Why Would You Learn to Code as an eLearning Developer?

There was a time in the learning industry that when we were not afraid to build custom eLearning using tools like Flash. If we had an idea for a custom game and or learning interaction that could not be built in standard eLearning tools we would try to build that custom game or learning interaction in Flash or a similar tool.

Since the demise of Flash it seems like everyone has been hesitant to even mention custom code. It is true most of us that learned Flash had to now learn how to code in HTML5 in order to get the custom learning interactions but seems like most did not make that transition.

Why is that? eLearning tools are great and they have come a long way in the past couple of years but in my opinion they are still years behind what custom web development can do. Don’t get me wrong eLearning tools have their place and I will still use them when the project calls for it and I will still teach them but if we run into a project that would be better suited for custom code why wouldn’t we try to build it instead of trying to hack our eLearning tools to do something they were never meant to do?

Let me give you an example. Not too long ago we tried deploying a course built in a standard eLearning tool (Won’t name names) and the client wanted to have more than one text entry field, in fact several text entry field’s all on one page of the course. The eLearning tool had a restriction that could only submit one text entry field at a time (Which is not a SCORM restriction, that is a eLearning tool imposed restriction, SCORM you can submit several interactions at the same time). We decided to work around that by storying the responses in variable and then after the user clicked the submit button running through several pages that would submit each response one at a time.

This approached worked ok during our testing but once we deployed the course out to the field we found that many people were complaining that it was slow and that not all their responses were saving. They also complained that this course was not responsive on their mobile devices which is not a possibility in the tool we were using (A standard web development practice). Needless to say it was a very stressful time trying to figured out why some of the data was not submitting correctly.

After months of just accepting that was the best we could do with the tool, I decided that we should try building the same course in HTML5. Yes we had to use code 😉 but we were able to make the course fully responsive, use standard parallax effects you see on websites to get more of the wow effect and break free from your traditional eLearning course look, submit more than one text entry field at the same time through SCORM and it cut our file size drastically therefore having the course load and perform much better than it previously.

The course and experience was just night and day better. Since then I have been an advocate on learning to code learning interactions because of how much better the experience ended up being.

Now we build most of our courses in custom code and I truly feel the sky is the limit as far as what we can do. There are literally thousands of different JavaScript libraries out there that already have functionality built out that you can take advantage of. So instead of waiting for a tool to come out with that one feature you have been waiting for, with custom code most likely there is a JavaScript library out there that already does what you want it to do.

What do you think? Why have we as a learning industry become afraid to code? What are some more benefits that you see by breaking free from standard eLearning tools and learning to code?

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