Svein-Tore Griff and H5P’s Amazing, Open Source Interactivity on the eLearn Podcast

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My guest for today’s episode is Svein-Tore Griff With, the mastermind behind H5P, the popular, free and open source tool to create interactive content.

In a very short time, H5P has become the darling of open source elearning technologies, and it’s easy to see why. Svein-Tore and his team at Joubel built a powerful solution that is incredibly easy to use. 

With special attention to its integration with the most popular LMS and CMS out there, and strong accessibility compliance, the work that Svein-Tore has led with H5P is one of the most exciting contributions to the global Open EdTech movement in years.

In this conversation, Svein-Tore and I talk about:

  • H5P and it’s ambitious goals of providing a powerful, simple and free tool for anyone around the world to create amazing interactive elearning experiences
  • The interesting angle of an Open Source standard as the basis of a sustainable business, and the slowly but steadily evolving change of heart of mainstream users
  • The challenges EdTech entrepreneurs face in the corporate segment, and the trade-off they face between innovation and compliance to old specs
  • The H5P OER Hub, which aims to connect users from all platforms and LMS around free and open content collaboration


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This is the eLearning podcast episode number 20. The goal is for anyone to be able to use it so you don’t need to be a designer or programmer. You just put in your content and we handle everything for you so that it looks good and works well and integrates with whatever you’re using.

Welcome to the eLearning podcast from Open LMS .com. My name is Steven Ladek and I’m the director at Open LMS. My guest for today’s episode is Svein-Tore Griff, the mastermind behind H5P,

the popular free and open source tool to create interactive content. In a very short time, H5P became the darling of open source eLearning technologies and it’s easy to see why.

Svein-Tore and his team at Joubel built a powerful solution that’s incredibly easy to use. With special attention to its integration with the most popular LMS and CMS out there and strong accessibility compliance,

the work that Svein-Tore has led with H5P is one of the most exciting contributions to the global open source ed tech movement in years. In this conversation, Svein-Tore and I talk about H5P and its ambitious goals of providing a powerful,

simple and free tool for anyone around the world to create amazing interactive eLearning experiences. We also talk about the interesting angle of an open source standard as the basis of a sustainable business and the slowly but steadily evolving change of heart of mainstream users.

We also talk about the challenges ed tech entrepreneurs face in the corporate segment and the trade -off they face between innovation and compliance to old specs. And finally, we talk about the H5P OER hub,

which aims to connect users from all platforms and LMS around free and open content collaboration. But before we get started, a quick word from our sponsors. The eLearning podcast is sponsored by the eLearning Success Summit.

Learn from more than 40 experts how to teach, work and learn online without being overwhelmed. Get your free ticket to the summit at elearningsuccesssummit .com and Open LMS .com,

your best source for news, information and resources for eLearning professionals for more than 10 years. Get our free roundup of the week’s top news at Open LMS .com.

– Hello, Svein-Toree. Thank you so much for being on the show today. – Thank you, Stephen, for having me. I’m looking forward to it. – You know, the last time we talked, you were one of our speakers at the elearningsuccesssummit,

and you were in a different room. Where do we find you today? – Pretty much in the same building. So I’m in our offices in Tromsø and Norway.

– Awesome. How are things going for H5P right now? I know we want to talk about the hub and we’re going to get into that, but are you guys still drinking from a fire hose? Is it still just absolute craziness during these times of COVID or what’s going on on your end?

– Yeah, it is. It’s crazy times and it’s good crazy, but it’s also bad crazy. You know, we really wished we could do everything that is asked of us,

but we’re just so many people and the requests are coming in and it’s hard to handle it, but we’re adding more people to the team and we’ll be able to handle more and more going forward.

So that’s good. – That’s awesome. It’s great to hear, you know, there’s very interesting to see the different businesses that sort of either have a, are being affected by COVID or sort of having that inverse relationship with COVID that are actually growing rapidly.

So what type of requests are you receiving? Is it requests for new features? Is it technical support? Are you building out training? Like what,

where are the requests coming from or is it just sort of all over the place? – They are all over the place. So there are lots of partnering requests. There are feature requests.

We’ve got lots of universities who try to test out H5P from various perspectives. Accessibility, for instance, is something we try to prioritize really hard.

So we’re doing a release now with some accessibility improvements. Yeah, all over the place. place, people who want to join the team. And also we have almost a thousand customers on HVP .com now in two years.

So there are lots of requests coming from them wanting more authors and more everything. So it’s busy times, but luckily it also brings some income.

