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One of online learning's biggest advantages over face-to-face learning is the ability to add interactions to learning content. Learning science has shown us that interactions are necessary to retain content, and thus today the best courses integrate activities directly into their learning content. But a challenge with creating interactions is that those built into the LMS tend to be limited, while more complex interactions tend to require more complex outside systems to develop, such as Articulate Rise and Storyline.

Now a system has emerged that is rapidly gaining converts within higher education for its unique combination of power and simplicity. H5P, created by the Norwegian company Joubel, allows faculty to add a wide range of interactions to their online courses in an easy-to-use system.

Faculty first choose the type of interaction they would like to create from over 50 options, among them interactive video, branching scenarios, drag and drop, and images with hotspots. (See here for a snapshot of current interactions.) Then they are given a simple form to fill in their own content, including images, videos, questions, feedback, and the like. Faculty or instructional designers then insert a player that allows students to play the interaction at the desired point in the course. Take a look at this overview of how it works.

Here are three sample interactions that would work well in an online course.

Videos

The traditional LMS separates interactions such as questions from course videos. The H5P interactive video tool is ideal for adding interactions directly to videos. The faculty member first uploads their video to the software on the H5P website and then adds interactions at different points. These interactions can be multiple-choice, fill-in-the-blank, and drag-and-drop questions as well as hotspots for students to click to learn more, among others. One nice feature is that students can immediately see whether they got the question correct and be given the option to try again or view the solution. See an overview of the interactive video function.

Presentations

The Course Presentations function allows faculty to create slide-based presentations similar to Google Slides or PowerPoint, but with interactions. The user is given a blank slate on which they can create as many slides as they wish by uploading images, audio (as well as recording slide audio right on the system), video (including interactive videos created with the interactive video function), shapes, text, and links. The user can also add interactions to the slides, including the aforementioned drag-and-drop, image hotspots, and fill-in-the-blank questions. One of the more interesting features is the Display Confusion Indicator, which allows students to send the faculty member comments about their confusion and ask for help. Students can advance through the slides on their own in an asynchronous LMS element, or the faculty member can go through the presentation live and ask students to answer the questions as they go.

Note that faculty cannot simply upload a PowerPoint or Google Slide deck into the system to work on. This is most likely because the system would only be able to interpret a slide as a single image without editable components, such as text. Faculty who want to use an existing slide deck as their starting point can export those slides as individual images and load one into each blank slide in the system. Check out this example and tutorial on how to create presentations in H5P.

Branching scenarios

The branching scenario function is possibly the most interesting in H5P’s suite as it allows faculty to create learning content that lets students follow different paths according to their preferences. It can also be used for simulations that react to student choices.

For instance, H5P offers the example of a simulated home nursing visit created by Centennial and George Brown colleges. It starts by giving the user a typical client file for a home visit and then transitions to a clever video from the perspective of a driver pulling up to a house, removing their nursing identification from the rearview mirror, picking up their client file, and leaving the car. It then gives the viewer three options for how to present themselves to the client, each leading to a different video representing that option and the client’s reaction.

The scenarios are built on a dashboard resembling those that Articulate Storyline and similar systems use. The faculty member uploads or creates different elements, such as slides or scenes, and can even upload an H5P presentation as a scene. Then they define the paths according to user input. View at the home visit and another branching scenario example as well as learn how to build one here.

LMS integration

While faculty need not understand the process of integrating H5P with their LMS (their LMS administrator will handle that), it is helpful to learn some important differences in price and functionality for different LMSs.

Joupel uses a somewhat unique “freemium” model for offering H5P. Those institutions using Canvas, Brightspace, Blackboard, or Moodle need to pay for a license to use the cloud version of the software on the H5P site. The LMS administrator uses LTI integration to play the content within the LMS. One benefit of LTI integration is that faculty can then build the content inside the LMS rather than on the H5P website. Another is that faculty can access analytics from within the LMS to understand how students are using the tool. Faculty can also make the activity either graded or not graded as the tool can send grades to the LMS grade book.

Institutions (or others) using WordPress, Drupel, or Moodle can download the system to their own servers as free, open-source software. Those using this self-hosted option need to download an H5P plugin from H5P. The plugin, however, does not allow for analytics or gradebook integration. Both types of integrations are easy to set up for an LMS administrator.

Finally, someone using the H5P-hosted (paid) option can also simply send students a link to play it on the H5P site. They can also embed code from the H5P website within nearly any LMS that will play the interaction off of the H5P site. But neither will allow for reporting or grade integration with an LMS.

Emily Faulconer has integrated H5P interactions into her introductory STEM courses. Students report that they find them useful for learning the content, and that the interactive questions help them gauge whether they really understood the material, which helps them self-evaluate whether they need to access other course resources on the topic, including the textbook.

H5P offers an easy way to add engaging and powerful interactions to online learning content.


Emily Faulconer, PhD, is the chair of the Physical and Life Sciences Discipline at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.