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2012 eLearning Tools Landscape: The Rise of HTML5

TO LISTEN TO AN AUDIO VERSION, PLEASE SCROLL DOWN.  NOTE THAT  REFERENCES TO FLASH REFER TO FLASH AS AN OUTPUT FORMAT (.SWF) FOR eLEARNING PURPOSES.

APPLE.  IN THE LIBRARY.  WITH A LEAD PIPE.  If life was like the classic board game “Clue,” that might well have been the headline in all our eLearning journals at the end of 2011.  In place of the unfortunate Mr. Boddy, the crime scene photograph would have shown a white chalk outline in the shape of Adobe Flash.  There’s a semi-happy ending to this news report, though: to paraphrase a certain Monty Python plague victim, Flash isn’t dead yet.

But by the same token, the late Steve Jobs and his Apple team dealt Adobe a crippling blow when it refused to support Flash Player on their iPhone and iPad devices, citing heavy resource requirements and potential security vulnerabilities.  (And for a moment, let’s ignore the fact that even without playing Flash on it, I need to recharge my iPhone 4 once or twice a day!)  So, is Flash dead, or dying?  Not in the immediate future.  Think of all the legacy content out there.  But last November, when Adobe finally raised the white flag and announced that it was abandoning its development of the Flash Mobile platform, it became clear to everyone in eLearning that the development tool landscape is beginning a tectonic shift due to the growing importance of mobile learning, or mLearning.

If Flash is the Giant, then the young Giantkiller with the slingshot and the great aim is HTML5.  And there’s a certain irony here: it’s not even a clearly codified, formalized markup language yet.  In fact, bearing in mind the reality that “change is the only constant,” HTML5 may well end up being a freeform, organically expanding entity for a number of years to come, as new codes and capabilities are added.  We may need to start calling it something catchy like “HTML Universe” (in a techie nod to the Stargate franchise) or “HTML Utopia,” or some other name that will represent an ever-evolving entity.  Because let’s face it: do we really want to find ourselves talking about HTML16 or 156 anytime soon?  I know I don’t.  It’s true that right now, HTML5 still can’t do all the things that Flash can.  But it can do a lot of them.  Flash’s sun is setting, and HTML5 is the new sun rising on our eLearning horizon.  At least for this rotation.

So how are the eLearning development tools we use today evolving to meet our need for engaging, interactive eLearning content that can play on any website or any mobile device?  If you’re an eLearning Guild member you should download and read Nick Floro’s new tools report for 2012.  It’s an excellent snapshot of where we all were at the end of 2011.  (And if you’re not a member of the eLearning Guild by now, you really should be!)  I’m going to take a closer look at the HTML5-readiness question for 2012, based on some hands-on Beta testing that I’ve been doing with both Adobe and Articulate.

For some year now, many of us have been using Adobe Captivate for our eLearning projects.  The current build, Captivate 5.5, incorporates widgets and other programmer-friendly tools to expand the interactive capabilities of your eLearning course.  But Captivate now also sports a spartan new gray Photoshop-style interface that I find is challenging to many corporate Subject Matter Experts (or SMEs).  And it doesn’t publish to HTML5.  I’ve been participating in testing of Adobe’s standalone HTML5 Converter tool, which is extremely simple to operate.  With each new test version, more interactive features are being included.  But as of this writing, there are still many Captivate features that cannot be converted.  Adobe has also just started Alpha testing for Captivate 6.  What’s the bottom line?  By the time it hits the shelves, Captivate 6 will need to include seamless and comprehensive HTML5 publishing as one of its standard options.  Anything less at this point would would give the competition too much of an advantage.

I’ve also been taking a look at Adobe’s new animation tool, Edge, which is in a pre-Beta Preview.  Edge offers a clean (but again somewhat cryptic and SME-unfriendly) interface for creating animations using a combination of HTML, scripting, and cascading style sheets (CSS) instead of Flash.  I went to Adobe’s Edge Preview launch here in NY in the summer of 2011 and worked with version 1 briefly at that time, but it did not yet offer interactivity or the ability to include audio and video.  Preview version 4 was released on January 19th, and includes the first interactive features, so I look forward to checking that out.  But audio/video is still not part of the package, and Adobe is well aware that the tool will not be ready for the public until those features are included.   While Adobe seems to be positioning Edge as a standalone tool, for my money, it should also be included in the next releases of both their Creative Suite and the eLearning Suite.  To not do that when so many customers have partnered with Adobe to help make it happen would seem both ungrateful and unwise.  How Edge fares in the market will depend on the final list of features, its ease of use, how it’s packaged, and what tools the competition puts out in the meantime.

