Ready for Launch? Preparing Learning Customers for HTML5 and a Mobile Rollout Strategy

Handwritten HTML 5

Understanding customers, and their learners, is the most important step in a successful rollout process for mobile learning technologies — beginning with the development of the learning program. It is critical to regularly engage customers when selecting and implementing learning technology strategies, particularly when the technology may impact learning deliverables. Let’s use HTML5 as an example.

At Raytheon Professional Services (RPS), our philosophy includes a “build once, use many” foundation that allows the publishing of a final product that is compatible across the most popular systems. Before implementing any new solution such as HTML5 and corresponding mobile strategies, we need to ensure compatibility with customers’ existing technology and fit within each customer’s technology roadmap. Once we have met these obligations, we can then provide a timely recommendation for when they should transition to HTML5 while corresponding with their learning and technology requirements.

RPS currently publishes HTML5 courses from our Catapult Learning Content Management System (LCMS) that will run in IE10+ and on smart mobile devices in native mode. We provide an “Intelligent Interface” that through its auto-formatting, allows us to publish an HTML5 course once that will display and operate effectively on nearly any Smart Mobile Device or PC browser.

The HTML5 and mLearning Decision

The two most critical factors to consider when deciding “When to go to HTML5” are:

1) The customer’s strategy for deploying courses to mobile devices

2) The customer’s timing of the deployment of IE10 or above to their critical users’ PCs

The HTML5 decision for the customer begins with a vision for the learning content that is most effectively deployed through mobile devices. This also includes determining whether it is new vs. upgraded course content. When a course upgrade is called for, customers should also consider “converting” Flash-based courses to HTML5. When developing completely new courses it makes most sense to build them in HTML5 as long as the IE10 deployment, to a critical mass of users, has or is about to occur. As a result, the course content will be accessible through all smart mobile devices including tablets, phones and portable PCs.

Converting Flash course content to HTML5 courses is unfortunately not always the same as simply opening the file in Flash and saving it out to HTML5, nor is there a “magic conversion button.” Courses need to be reviewed and their estimated conversion scoped on a case-by-case basis to determine the amount of media reuse or new development required. The good news for RPS customers is that due to all text being XML-based, and our library of other rich media, a developer can often copy and paste much of the existing content from a Flash Catapult course to an HTML5 Catapult course, making the transition as straight forward as possible.

One caveat is any Flash simulation, and files with interactions, will most likely need to be rebuilt in HTML5 and Java script. Straight Flash animations may be able to be reused and converted to HTML5, but it is wise to confirm in advance with your Media Dept.

IE10 – Flash can still run – but…

Microsoft developed IE10 without native Flash capability. However, Flash still can run in IE10 if upon launch of the course the browser is set to “Compatibility Mode.” This strategy may require programming assistance to ensure a smooth launch of the courses for the learner. We expect that some vendors and older courses will exist in Flash for a few more years. Therefore, code may need to be added in the front of each course (not preferred), or a programming change must be made to the customer’s LMS.

Also if you were thinking about deploying in MS IE9, RPS would not recommend it because it does not fully support HTML5 features. IE8 is lacking some of the media elements as well. Without these, it would be very difficult to create HTML4-only courses which would run in IE8, but they would have no audio / video support, and it would be difficult to create the interactivity and animations that have become the standard for all electronic courses.

Programming Assistance and LCMS Requirements

In some cases, you will observe that a customer may need assistance with how their LMS launches the HTML5 courses. For the IE10 “Compatibility Mode” example above, by programming a “course-type sniffer” in their LMS, or attached to the courses, we can force compatibility mode or force non-compatibility mode in the learner’s IE10 browser when they launch the course — depending on whether it is Flash or HTML5 based. This makes the running of courses in IE10 go more smoothly for the learner. When all courses for a customer become HTML5 based, there should no longer be a need for the “course-type sniffer.”

Has your organization transitioned learning programs to HTML5? What has been your experience?