We haven’t had much of that the first three years. So now we can use it to expand the team and serve the community better. So that’s good. That is so fantastic. You know, I didn’t even start the conversation. I made this huge assumption that everybody knows what HVP is and sort of the project and the foundation behind this.

Can you just give us the 30 seconds? What is HVP? How does it fit into an LMS or into e -learning and how are you positioning it these days? Yeah,

we plug in to your existing LMS or publishing system and empower that system to create better, more exciting content like interactive videos, presentations,

quizzes, games, et cetera. And the goal is for anyone to be able to use it. So you don’t need to be a designer or programmer. You just put in your content and we handle everything for you so that it looks good and works well and integrates with whatever you’re using.

Do you find that you’re, are you mostly being used in higher education? Is it mostly being used in corporate settings? Do you have a sector that really stands out or have you found that it’s just sort of the adoption of HVP is across the board?

It is across the board, but the biggest percentage or biggest market share is within higher education. But we’re doing well in K212 as well and there are lots of businesses using HVP,

but I think to get the same kind of market sharing in enterprise sector will need to support a few other standards like SCORM and also make it a little bit easier to change colors and things like that,

better reporting things that they are more focused on there perhaps than in higher ed. One of the that’s interesting that you mentioned that the support of SCORM, take me through that because one of the truly sexy things about HVP was that it’s a SCORM alternative.

So is this taking existing classes or existing trainings and pieces that they have and being able to connect to it or tell me about that like what rather than replacing why do you need to connect to it?

They typically don’t have open source solutions, it’s not that widespread I think, and they don’t use LTI either, so to be able to put grades into their grade books we need to have a SCORM wrapper around HVP initially and hopefully they’ll see the benefits of HVP as they start using it more,

they’ll see that they really don’t need that SCORM wrapper, but initially coming in with clothes they expect us to be wearing would be good and then we can try to show them a better world where they can actually easily change their content and do everything you can do with HVP.

I just I love the analogy to a fashion designer, that’s fantastic, I’m just going to keep that in my head for the rest of the conversation. Do I need to have a learning management system to use HVP or is this something that I can use as a standalone,

you know we’ve on the show we’ve had several individuals who have sort of standalone, you know create your own course kind of products, is this a standalone product as well or does it need to be already connected with an existing LMS?

The way it is now at least you need something, you can, there’s no way to just use HVP, you need to plug it into something, even if you use the paid version H4P .com,

it doesn’t make a lot of sense to just use H4P .com. You can’t have menus or anything.

It’s made to plug into other systems. And make them better. And the reason is simply that we try to become a standard for interactive content.

And we don’t think we can do that through making a new CMS. We think we just have to let people use whatever they want to use and use H4P for the content part. So we just focus on the content.

So it’s an authoring standard rather than a platform standard, basically. Excellent. But at the same time, you kind of have this exciting new hub that you’ve put in that put out in the world.

So it’s called the H5P hub, which is something I really wanted to follow up with you about. You were announcing it not exclusively or anything on the other new success summit, but it was definitely the new release that you were most excited about.

Where does the hub stand today? Give me an overview about where things are at. Yeah. And actually, once again, I shouldn’t make the assumption. Tell us what the hub is.

Yeah. Yeah. The hub, we have a special approach there as well. There are many initiatives around the world that try to make content repositories.

And the hub is the same. It’s a repository of H4P content where the H4P community can share their work. But what is special is that we’re not making a website called h4pehub .com or .org or .net or whatever.

There won’t be any website. Initially, it will be an integrated part of the H4P authoring tool so that everyone who uses the H4P authoring tool today will get access to the hub automatically through an upgrade.

And then they will be able to sit in the authoring tool and they’ll be able able to choose do I want to create from scratch now or flip over to the search tab and search the hub directly from the tool and then you can search when creating content when you begin or you can begin creating a quiz for instance and search the hub for every question you are about to add if the quiz is mathematics and you want a

question about Pythagoras you can search the hub for Pythagoras and see what we have there before you add your own Pythagoras question so it would be a very very integrated experience and that’s quite different from other initiatives we’ve seen and I think that hopefully will be the key to to success and when it comes to where we are we’re very close to finished but it took it took longer than expected it went very

quickly in the beginning but those last 10 percent oh that last mile oh that last mile it was very long and and also when we first got delayed it hit the summer holidays and they are five weeks in Norway so that added five weeks to the delay so I wish we had it out before school started but it’s more important to get it right and right now we think we are two weeks away from having it ready for Drupal 7 and