Adobe has undoubtedly felt heavy breathing on its neck over the past year from Articulate’s upcoming tool, Storyline.  I’m participating in the Beta of this tool as well, so I am not allowed to say much at this time.  It’s not divulging any secret, however, to say that per its name, Storyline includes a library of poseable characters, and is designed for the creation of story or scenario-based learning.  That’s a long-awaited feature right there.  I can also say that the tool is designed with the SME in mind, with an extremely user-friendly interface.  Articulate intends to make Storyline content publishable to your choice of Flash or HTML5 by the time it launches later this year.  Its screen capture feature can’t do everything that Captivate does at this point.  But Adobe should  be extremely concerned about the competition shaping up here, both in terms of product vision and functional design.  Again, all will depend on the final list of features, and the price point.  Articulate is saying that Storyline will be priced comparably to their other suite components, so we’ll see.  If they keep the price low enough, I foresee this tool being a genuine game-changer for the eLearning marketplace.

Of course, competition is great for everyone because it brings out the best and brightest from each company, and makes each tool better.  That’s good news for those of us who can’t afford to buy them all.  And I’m discussing only a handful of tools!  There are of course a lot more out there, including tools at higher and lower price points, and also cloud-based development suites offering HTML5 publishing. So let’s have a vision moment: what should be happening as we move forward?  Ultimately, the applications that come out on top will need to be affordable and offer the ability to enter your content once, then simply apply a desktop or mobile template with the click of a button. Whoever can design applications that publish to your choice of Flash or HTML5 and minimize the need for rework when publishing to different devices will carry the day.  At this point, products that publish only to Flash are basically writing their own obituaries, and will rapidly fade from the market as mobile learning becomes a more popular delivery method.

What will we be saying about 2012 a year from now?  Perhaps not even Professor Plum or Miss Scarlet can figure that out.  By then, HTML5 may have met its match.  But when we eLearning professionals look back on this year, chances are we’re going to remember it as the year we discovered a body in the library.  And the game changed again.

Agree?  Disagree?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.  Leave a comment!

 

A Great New Recommendation For My Work!

As you may know, I taught a full-day pre-conference certificate program on Voiceovers for eLearning Subject Matter Experts at the eLearning Guild’s 2011 Learning Solutions conference.  One of my students was Laura Fried, Sales Learning Manager for Green Mountain Coffee Roasters.  I was delighted to hear from Laura this week that she’ll be at LS2012 conducting a concurrent session on video-based training.  If you’re attending the conference this year, I encourage you to check out her session.  I was also thrilled that Laura posted a recommendation for me on LinkedIn.  I’d like to share it with you:

“I had the opportunity to attend Andrew’s pre-conference certificate program, How to Create and Deliver eLearning Voiceovers Like a Pro (eLearning Guild Learning Solutions 2011). This class had a BIG impact on my work – and a year later I can still remember the many components of the work we did. Andrew’s material included a variety of hands-on exercises that made the class not only flow well, but kept all engaged. He also facilitated and managed the time well so that all the participants had the opportunity to create sample voiceovers and present them to the class for constructive feedback. Voila, instant reinforcement to cement the learning. Andrew’s background – as a skilled, accomplished actor – brought a high level of trust and authenticity to the class. I highly recommend his teaching and his work!”

In addition, my former student James Glenos and his wife came to see me performing in The 39 Steps down in Jupiter, Florida this past fall.  James came into my voiceover class already possessing a very high level of skill, but he, too, told me in November that my class taught him a number of useful tips he still uses today.

Thanks, Laura and James–your feedback means a lot!  I love coaching and working with people.  I love hearing what my students are doing, and sharing what I’m doing.  And to know that my teaching has had a lasting impact on my students is really what it’s all about.

