Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Perfect Storm: HTML5, Tin Can API and Mobile

Having just endured the powerful forces of Hurricane Sandy here in the northeastern United States, my heart goes out to the people who lost homes and loved ones during the storm. Meanwhile in the learning industry, another storm is brewing. If you haven’t been paying attention to topics such as HTML5, Tin Can API, Learning Records Stores, and developments on the mobile front, then you better batten down the hatches. These things are upon us now. They represent a climate change that can create super storms, ones that have ability to disrupt daily life for those of us in the workplace learning industry if we aren't prepared for them.

I work in a corporate learning department for a relatively large global company. We have been providing high quality learning services to our employees for years. I’m proud of the work my team does and the impact we have had on our organization’s success, particularly during the tough economic times of the last few years. We have never been what I would consider “cutting edge” but we have always managed to be creative and innovative in our approaches to learning. We have not only embraced change, but we have driven it through our organization. We are doing this once again as we have launched a project to introduce mobile learning as part of our mix. While I am excited by the possibilities, I feel like I’m walking through a storm. We seem to be in a time and place where so many things are swirling around us at once, so it is hard to know where to step next. Here are some of the challenges that we need to weather over the next few months:

Everybody’s Going Mobile – Smartphones and tablets are wonderful productivity tools, aren’t they? These days everyone has one…or two… or three. But they are all different. Yes, we have some company issued devices, but our learners are going to expect to be able to access learning content from their device of choice. This means designing and publishing multiple ways.

Gone in a Flash – I’m talking about Flash output. Up until now, all of the e-learning content we have produced has been published as Flash output. Of course we all know that that is coming to an end. To be able to publish engaging learning that can be accessed on a mobile device, we are going to have to produce HTML5 output now. Of course HTML5 Standards aren’t finalized yet, and none of our current course development software tools publish to HTML5, so there are those little things to deal with.

I’ll trade you an “M” for an “R” - That is as in LMS vs. LRS. We have thousands of learning objects on our Learning Management System (LMS). But of course, our LMS can’t handle content published for mobile devices (Yeah, I know that capability will be coming out in a future release of our LMS software… Q1 of 20xx). Our LMS is looking for SCORM standards, whereas mobile learning will mean using Tin Can API. (Yes, we are all learning about Tin Can.) If we want to record and track mobile learning, we’ll need a Learning Record Store (LRS).

As I said, I’m excited by this new direction we are taking. Mobile learning will be a real game changer for us. But I have to admit, figuring out how to fit all these things together is keeping me up at night almost as much as Hurricane Sandy did.


  1. I commend you on taking the first step towards a mobile learning strategy and you are spot on by moving to use the Tin Can API. It can be a lot to handle, let me know if I can help in any way. Would love to connect informally and discuss!

    Thank you,

  2. Thanks Ali. I will definitely check out Wax LRS.