H5P: a versatile content creation tool

This is the first in a series of blog posts looking at specific tools that can be used to create digital content of various kinds. 

Many of us are likely to be running either blended or online courses in the months to come and we’ll need to give students a reasonable amount of digital content to work through. This might take different forms: it could be a recording of a teacher giving a short lesson or lecture, collaborative work on shared documents or sites such as Padlet or Google Docs, revision work through quiz based sites such as Quizlet, Socrative or Kahoot. Or exercises and assignments delivered through their VLE, whether that be Blackboard, Moodle, Canvas, Google Classroom or something else. 

One tool we’ve found particularly useful over the last couple of years for creating digital content is something called H5P. A terrible name – it was originally designed by the Norwegian Army to create internal training so that might explain its lack of flair – but really very versatile in the range of content you can make with it.

Examples of H5P content

It’s versatility makes it a little difficult to describe what it is exactly, so it’s probably easier to show a few examples from various courses I’ve worked on so you can get an idea of the scope of activities you can make. 

You can create basic interactive exercises such as multiple choice, fill the gaps, drag the word or picture to the right place. You can see a few examples of these below, these are the actual exercises, not images, so you can interact with them : 

You can also create videos with embedded questions. This can be via a YouTube video or you can upload your own video and create questions to accompany it. You can see an example below with David Crystal talking about how the internet has changed language. You can scrub through to get to the questions, they are represented by little dots on the timeline. 

One activity I really like the is the summary activity, this is where you have to choose from a series of pairs of sentences to build up a summary of an article or text students have read. 

There is a strong visual element with H5P and you can add pictures to lots of activities. Here is an example of a card-based quiz about famous EFL authors. 

One thing that really distinguishes H5P is that it’s not just quizzes and exercises, you can also use it just to deliver information in different ways. For examples, you can create an ‘accordion’ with information revealed by clicking on a heading. This can be good for FAQs or just to get students to reflect on key questions before looking at the answer. The example below came from a course I ran on instructional design for teachers. 

You can also use it to show steps in a process or as a visual guide. The one below is some content I created to show teachers how to embed a Quizlet set in a specific VLE, Moodle. You can use the slider at the bottom to move through the steps.

Or you can use it to create a before and after picture, like I did when showing students the difference between a good and bad presentation slide. You can drag the slider in the middle to move between the two pictures.

But my absolute favourite feature in H5P is the documentation tool. This allows students to work through a series of structured writing steps to create a whole piece of text at the end. I haven’t used this specifically with students, but have used it with teachers to create an analysis of a website. You can see an example of this below:

This only really scratches the surface of what’s possible with H5P. If you go to this page on their public-facing website, you can see the full range of content types available to create. 

H5P example page

How can I start creating content with H5P?

The easiest way to get started is to go to their website, h5p.org, and sign up for a free account. You can then start creating example content. A couple of warnings at this stage:

This site is specifically designed for trying out creating activities – and they do try to make that clear – so I would advise against using it as the ultimate repository for all your content. It is limited in the amount of content you can create and where you can send it to. However, as a starting point it’s a great way to get your feet wet and get an idea of how it works. You can share your content with students and colleagues via a link to let them try it, but there’s no guarantee that this will be a permanent situation going into the future.

This might sound a bit worrying at this stage, how can you trust such a shakey business model? But don’t worry, there are a variety of ways that H5P can be used fully and securely and at various price points from free to quite expensive but I’ll explain those all in another post as it’s a little complicated.

And also don’t worry about any content you create on their free site – later once you’ve decided on the specific use model you are going to have with H5P you can download the content from the free site to upload somewhere else later. Nothing will be lost.

The second warning is that the interface for creating content is well, a little clunky. What it creates looks great, but the backend where you enter the questions, instructions and upload pictures bears no relation to what it actually looks like. It is a lot of text fields and boxes to fill in and it’s only when you hit the ‘save’ button that you actually see what it looks like. For example here’s the backend interface for the drag and drop you saw earlier for academic profiles: 

I wouldn’t say the interface is necessarily bad, it just takes some learning and is a bit of a shock if you tend to use programmes and websites with a more what-you-see-is-what-you-get interface. 

Anyhow, I hope this at least piques your interest in H5P. In a follow-up post, I’ll try to untangle the various ways that H5P can be used within a VLE, how content can be sent or embedded in different places and what possible pricing models you might want to explore depending on your budget. 

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Katrien Deroey
Katrien Deroey
3 years ago

Thanks David for taking the time to do this!

Ruth Kerr
Ruth Kerr
3 years ago

Thank you so much for this. I found it incredibly helpful and very timely as we are just starting to incorporate H5P created materials into our online courses