Change of Plans for March 2012

Well, this is one of those good news/bad news posts.  The bad news is that it turns out I will not be available to teach my full-day eLearning voiceovers class at the eLearning Guild’s Learning Solutions 2012 conference in Orlando this March.  My sincere apologies to anyone who had already signed up; I hope to be able to offer the session again at a future conference, or you or your organization can contact me directly from this site to arrange a training at your site.  If you were already signed up for the session in March 2012, I’ll give you a discount if you schedule your own session at your company.

So, why am I not going to be at LS2012 this year, much as I was looking forward to it?  Because I’ve just been cast in a fantastic role in the first New York City revival of Richard Greenberg’s play The Violet Hour! It’s a funny and thought-provoking play, and let’s just say that my role represents a real opportunity to be seen at my best in NYC theatre.  My character is a well-educated man on the edge, hilariously (and sometimes shockingly) outspoken, who is confronted with a printing machine that prints potentially life-changing information.  Rehearsals start February 13th, and I can’t wait.

Again, my apologies that I won’t be at LS2012 this year.  I was so eager to teach, attend lectures, and check out the annual Expo of new software and other goodies.  But I understand why my agent submitted me for this show–it’s an incredible role, and an opportunity too good for me to miss.

The play is being produced by The Active Theater in NYC, and will run from March 9-25.  If you’re going to be in town, I hope you’ll plan to see the show and say hello afterwards.  I will post more information once I know it.  Or you can click the logo on this post to visit the theatre’s web site.

I look forward to hearing about LS2012 from those of you attending, and I hope I’ll see at least some of you at the theater, too!

Sign Up Now for My Full-Day Certificate Program on eLearning Voiceovers!

Well, here we are at the end of 2011!  And suddenly the eLearning Guild’s March Learning Solutions 2012 conference doesn’t seem so far away.  If you’re the person assigned to create voiceovers for your company, and you want to step up your game to make your work truly memorable, then my full-day certificate program on Tuesday, March 20th, 2012, is all about you.  But if you plan to join me, you need to sign up asap–I’m only accepting a limited number of students so that I can give one-on-one feedback to each participant.

Visit my Courses page to read feedback from my 2011 participants, as well as a description of the course.  I’m very proud of each and every one of my 2011 students–the improvement in their work after just the one day of training was nothing less than remarkable.  And they each have a certificate from the eLearning Guild to attest to their accomplishment.

You can click the image on this post to read a description and the eLearning Guild’s web site, and there’s a handy registration button right there as well.  See you there!

Learning Solutions 2012 Encore for My eLearning Voiceover Certificate Program

I’m delighted to announce that Heidi Fisk of the eLearning Guild has invited me to present an encore of my full-day certificate program in eLearning voiceovers as part of Learning Solutions 2012.  I taught this pre-conference course for Learning Solutions 2011 and the feedback from participants was unanimously tremendous.  Heidi does not typically repeat learning offerings from one year to another, but because I accept only a limited number of participants in my course, she has made a wise exception.  So, if you wanted to attend last year but weren’t able to, now is your chance!

My session will be on Tuesday, March 20th from 8:30am-4:30pm.  Learning Solutions 2012 will again be at the Hilton Hotel near Downtown Disney.

PLEASE NOTE: There must be a minimum of 10 enrollments in order for the Guild to hold the session, and for me to make the trip.  They will be checking enrollments by January 20th.  If you intend to enroll, please do so by January 20th if at all possible, so that the Guild has an accurate headcount.  In addition, I am only allowing 15 participant maximum, so that I have sufficient one-on-one time with each participant in the course of the session.

This is an extremely hands-on session.  I think if you were to ask any of last year’s participants, they’d say it was a lot of fun, and a lot of practical learning in an easygoing, supportive environment.  Think of it as the most fun you’re ever likely to have at a boot camp!  I wish I could convey to you the sense of satisfaction last year’s participants expressed at the end of the day, when each and every one of them audibly demonstrated how much they had learned in the course of just one day.  If you look on my Coaching page, you’ll see some quotes from last year’s group.  You’ll also see how much this course normally costs!  I deliver this course for the eLearning Guild primarily as my way of giving back for all I’ve learned along the way in my own career.  So I encourage you to take advantage of this opportunity: you won’t find better training on this topic for a better price, and it may not be repeated.

