There are many rapid development tools that seem to claim that successful eLearning development does not require programming or use of code. Some instructional designers and developers fear that coding is difficult to learn or time consuming to carry out. This is opposed to the fact that there are tools that do facilitate rapid development and that do involve programming (code). In this article, I suggest adopting design and development approaches that use a combination of JavaScript and HTML5 to overcome reliance on slide decks, templates, and menus that automate interactions along predetermined paths.

These are three of the important limitations that many rapid development tools bring:

  • Every learner gets exactly the same thing, with no accommodation for individual needs, difficulties with learning, and trouble with not being able to ask questions or pursue special cases. And cookie-cutter training is boring.
  • One size does not fit all—the designer and developer are stuck with what the tool provides—menus, reports, gamification, themes, etc. There are many other solutions to learning challenges involving methodologies that don’t fit on a slide.
  • Everything runs in a browser.

Beyond these issues, if an ID or eLearning developer never learns the alternatives to "no code" tools, this limits that person's career potential. If you master JavaScript, you increase your employment opportunities.

What to do about it

JavaScript is one of the most important languages in the digital world, including digital learning. It is used to create interactivity in websites and in mobile applications. In the case of websites, JavaScript running in a web browser can create interactivity. The developer can adjust any element on the website and cause reactions to elements that take place on the website—for example, clicking a button, or submitting a form. JavaScript can animate web elements, auto-complete text fields, or add arcade-style video game elements.

JavaScript can also create hybrid mobile applications on Android or iOS devices. It can do this inside or outside of a browser, on servers, or on desktops, as well as on mobile devices. It can even build user interfaces and complete games.

How to do it

Over the years, Learning Solutions has published a number of articles that demonstrate the benefits of JavaScript and provide tutorials to show how to solve the three problems named above, as well as other practical uses. These articles are still available online. However, there is often no substitute for in-person instruction from an experienced eLearning creator who knows the ropes with JavaScript, HTML, and tools such as Adobe Captivate that also use those languages within their own code.

Mark Lassoff has written many of the JavaScript tutorials in Learning Solutions, and has also offered live sessions at The eLearning Guild’s conferences over the years. At DevLearn 2019, Mark is leading a day-long workshop that teaches JavaScript basics and beyond: "BYOD JavaScript Coding for eLearning Pros".

The JavaScript language empowers those who know it to include everything from augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), to simulation and interactive video in their content, with total control over the interactions with learners. Mark’s workshop teaches how to write basic JavaScript to do things like output content to the user, track and remember information, display multimedia, and obtain real-time information from web services. These possibilities exist both inside and outside commonly-used authoring environments. No prior experience coding is needed. Participants will take home several resources that will allow them to keep learning and future proof their career in eLearning development and design.

In Mark’s session, you will learn:

  • How to create JavaScript
  • How to store information using JavaScript
  • How to output content to the user using JavaScript
  • How to manage media using JavaScript
  • How to process data using JavaScript
  • How to make decisions (branch) when coding
  • How to integrate JavaScript into your scripting environment

Designers and developers will benefit from learning more in this workshop about solving eLearning challenges using JavaScript, HTML5, and Adobe Captivate. All that participants need to bring is a laptop with a free text editor (such as Notepad) and a web browser installed.