionality for many of the most common eLearning interactions, such as:
Web and mobile technology will continue to evolve, and the challenge of keeping your eLearning content up-to-date and compatible with new platforms and machines won't go away. But by building your online courses and materials using open-standard Web coding technologies, you'll have a clear portability advantage over proprietary Web platforms, such as Flash.
Because open-standard code bases are free and available for easy customization and updating as requirements evolve, by using them you'll help "future-proof" your content. And that, in a constantly changing eLearning technology landscape, can help you save costs and time down the line.
If you would like more information about Monarch Media's experience with open standard-based eLearning development or its OSLO™ library, please contact us.
This article appeared in the spring 2011 edition of Monarch Media's Planet eLearn newsletter. Subscribe to Planet eLearn