If you’re charged with creating the voiceovers for your in-house eLearning and communication projects, and you want to improve your script, your performance, and your recordings, then this session is for you!  Click the image on this post to read a full description of the program.  You can also register from that link.  Browse through older posts on my web site to see more information about the course from last year.  And feel free to contact me with any questions you may have.

I look forward to seeing you in Orlando on March 20th!

New Courses Available for eLearning Voiceovers and Presentation Skills

View Available CoursesFor the past two years, the eLearning Guild has asked me to present courses at their Learning Solutions conferences, and each course has met with resounding approval from attendees.  Based on that positive feedback, I’m now delighted to offer you and your company those same in-depth learning experiences at extremely affordable rates.  Please visit the Courses page or click the image on this post to read all about the three courses now available, as well as about a free sample.  And don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions.  These courses are all proven winners, and each can make a considerable contribution to your eLearning team’s success.

My eLearning Guild Online Forum Session About Voiceovers is Now Available For Free!

I was delighted to receive a note today from Chris Benz, Director of Online Events for the eLearning Guild, letting me know that they’ve selected my presentation from last week’s Online Forum as their latest free sample of the kind of quality content that comes with Guild membership.  I’m thrilled that my session was so well received, and am very glad that now you can watch and share this session even if you’re not yet a member of the eLearning Guild.  Of course, if you’re in the eLearning industry, I would strongly encourage you not just to join the Guild, but to become an active member and share your own interests and expertise as well.  I’ve found each of my experiences with the Guild to be great fun, and as always, my students/audience teach me something as well.

The session I presented last week was the opening keynote talk for the Guild’s Online Forum about incorporating Audio and Video in eLearning.  My session touches on the basics of how you can use quality voiceovers to add that powerful “Human Factor” to self-paced learning content, as well as on how and when you might consider using human versus synthetic (or automated text to speech) voiceovers.

The recorded session is 75 minutes, including the various polls and chats, which are an organic and important part of the content, as that’s how attendees participated and shared their own great and thoughtful input.  To view the session, click the Guild logo on this post, and you’ll find a link toward the bottom of that landing page.  I hope you enjoy the session, and I hope you’ll come back to this site and share your own ideas and suggestions as comments to this blog post!  My thanks again to Chris for inviting me to speak, and to Karen Hyder for her excellent support throughout the process.

I’m Giving the Opening Keynote Talk at the eLearning Guild Online Forum on July 21st!

Sorry not to have posted this before now, but it’s been a surprisingly busy summer!  I’m very pleased to announce that the eLearning Guild has asked me to be the keynote speaker at the opening of next week’s Online Forum about media in eLearning.  My talk will be 11:30 AM Eastern, and then they have two days of great sessions about best uses of audio and video in eLearning courseware.  My talk is entitled The Human Factor: Making the Case for Voiceovers in eLearning.  I discuss the importance of the human voice in online training, and how much or how little to use.  I also explore the pros and cons of voiceovers created by real people (whether professional actors like me, or subject matter experts) versus the new wave of enhanced synthetic text-to-speech voices available in today’s marketplace.

If you’re in eLearning and not already signed up for the Forum, I urge you to click the image on this post, and explore all the offerings that you won’t want to miss.  I’m very eager to sit in on the other presentations over the two days, as using media effectively in eLearning is more important than ever.

I hope I’ll “see” you online next week! 😀

My E-Learning Voiceovers Program Was a Great Success!

If you’ve read any of my recent posts, you know I was asked to teach a full-day pre-conference certificate program on How to Create and Deliver e-Learning Voiceovers Like a Pro for the eLearning Guild’s Learning Solutions 2011 conference.  I had 13 wonderful students from across the U.S. and Canada.  I had designed an extremely hands-on program, which gave everyone lots of opportunity to practice new ideas and tricks as I taught them throughout the day.  We worked on writing and rewriting scripts to turn them into compelling voiceover copy, we worked on basic relaxation exercises and vocal techniques, and we worked on the essentials of recording and editing voiceover files.  Then I held an extended lab in the afternoon where participants worked on creating scripts and audio content while I walked around the room, working one-on-one with each and every student to answer questions and provide suggestions and guidance.  At the end of the day, each student did a mini-presentation, playing and discussing the difference between audio files they created first thing that day, and then again at the end of the day, using the same script.  The improvements in every case were audible and substantial.  I was proud of all the students for the progress they demonstrated in the space of just one day!  I was also both pleased and humbled when I read all of the anonymous student feedback the following day; it means a lot to me to have made such a positive impact with my teaching.  I salute each and every one of my students for working so hard, and for doing such a great job!

