E-Learning is one of the key activities for which tablets, and especially iPads, were created. In the early days, tablets were initially used for reading books and watching YouTube videos. Nowadays e-Learning developers are coming up with many more interesting and effective ways of using tablets.
Key Principles of E-Learning Development for Tablets
Because there is a certain difference between e-Learning on tablets and PCs, authors need to adapt their learning content for playback on tablets. Below are several key differences that should be considered:
1. Finger-tip Control
A course’s controls and elements should be specially adapted for finger-tip control. Additionally, tablets have a virtual keyboard which takes up valuable screen space, putting certain limitations on a course’s appearance.
2. Screen Orientation
A tablet’s screen orientation depends on the vertical or horizontal position of the device. E-Learning materials have to be adapted to both orientations of a tablet’s screen.
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3. Limited Screen Size
Usually, the screen size of a tablet ranges between 7” – 10”, which is quite smaller than a PC’s screen. On a tablet screen, smaller fonts appear unreadable and small images are difficult to distinguish.
4. Limited Memory
The available memory (RAM) of, say, the cheapest iPad model is just 16GB. With most of the device’s memory used by applications and data, e-Learning courses have to be as compact as possible.
5. Internet Connection
Because a tablet is a mobile device, it often uses a mobile Internet connection, which places certain limitations on the speed of the connection, and thus the amount of incoming traffic. These limitations are another reason to make e-Learning compact.
Along with these peculiarities of e-Learning on tablets, there are certain differences between iOS tablets (Apple iPad) and Android tablets (other brands of tablets).
E-Learning Development Tools for the iPad
A considerable amount of e-Learning materials have been developed in the Flash format so far. While developing e-Learning for tablets, authors should know that iPad doesn’t support Flash, and Android tablets (starting from version 4.0.x) will stop supporting Flash as well. There are several ways to play Flash on an iPad, but they aren’t convenient enough for e-Learning.
The iPad supports several types of e-Learning content: keynote presentations, iBooks, HTML5 courses and custom e-Learning applications.
1. Keynote Presentation
Keynote is a Mac OS application for the creation of presentations, just as PowerPoint is for the PC. Keynote presentations can be easily played on iPads via the Keynote application, available in the AppStore for just $99. The application allows not only viewing, but also editing presentations, converting them to .PDF or .PPT, saving to iTunes or sending via email.
A couple of obvious drawbacks to the Keynote method are limited distribution opportunities and lack of security (as your presentation will be available for editing to any of its recipients).
2. iBook Author
Apple provides a convenient application for creating e-Learning courses for iPad – iBooks Author. With the application, authors can create textbooks with galleries, video, interactive diagrams, 3D objects, and more.
Although iBooks Author is a free application, it is only available in Mac OS X, and the created textbooks can only be distributed via the iBookstore. This, on the one hand, makes content development more standardized. On the other hand, authors will depend on Apple in terms of both creation and distribution of e-Learning content.
3. HTML5 E-Learning Courses
The creation of HTML5 e-Learning content appears to be the most convenient and handy option for PC users. Today, the HTML5 format is the major technology for creating cross-platform content. This open standard is seamlessly played by tablets and PCs, supported by all modern browsers, and it doesn’t require additional software, plug-ins or codecs.
Before starting to use HTML5 for E-Learning, authors should consider that HTML5 hasn’t been set as the standard yet, and browsers support HTML5 content differently. An up-to-date comparison table can be found at html5test.com.
Creating courses in HTML5 from scratch requires deep technical knowledge. That’s why many instructional designers prefer to create E-Learning materials in PowerPoint and then convert files to HTML5.
4. PowerPoint Courses for iPad
PowerPoint is a very widely used tool for E-Learning content development, and it really takes just one click to turn PPT files into HTML5 courses if you use iSpring Converter Pro. It’s the first PPT to HTML5 tool that precisely preserves all animations, transitions, vector graphics, embedded audio and video, hyperlinks and triggers. iSpring Converter Pro also provides options to add video narration, build branching scenarios and protect courses from unauthorized usage. Plus, the content created with iSpring Converter Pro is SCORM/AICC compatible and can be integrated with virtually all LMSs.
Converting PPT to HTML5 is also possible with HTML5Point, but in practice the converter has revealed several weaknesses. First, it isn’t supported by all systems. Second, it poorly performs conversion of markers, styles and animations, although it handles lines and figures with satisfying quality. Finally, the application has very few settings.
5. Non-PowerPoint-based Solutions
Articulate Storyline and Adobe Captivate 6 are authoring tools suitable for those who are creating courses outside PowerPoint. Both products provide a similar set of features: the creation of slides with rich media content, screen capture, interactions, quizzes and surveys. These tools can publish content in both Flash and HTML5. Storyline and Captivate are quite expensive (Storyline costs $1398), and it may take some time to master the applications and explore their functionality.
6. Custom E-Learning Applications in the AppStore
Another way to create e-Learning content for an iPad is to make your own application. This process can be pretty long and costly, but it provides a lot of freedom to the content developer. The many custom e-Learning applications available in the AppStore show that this way is becoming more and more popular these days.
E-Learning on Android Tablets
E-Learning courses in the HTML5 format mentioned above are virtually the only acceptable type of content for Android tablets so far. As an alternative, custom e-Learning applications can be created from scratch. However, judging by the increasing number of Android tablets, more e-Learning authoring tools are likely to appear in the near future.