It has been a year since Adobe announced that it will stop updating and distributing the Flash player by the end of 2020. This announcement on the death of Flash will have a major impact on organizations that have e-learning courses developed in Adobe Flash. If your organization has been into e-learning for more than a decade, chances are that you have courses published in Flash too.
Did you ever wonder why Adobe Flash was the original favorite of e-learning developers until recently? Before the advent of Flash in 1996, e-learning courses were created with text and a few static images. But with Flash, it became possible to create courses with rich media and interactions, and they could be played on any browser if it had an in-built Flash player.
Popularity of Adobe Flash
Adobe Flash became a popular tool among e-learning developers because it:
- Supported audio, animations, and advanced interactivity
- Allowed customization based on the demands of course design
- Provided the required support for developers through a large user community
- Enabled customized assessments for online courses
However, developers realized that creating courses using Flash was getting tedious. The introduction of rapid authoring tools such as Adobe Captivate and Articulate Studio changed the game because they could quickly build courses where the output could be delivered on a Flash player.
The run of Flash as a popular authoring tool slowed down in 2010 when Steve Jobs decided not to use Flash in Apple’s iPads and iPhones, because of its proprietary requirements and slow processing power. He declared that these devices would not support Flash-based content. What were the implications of this for e-learning?
This was the time mobile learning was taking off and the iPad’s incompatibility with Flash was a serious concern because iPad users formed a major chunk of the market for tablet devices that supported mobile learning. So e-learning developers had to look for alternatives for mobile learning implementation and HTML5 arrived on the scene.
HTML5 technology helped e-learning developers create courses with rich media and interactions, and since the language of the program was the same as that of web browsers, there were no proprietary requirements to play the course. It required no separate plug-ins unlike Flash. The tool could also create responsive e-learning courses that can be accessed on all devices.
With more learning developers switching over to HTML5 to create e-learning, Flash was pushed to the background. In fact, Flash has been dying a slow death since 2010. On the other side, the switchover to HTML5 has not been abrupt or rapid after its debut and Flash still exists.
Reasons Flash is Still Around
There are two major reasons organizations still continue to use Flash for their e-learning course development.
- One reason is they may have a significant repository of courses developed in Flash and may not have the time or resources to convert them to HTML5.
- The second reason is they are still unsure how many of these courses they need to actually convert to HTML5, because they have not done an audit of the courses, nor do they have a concrete plan on making the switch to HTML5, so they continue to use Flash.
- Another reason for the continued presence of Flash is some organizations use systems that run on older browsers such as Internet Explorer 9, which do not display HTML5 content properly, but do an excellent job with Flash. So they still use Flash for better quality of output.
E-learning courses, after the introduction of HTML5, have been developed with the ability to display both Flash and HTML5 output. This helps cater to users with desktops that have IE9 browsers and also those using HTML5 output on their mobile phones and tablets.
However, the use of authoring tools such as Adobe Captivate and Articulate Storyline provides the option to create a single course in both Flash and HTML5, so that it will play equally well on any device.
The End of Adobe Flash
Web browsers such as Chrome, Safari, Mozilla and a few others have made it more difficult to play Flash-based content over the years for various reasons. The increasing usage of mobile devices has extended to online learning as well, and HTML5 has proved to be the most compatible player for mobile devices.
These factors have pushed Flash to the background and Adobe’s decision to stop updating the Flash player by the end of 2020 reaffirms that Flash is on its way out. It’s time to seriously think of converting your Flash-based e-learning courses to HTML5 if you want to preserve them for future use. The conversion is an easy process; do it before the writing on the wall turns into a critical situation.