Right now, we are on the cusp of a shakeup within the eLearning tools industry. We're holding our breaths because the next few months will be key. There is so much going on right now that I thought it best this month to focus on trying to make sense of it all. Certainly, space won't allow me to cover everything that's happening, so feel free to add your own comments below to further inform your fellow eLearning developers about what's happening.
Flash vs. HTML5
Yes, the controversy is real. Everywhere you look, people are taking sides in this debate. At a recent conference where I spoke, I heard one speaker say that Flash is going to continue to be the de facto standard for years to come. The very next speaker said that Flash is dead and that HTML5 now rules the roost! Well, well, well, it would seem to me that both speakers were wrong, although I am sure they were both sincere in their beliefs. From my standpoint, Flash is not going to die overnight, no matter how much Steve Jobs would like it to, and HTML5 is not ready to rule anyone's roost.
There are legions of Flash developers out there. Having been an eLearning developer since I was in my mother's womb, I know how hard it is to give up using a tool in which I've invested years of my life. Most Flash developers, including those creating eLearning, will let you take their favorite tool away only when you pry it from their cold, dead hands.
Add to that the fact that there are no good eLearning development tools that output HTML5 yet, no matter what some tool vendors report. You'll find in each case, at the time of this writing, that this claim is hyperbole at best. HTML5 has some cool new tags, such as < canvas >, that give you more control now, but it's still a far cry from what you can do in tools that publish to Flash, such as Adobe Captivate, Raptivity, and Articulate. While tools like Dreamweaver let you code in HTML5, you also have to code manually if you're creating eLearning, just like in the good old days when you created Web sites by writing HTML in Notepad.
On the other hand, the next twelve months will be very interesting. HTML5 is seen as key to delivering to iPhones, iPods and iPads, because Flash is verboten on those devices, and it has the added ability to deliver to any other device too. At the eLearning Guild's mLearn conference this past June, the exhibit hall was not very inspirational when it came to tools that can be used for both desktop and mobile learning. Next year, the vendors in the room will be showing much better tools. Stay tuned. [Editor's Note: Don't forget about Metro, either.]
Updates and New Tools
Trivantis has issued Snap!, a direct competitor to Articulate Presenter and similar tools. Their advertising makes no secret that they mean to take away major market share from Articulate by pricing their product at $99 rather than $999. While not exactly the same product, anyone who has used Articulate Presenter or Adobe Presenter will feel right at home. Plus, Snap! uses Flash ActionScript 3, something for which Articulate users are still waiting. (http://rapid-e-learning.trivantis.com)
easygenerator will launch version 8 of its product by the same name at DevLearn this year, for the first time for the U.S. market. It is a cloud-based authoring tool that has started creating a buzz. (www.easygenerator.com)
echoLearning has published Podium, also cloud-based and well worth investigating. It promises to make it easier to create branching structures. (http://www.authoronpodium.com)
Adobe has issued Captivate 5.5, containing some cool new abilities to enhance your eLearning. It has also updated its eLearning Suite to version 2.5.
TechSmith has updated Camtasia Studio to version 7.1 and Camtasia for Mac to version. 1.2. It has now introduced Snagit for the Mac as well.
Harbinger Interactive released Raptivity 6.5, adding more flexibility to its set of interaction templates. You can now add your own media, text, and buttons to several interactions.
Waiting with Bated Breath
It feels as if we've been waiting forever, but it really hasn't been that long since we started getting sneak peeks of ZebraZapps, the new cloud-based tool from Allen Interactions. Michael Allen was the creator of Authorware, the granddaddy of authoring tools for many years until Adobe stopped updating it. He may very well have another hit on his hands … when they finally release it.
The same can be said for Storyline from Articulate. It is in Beta now so we're looking at a possible autumn release. I got a gander at this product at a conference a few months ago and liked what I saw. I'm anxious to get my hands on this tool to see if it lives up to all the hype. It may very well do that.
Final September Thoughts
I've been reading Michio Kaku's phenomenal new book, Physics of the Future. (He's keynoting at DevLearn 2011 in Las Vegas, by the way.) It is an amazing look into what we can expect to see in the near future. Though the book doesn't touch much on learning, I see our whole landscape continuing to change too. We're heading there now – learning anywhere, anytime, even when we don't know it. Old ideas on how to learn are evolving as new technology enables us to increase our knowledge and productivity, as long as we take advantage of what science is bringing our way. It's an exciting time to be alive!