ready for testing and then we will be porting it to Moodle and HVP .com first and then also WordPress and Drupal 8 so the first testable version that can be put on our test site HVP .org will be there soon and we’re very excited about it it looks looks very promising looks very good and the team is back now and working on it so how how do you manage the testing of this do you have a beta community that you’ve

already you know you have working on it or is it just internal testing or how does that work yeah no no it’s internal and then we we will put it on a staging site for the beta community to test and then we put it on HVP .org which we also use for a really large scale -scale that there are millions of users there every year so many of them will probably go in and try it out for a bit and give us feedback then

it goes out to the production environments around the world so it will be very well tested and lots of feedback before it goes out. Awesome what if I’m authoring a let’s just go back to your example a math quiz does does what I’m creating does that automatically then get go into the hub if I’m using HVP or is it just it you know is it a is it a checkbox that I I select afterwards or what once I’ve published the

quiz can I say hey send this to the hub like how does that work yeah you you choose it’s not automatic so when you’re done you can choose to share your content with the hub and there will be a button you click it and then you get a pop over where you pretty much just on forum and it gets published would be two clicks but if you haven’t added a license during authoring for instance we will ask you to please

please choose a creative commons license for your content so that we can we know what users are allowed to do it before you put it into the hub. Is it is the only option creative commons license or will the hub also offer commercial options as well they will at least not initially I think eventually especially for images and things like that we will allow for commercial licenses but initially it would be creative

commons and yeah similar licensing what’s it called public domain from the start yeah okay and what’s the on your back end like Like what’s the quality control look like and feel like I mean you’ve got Literally millions of authors out there.

You’re gonna have a whole lot of people talking about the Pythagoras and His theorems. So what we know, how are you maintaining that on the back end? Hmm When we started planning this it was a long time ago We looked a bit at how Apple did it with their apps with very strict quality controls and Android with just automatic controls and things got published right away and we decided to do something in between so By

default there will be a filter so you can only see things that have been Approved a serious content. We don’t do Approvals on the design quality or on the Making sure that every fact is correct.

We don’t do that, but we make sure that it’s not spam or it’s not Unappropriate that it seems serious So by default users will only see serious content and then they can switch off this filter if they want to to Have access to the freshest content that haven’t been reviewed yet And then we’ll see how fast Second and we’ll be flying into the hub and how many people will need to to review it we’ll take that as it

comes and There will also be these five -star systems so user can Can rate the content that will be the main way that we figure out what will be on top of the lists What have received the highest ratings and we’ll also look at how much content is visited and downloaded I’m just gonna say it seems like there’s a fantastic opportunity.

So the rating rating system would be For all of the content that hasn’t been necessarily Officially approved yet. I feel like you know, you can draw from this is the power of open source, right? You can draw from this community to say hey look this one’s fantastic and this one clearly spam or whatever I so you’ll be able to see that as well Yeah Yeah,

and we will have to make adjustments as we go go, but this is where we will start and then we’ll see. – Oh, that’s gonna be exciting. Is there any, you know, the question I always love to ask is when you first envisioned the hub,

you know, you kind of had, hey, here’s, you know, the team came together and said, here’s what we wanna do, here’s how we think it’s gonna work. Can you tell, what’s the biggest thing that you found doesn’t work, and what’s the most unexpected success from the pieces that you’re putting together right now?

– I think it doesn’t work for HPP in general, I guess. – Yeah, I mean, that’s just the way the hub works. You know, I’m always interested,

you know, I’ve been in many different sort of online communities and those kinds of, and people are like, oh, this is gonna be the best feature, everyone’s gonna love it, and it ends up becoming this massive failure, or just, you know,

no one uses it at all. And then, you know, it’s the little click box in the top left -hand corner that for some reason becomes the most important feature. Is there anything like that in either the latest version of H5P or the hub that your team has discovered over the last several months?

– For the hub, it’s a bit early, early, early. So we have user tested a lot of prototypes and made adjustments. I don’t remember any big surprises. We started designing the hub almost when we started with H5P,

so we’ve been planning it. – Oh, wow! Okay, so this is like, this was already in the development path, way like four years ago, basically. – Yeah, it was the main feature. We just wanted to,

we just wanted to. I look at me almost you’re innocent over here, like, oh, whoops, I like that. Of course, obvious, you know? Yeah, sure. – Yeah, yeah. Yeah, no, the reason we didn’t launch it in the beginning was that it didn’t make much sense to have a hub there if you didn’t have any content.