NOTE: If you were one of my students, and would be willing to let me put your “TakeOne” and “TakeTwo” files (either anonymously or with your name, as you please) into a little mini-presentation I’m thinking of creating about the class, please contact me.  It will likely include a very brief overview of the topics, some of the written feedback, and audio samples.  There’s no better evidence than the great work produced in class that day!

I’m not usually the type to wear a “slogan” T-shirt, but when I arrived in Orlando, I found a Disney store that allowed you to create your own design, and so I created the one shown in the picture here, and proudly wore it for my class: “E-Learning Without Human Voiceovers?  That’s Like a Grin Without a Cat!” 

My thanks to Heidi Fisk of the eLearning Guild for inviting me to teach again this year.  It was a fantastic experience, and I’d love to do it again.  In the meantime, I do coach on eLearning voiceover skills one-on-one, or for a team; you can find more info on my Coaching tab.

My Presentation Skills Classes at Learning Solutions Were a Hit

I’ve just returned from attending the Adobe Learning Summit 2011, and from being both presenter and attendee at the eLearning Guild’s Learning Solutions 2011 conference.  I had a fantastic time.  Both conferences had excellent keynote speakers:  Steven Berlin Johnson on the collaborative nature of innovation, John Medina on applying “brain rules” to learning, Nancy Duarte on visual impact, and Michael Wesch with a moving final talk on the implicit social responsibility behind social media.  There were also some very good peer-led sessions as well at both conferences.  Plus, it’s always exciting to see the new eLearning products from the vendors at the Expo.   Articulate’s upcoming “Storylines” and Michael Allen’s long-awaited “Zebra” are both coming to market this year, and you should keep an eye on both of those software applications; they have enormous potential. 

At the Adobe Summitt, I was delighted to meet Shameer, Akshay, RJ, Allen, and a lot more of the brilliant folks behind Adobe’s wonderful Captivate software.  They were great to talk to, and extremely responsive to everyone’s suggestions for future enhancements.  I’m sending them a list! 

It was fantastic to have the two conferences co-located in the same week; I hope that becomes an annual plan.  The perfect Orlando weather didn’t hurt, either. 

In addition to my full-day pre-conference certificate program on voiceovers (see my next post for a write-up!) as part of the Learning Solutions conference, I also led a one-hour Presentation Skills 101 class each of the three days of that conference, helping e-Learning professionals overcome the classic roadblocks to delivering an engaging and inspiring presentation, regardless of the topic or medium.  The attendees participated actively, contributing great examples from their own experiences, and gave me great reviews afterward.  I like to think that there are a lot more e-Learning professionals out there now who can get up in front of any audience with confidence and really make a difference.  I was very pleased that Nancy Duarte’s conceptual talk about the importance of “resonating” with an audience was a perfect companion talk to my own sessions, which provided hands-on ways to do it!

I also met a lot of great people from all over the place, and hope a lot of us can stay in touch here, on LinkedIn, and on Facebook, now that the conferences are over.  My only regret: I couldn’t fit the gorgeous Orlando weather into my suitcase to bring home with me!  😀

NOTE: If you attended one of my Presentation Skills 101 sessions, I’d love to hear from you about how you’re implementing the tips & tricks I shared.  I’m always happy to bounce around new ideas, or offer suggestions, if I can be of further help.  If you didn’t attend, but this sounds like coaching you need, please see my Coaching tab.

My thanks again to Heidi Fisk of the eLearning Guild for inviting me to present these sessions, and to Juli Balding, Ina Brasher, and the rest of the gang at the eLearning Guild for the fantastic support throughout.  Well done, all!