What the iPad means for eLearning development
Many in the eLearning space are still wrapping their heads around the iPad and what it, and the Apple/Adobe war mean for the future of eLearning. One thing seems clear: the one-way road to cross-platform eLearning development, paved by the Flash Player, just added a few roadblocks.
iPad now joins the iPhone in a mobile device embargo of the Adobe Flash Player. More importantly, Apple has made it clear that it will not accept iPhone and iPad applications created in Flash CS5 or any other development platform besides the approved Apple Software Development Kit (SDK).
So as an eLearning developer, you might be thinking, “what do I care… my Learners use PCs and Apple’s assault on the Flash Player is far removed from my world.” From my perspective, the Apple/Adobe war is important to eLearning and mLearning (Mobile Learning) development for two reasons:
First, iPad reinvigorates the migration of learning from desktop computers to mobile devices. While mobile learning has been a great talking point for several years, it was difficult to envision many practical applications of eLearning running on a 2 or 3 inch screen. With the introduction of the iPad, even a modest visionary like myself can begin to see more clearly the shape of things to come. The opportunity presented by the iPad is not so much about the size of the screen, but more about the convergence of screen quality, convenient size, battery life and most importantly, a sophisticated “touch” interface.
The introduction of the iPad increases the likelihood that Corp. Executives will spend more brain-cycles on mLearning opportunities versus eLearning. eLearning may now be relegated to an organization’s portfolio of “traditional” Learning modalities which tend to attract less attention and investment.
In the late nineties, I led a team that pioneered the use of Flash and ActionScript in eLearning development. I still remember the incredible push back from my team when I announced that Flash would replace ToolBook as our primary authoring tool. I find it amusing now that one can barely imagine an eLearning application that does not run on the Flash Player.
In the decade that followed my decision to move our development to Flash, I watched as nearly every eLearning authoring tool adopted Flash as the standard for web published content. I have also seen the complexity of developing interactive learning applications greatly reduced as authoring tool creators have successfully focused on ease of use to appeal to non-technical training developers.
I welcome authoring tools that simplify the process of creating engaging eLearning. I prefer to spend our time on designing and producing instructional media that drives training objectives. However, its hard to deny the importance of the iPad and similar devices that provide a practical path to mLearning and blur the lines between eLearning and multimedia books. To take advantage of these devices, developers will need new skills and capabilities or must wait for authoring software to retool in support of more “Open” standards that work with the iPad. This, I fear, will be a long wait.
An obvious question for readers of this blog will be: “how about competitor devices that will surely swamp the iPad with support for Flash and additional features that approach the functions of a laptop or Netbook?” My take is competitors will emerge and they will most likely be built on the Android platform. As Hewlett-Packard recently conceded, competing with the iPad with a repurposed Netbook (otherwise known as iSlate) may not be a successful strategy.
What do you think? Is the iPad important to the world of eLearning development?
Have we all become too dependent on Flash?
Are we ready to take on the Apple SDK to create next generation mLearning or do we stick with our big happy “Publish” button that triggers programming magic?