So we did the altering tool first. And now when we have lots of users, we finish the last, but most important feature and add it. And so it’s,

So in general, there are some content types that have become more popular than expected like the documentation tool, I thought would be quite narrow,

but we see it used for so many things. And so there are surprises like that, the dictation, I didn’t expect it to be used a lot in medicine,

but they do, they play hard sounds and they ask you what the disease is. So there are certainly surprises like that, but no biggies.

We haven’t had these huge failures yet, I’m sure they will come, but so far, things have worked pretty well, but I think it’s because when we have had the failures,

they’ve never been published. They’ve been discovered in user testing, like for interactive book, which was the first version was done over a year ago,

but when we user tested it, people were like, “Nah, it was missing this, it was missing that,” and then we just didn’t publish it, we waited and added those features and tested again,

and now it’s published and it seems to be very popular. Awesome. Yeah, we try to not get those surprises. What’s the number one thing that people are asking for in H5P right now,

what’s the maybe the top one or two features or the top one or two changes that you’re making that you’re going to be pushing out? At the H5P conference, the last one, it’s a while back now because of COVID,

but it was the hub, of course, by far the most requested feature, so it would be good to have that out. Number two, I’m not certain exactly what that was.

There are lots of requests for like the modern or the hyped things, so we’ve got 360 virtual Virtual Tour for 360 images and 360 videos are very much requested.

On the forum on hp .org, the number one thing is a one note integration. But I think Microsoft helped that a lot because they were campaigning on Twitter for people to go in and vote for that request.

So we’re working with them now to finish it. It’s pretty much done, but there are a few adjustments. I wasn’t exactly happy with the user experience yet.

So we’ll need to do a few adjustments and then we’ll get it out there. PowerPoint import is also very much requested. So that is also, we have a prototype for it and it’s coming.

– Is that, you know, so just on, does that PowerPoint import sounds like it might be something where somebody could take, you know, an existing PowerPoint from their class,

bring in an H5P. Is that the antithesis of what H5P wants to be though? You know, where it’s like, right, look, we don’t want static, we want interactive and we want, you know,

we want you to rethink your class. So is that another SCORM kind of instance where we have to do this ’cause everybody has a PowerPoint but it’s really come and get into the tool and see how it works and then evolve?

Is that what it did? – Yeah, it’s a bit like that. So you can upload your PowerPoint and we’ll create a course presentation for you. Maybe we’ll do interactive books as well later.

But it will be a bit messed up, it’s hard to make it perfect. So you’ll have all the images there, you’ll have all the texts and everything, but you have to reposition it a bit.

And obviously we’d want them to add questions and make it more interactive and more engaging. But it will be a huge time saver.

A lot of teachers have a lot of content in PowerPoint and not having to upload each image and copy paste each text will be very convenient for them. – Absolutely.

Absolutely. Speaking of which, your community, it’s this giant global community. Is there any sense of what the next six months or the next year looks like in terms of returning to normal or is this,

we’ve definitely found ourselves in a new normal or are there, what’s the H5P vision for what things look like six months from now or a year from now,

or is that not even in your purview? It’s hard to predict. Initially, when COVID started,

we tried to predict and things went so quickly. I remember we early on was playing with the thought of, “Oh, do we have to cancel the H5P conference in Wisconsin in May?” And then a couple of weeks and it was cancelled almost.

So it’s hard to predict and hopefully it can be the same the other way around too, that will go away as fast and really see it happen.

So I expect there will be a lot more online education going forward and even if COVID goes away, I think teachers have gotten used to using online tools more and see the value of it and we’ll be using it more in the future.

What they expect from us and obviously also the next six months will be very interesting from a hub perspective. We’ll be getting user data and we’ll see how they use it and see if our vision will come true in the end and we’ll be able to make people not create from scratch every time but instead use content that is there.

So how much are teachers willing to share? That would be interesting. – Oh, let’s hope that they’re willing to share tons. Steam’s Hort, it’s always great to have you on the show. I really appreciate you taking the time,

especially knowing that you are super, super busy and developing the hub and getting this pushed out. Thank you so much for your time today. – Thank you for having me.

– Thanks again for tuning in to today’s episode of the e -learning podcast. If you like what you’ve learned today in this episode, I encourage you to either follow us or subscribe to us on Facebook or Twitter or YouTube.

And please do share this episode with one or two of your colleagues or friends. Also, I just wanna remind you that you can level up your online learning game with all of the information that’s available at the e -learning success summit.

You can get your free ticket at elearningsuccesssummit .com. And finally, you can also stay up to date on everything that’s important, all the news and the resources for e -learning professionals at Open LMS .com.

Get our free newsletter by just going to Open LMS .com today. Thanks again.

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