Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Interview with Allen Partridge, Adobe Systems: E-Learning Innovators Series

The iPad is becoming increasingly friendly for any time / any place learning, ranging from K-12 to graduate programs. Welcome to an interview with Dr. Allen Partridge, the eLearning Evangelist for Adobe Systems, who discusses some of the new technologies that make it possible to convert different formats to play on the iPad, including HTML5 and HTML5-enabled Captivate.

1. What is your name and your relation to e-learning?
Dr. Allen Partridge is the eLearning Evangelist for Adobe Systems Inc. In addition to his work for Adobe Systems, he continues to serve on the doctoral faculty in the Communications Media and Instructional Technology program at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Allen has written several books and a host of articles on topics ranging from 3D game development to Instructional Design for new technologies. He is active in explorations of Immersive Learning as well as traditional multimedia enhanced eLearning and rapid eLearning. Allen works closely with the eLearning Suite and Captivate teams at Adobe, providing a channel to customer needs and concerns and helping facilitate communication among team members.

2. What are some of the exciting new directions you've observed in elearning?
Most of the movement lately has been in the expansion / ease of access to creating great content with limited experience working with software. We’ve been focusing a lot of attention over the past couple of cycles on modernizing Adobe Captivate and the Adobe eLearning Suite to modern standards. Most eLearning online uses Adobe Flash to deliver the content in a web browser played back using the Adobe Flash plugin. About five years ago Adobe made dramatic improvements to Flash technology and adopted a new programming language commonly called AS3 (ActionScript 3). All of Adobe’s eLearning software is now fully AS3 compliant so it all runs better, smoother, and much much faster using the full strength of Flash.
In more recent months we’ve been extending Captivate’s reach on mobile devices. Captivate users can already publish content to Apple iOS using the App Packager that comes with eLearning Suite, but we wanted to add the option to produce HTML5 compatible content easily from a Captivate SWF.

3. Where do you see some of the most innovative uses of tablets (iPad, etc.) in elearning?
We’re offering the HTML5 converter free to the public on Adobe Labs while it is still in development. We feel strongly that this open forum will provide users with a relevant voice as we rollout new features and seek to meet the needs of users for this rapidly growing platform. While for a long time, we saw little statistical evidence that eLearning content was being created for mobile platforms, the introduction of mobile tablets had dramatically altered the playing field for educational content developers. This does a number of things. 1. It creates a strong need for touch based interactions that anticipate the differences between clicking a mouse and touching an application with your fingers. We addressed a lot of those issues with the release of Captivate 5.5 – most notably adding special interactions to quizzes that made it much easier to deliver successful quizzes on mobile devices.
The addition of another export format (HTML5) further extends Captivate’s reach as the industry leader in eLearning authoring. This thing is really pretty cool. You just feed it a Captivate SWF – like an application capture demo, and it spits out HTML5. Then post the HTML file.

4. In the past, the fact that some technologies do not run on iPad operating systems has been a problem. What is being done to address that?
We’ve seen a variety of approaches from various companies. Some rely on third party technologies, others have developed proprietary solutions and some of the companies who had traditionally used older technologies like HTML, found that they could easily support HTML5. Adobe was among the first to offer a robust solution, and was the first to create a Flash to App converter which was released with Adobe Flash Professional CS5. There were however some difficulties, because Apple altered the terms of their developer’s license shortly before the CS5 software was released, and that alteration prevented authors from using the Application Packager from Adobe. Shortly afterward, Apple reversed course, and re-enabled the use of the Packager. So people can use it now, and many do. In fact many large games for iOS devices are Flash games, converted with the App Packager.

5. What is HTML5?
Well that depends on who you ask. Some will tell you it’s a clever marketing campaign. HTML is Hyper Text Markup Language. It’s the standard used by web browsers for the past 20 years to display text and graphics (and sometimes other stuff) on web pages. The number 5 is the version number. HTML5 is not yet complete, none of the browser companies display the content in the same way, or use the same technologies to display that content. So think of it as the next version of the web language. The excitement comes because it will be able to do a lot of interactions and animations, video etc. that weren’t possible before. That said, it’s not at all a silver bullet. It has a lot of limitations, and won’t really effectively replace the kinds of things we see in eLearning today, but we feel it goes far enough that we can do a good job of converting most of the features of Captivate and making it much easier to get rich interactive content created for iOS devices.

6. What are some of the Captivate products, and what are they used for?
Adobe Captivate is a super simple to use eLearning authoring platform. It’s used by more eLearning developer than any other eLearning authoring tool and people love it for creating all kinds of eLearning content. It’s famous for interactive screen / application captures. It also does a great job with PowerPoint conversion, allows authors to easily create custom interactions without any programming, and makes branched projects –like scenario based training simple to pull off.

7. Specifically, what does it mean that Captivate products can now be converted to HTML5?
The converter is an Air Application that takes an Adobe Captivate SWF and exports a web page (HTML) that complies with the HTML5 standard. It has been optimized to perform best on Apple iOS devices including Apple iPhone, iPad & iPod. Especially on iPad, this will give eLearning authors the ability to quickly and effortlessly convert their content into a format that will play in the browser of an iOS device and will not require them to duplicate their efforts, building a separate version from scratch just to accommodate users on iOS devices.

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