Not Quite Time to Call It for Flash

Adobe Flash TombstoneWhen web-based training was becoming THE thing, Flash was hardly a thought for course developers. Up to that time, you had to make a choice. If you wanted it on the web, it had to be strictly HTML based (using HTML 4). No interactivity, no custom look and feel. If those were non-negotiables, then you had to opt for computer-based training using Authorware or something similar.

The Rise of Flash

Then Flash had it’s surge. As developers discovered it and what it could do for building compact e-learning with dynamic content and interactivity, it quickly became THE standard. Add video and audio capabilities and everyone was…WOW!

And Now?

All good things must come to an end. On July 25, 2017, Adobe announced the END OF LIFE (EOL) of Flash in 2020. After that time they will no longer produce the Flash Player plug-in necessary to play Flash content in browsers. The mobile world had already rejected the Flash Player a few years ago because of its huge demand on system resources. Up until 2020, Adobe will still issue bug and vulnerability fixes, but will not produce any new versions of the player.

So the Short Answer Is…

Yes. A decided yes. Flash, for all intents and purposes, is dead. It just hasn’t laid down yet.

Come to think of it, that’s the long answer too.

And that knowledge may send e-learning developers all over the world into a panicked frenzy! So much content has been developed in Flash. SCORM and even xAPI to an extent have relied heavily on what Flash can do to in the e-learning world. There are literally tens of thousands of courses out there developed in Flash and come 2020 they will no longer work! (Or to be a bit less dramatic, they will get no support from Adobe until finally the browsers just stop supporting the plugin and the course will only run on old browsers with old plugin technology.) Unfortunately, you can’t just flip a switch and suddenly these courses no longer depend on Flash. Here is Adobe’s take on FLASH to HTML5 conversion.

HTML5-badge

The Good News Is

You can convert Flash content to a format more in line with today’s technology. HTML5 has become the de facto standard for just about anything on the web and most of the tools you have used to develop Flash-based content can now be used to convert that same content to HTML5. Those tools include Adobe Animate ( the new name for Flash), Adobe Captivate, Articulate Storyline, Presenter (both Adobe and Articulate), and many others.

HTML5 should give you almost all the features you had with Flash. Audio and video are possible, animations and interactions as well. And, of course, page display and graphical content.

Not All Is Rosy However

It will be a time-consuming conversion as you test courses to find out what works and what doesn’t and make the adjustments. But it shouldn’t be terribly difficult. To give you a head start on that analysis, here are some of the things you can expect to be different with HTML5.

  • Lack of older browser support. Anything below Internet Explorer 9 may have issues supporting HTML5 content and its features.
  • Video is supported, but since it is played within the browser the learner may get a different experience depending on browser make and version.
  • Some interactions may be lost during the conversion.
  • The wonderful rendering of fonts you got in Flash will be lost. HTML5, like previous versions, will depend primarily on fonts available on the learner’s system.
  • On the positive side, HTML5 will consume fewer resources and load and play faster.

What will it mean for your LMS?

The good news is that the impact SHOULD be minimal. Course communication with your LMS was done via JaveScript anyway (not FLASH) so not a lot lost there. Packaging may look different; you will likely have a lot more files than you would have with Flash-based content. On the other hand, those files will be smaller in file size so performance will be better.

So you don’t yet have to be making those plans for a series of all-nighters to tirelessly convert all of your Flash-based content to HTML5. However, it would be a smart idea to start preparing your calendar (and your budget) to start making those conversions starting in 2018. First, because 2020 will come faster than you think. Second, because while Adobe says they will continue to support the player until 2020, the fact that they have declared it EOL means they likely won’t go too far out of their way to fix bugs and vulnerabilities. So start making those conversions sooner rather than later.

Does looking at all that conversion seem like a daunting task? Contact us at support@jcasolutions.com to find out how we can help you.

 

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