For years, the e-learning development world relied on Flash to create online courses. This incredible tool from Adobe could be used to make highly engaging courses containing amazing animations and complex interactivities such as drag and drop, simulations, role plays and so on – in short, the tool provided the e-learning developer with the flexibility to include ANY effect of his choice. This made Adobe Flash immensely popular with the online course development community. But, of late, many e-learning developers are moving away from Flash and switching to a new technology called HTML5.
Flash output cannot be accessed on multiple devices
While it is true that Flash is powerful software, it is not compatible with most tablets and smartphones, and this is a major limitation. On the other hand, HTML5 can be used to develop online courses which can be accessed seamlessly on all devices, irrespective of their platform.
Flash does not support mobile apps
According to Morgan Stanley, more people would access the Internet on their mobiles than desktop computers by 2015. As the mobile internet becomes the order of the day, organizations are compelled to deliver their training programs on the mobile. Apps occupy a vital role in m-learning because they enable learners to access the content in a hassle-free manner. Various technological developments over the last few years facilitate quick and effective conversion of existing learning content in the form of PDFs, PowerPoint presentations, audio and videos into mobile apps. Unlike Flash, HTML5 can be used to develop “device-independent” mobile apps, ensuring “m-learning without constraints”.
Flash requires users to download plug-ins to download content
This is one of the major limitations of Flash-based courses. Learners need to download plug-ins to access the multimedia elements of these courses effectively. HTML5 allows online course developers to embed multimedia elements. Features such as <video>, <audio> and <canvas> elements along with scale vector graphics (SVG) facilitate inclusion of multimedia and graphical content on the web without external plug-ins.
Flash does not support offline access to learning material
Most companies use the e-learning format to deliver learning content anytime, anywhere. However, to access a Flash-based course, learners need to have a “continuous” internet connection. But, content developed in HTML5 can be stored and accessed even when the device is not connected to the internet.
Does this mean that Flash is out of the e-learning world?
The answer is NO. Despite its limitations, Flash scores over HTML5 in certain aspects. Let us see what they are.
Support to older versions of browsers
Flash provides unparalleled support to legacy browsers such as Internet Explorer 6 and 7. HTML5, though built with the objective of providing access to content on all browsers effectively, fares poorly on older versions of browsers. So, some developers still choose to go for HTML4, for this reason. But the good thing is that HTML5 supports the latest versions of all major browsers.
Creation of interactivities and animations
Flash is still the most powerful authoring tool when it comes to the development of interactivities and animations in e-learning courses. No other technology, including HTML5, can match the capabilities of Flash in this regard.
Consistency in rendering content across all browsers
Learning content developed in Flash is rendered identically on all compatible browsers. But, HTML5 content is “interpreted” differently on different browsers, and this results in inconsistencies in the delivery of the learning material.
You need to remember that HTML5 has been developed to make it easier for people to surf the net, without depending on plug-ins; using it for online courses is just a by-product. HTML5 is an emerging technology, and it will take some time before it is universally accepted. Therefore, it is safe to say that though the use of Flash has reduced, the “grand old technology” of the e-learning world is not dead.