HTML5 and how it

If you’ve found yourself in the world of e-learning development without any prior experience developing websites, odds are you’ve heard the term HTML5 and wondered what it is and why you should care about it. Good questions!

In this article, I’ll try to answer those questions and give you a mini-history lesson. I’ll get you up to speed on what you need to know about HTML5 and how it’s changed the world of e-learning for the better.

What is HTML5?

HTML is an acronym that stands for Hypertext Markup Language. It’s an ever-evolving, standardized language for structuring content on the web. HTML5 is the latest version of the HTML standard. These standards are maintained and evolved by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).

Although it might be new to you, HTML has actually been around since the 1990s and HTML5 has been around for the last ten years or so. However, it’s only been in the past six years that HTML5 has become a widely adopted standard.

HTML code is viewed through web browsers like Google Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Safari—to name a few. Web browsers are able to interpret the underlying HTML code to display a web page. However, coding a web page in HTML5 alone won’t necessarily get you the cool, modern web features we’ve all grown accustomed to. That’s where another coding language, like JavaScript, comes into play. JavaScript, HTML, and Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), together, are the tools that make up much of what we would consider a modern web browsing experience.

While most of today’s web browsers fully support the HTML5 standard, different browsers might interpret the underlying HTML code and display the web page in slightly different ways. For e-learning developers, these inconsistencies can be spotted and addressed by doing some pre-launch quality assurance testing. By testing your courses in the web browser(s) your learners will use, you can pinpoint and address any potential browser inconsistencies that might impact how your learners interact with your course.

How has HTML5 changed e-learning?

Earlier versions of HTML weren’t really developed to support a world full of people browsing websites from mobile devices. To play websites with dynamic content or even audio and video content required a third-party plug-in, like Adobe Flash. However, the Flash plug-in was resource intensive and bogged down device performance and battery life. In fact, in 2010, Apple famously announced that they were disabling Flash on their mobile devices because of this. For this and other reasons, Flash quickly became obsolete as HTML5 began to mature.

By anticipating today’s multi-device and interactive world, the creators of HTML5 helped lay the groundwork for some important innovations in both web and e-learning technology. Embedding audio and video without the use of third-party plug-ins is just one example of improvements that came with HTML5. HTML5 also emphasized device independence—fundamentally a more unified browsing experience across devices.

These and other improvements also led to faster load times for web pages, less bandwidth consumption, and longer battery life for mobile devices. For folks with slow internet connections or those who must rely on low-bandwidth cellular connections, these types of performance improvements have made e-learning more accessible than ever. And that’s the big benefit of e-learning, isn’t it, bringing learning to your learners wherever they are?

Thankfully, most e-learning authoring apps support HTML5 output, including Storyline 3/360, Rise 360, and Studio 360. This means you can give your learners all of the performance improvements and the more modern browsing experience that HTML5 delivers—without any coding required from you.

The Bottom Line

Continuous learning is an unwritten job requirement for learning professionals so kudos to you for feeding your curiosity!

By building your understanding of the role HTML5 plays in web and e-learning technology you’ll be ahead of the curve in a few big ways. First, you’ll be able to identify skills to develop (maybe try your hand at JavaScript?). You’ll also see new ways to streamline your e-learning designs and be able to spot technology trends worth following, more efficiently troubleshoot your courses, and better anticipate the needs of your learners.

The backstory of HTML is much more complex than I’ve covered here, and there’s lots more to learn. Here are some helpful articles to round out your reading list:

New to e-learning? What techie topics would you like to learn more about? Let me know in the comments, below.

Want to try something you learned here, but don’t have Articulate 360? Start a free 60-day trial, and come back to E-Learning Heroes regularly for more helpful advice on everything related to e-learning. If you have any questions, please share them in the comments.

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