Back in 2005, when the Scissor Sisters were riding high in the album charts, Shrek 2 was packing out cinemas and Hurricane Katrina was wreaking havoc on America’s Gulf Coast, Flash software was installed on 98% of computers. Fast forward to 2017 and the once-pioneering technology responsible for powering multimedia content is soon to be no more. Flash is now only installed on 17% of computers and Adobe have officially announced that it will stop updating and distributing the Flash Player at the end of 2020.
How can the L&D community cope with the loss of Adobe Flash (RIP)?
For those in the learning & development community responsible for managing a significant amount of elearning content, which was originally created in Adobe Flash, seeing stark headlines such as ‘The long and painful death of Flash’, ‘Adobe Flash is finally dead’ is understandably a little alarming. But how big a problem is the demise of Flash really presenting us with?
The truth is, Flash’s impending death isn’t something we can be complacent about, particularly for those who have a large library of Flash-based content. All the main browsers such as Firefox, Chrome and Safari are dropping Flash support and, although many will still play Flash if configured correctly, many users will struggle to load and use Flash-based content. Additionally, if you’re aiming to distribute your content on mobile devices, Flash-based courses won’t meet your needs in the way that new HTML5 courses do.
If you’re in the position of having a library of Flash-based content and are thinking about all the time and effort that went into getting your original courses fit for purpose, no doubt you’ll be anxious to preserve or enhance this. ‘The good news is that strong content is just as compelling and relevant whether it’s displayed in Flash or HTML5,’ says Dorian Rogers, Production Manager at Kineo. ‘When we convert courses we look to retain as much of what makes the course effective as we possibly can’.
Yes, there are some interactions from old Flash courses that can’t be replicated exactly in HTML5, but an equivalent can usually be found. Text and content images can easily be reused - or refreshed and updated if need be - and in many cases videos and animations can be rendered in such a way that will allow them to play in a new course. There will always be some content that can’t be neatly reproduced in a modern framework, but in most cases, it’s possible to recreate the content in a new format that will work on modern platforms and devices.
Inevitably, the way in which the demise of Flash has been reported has had a negative spin, focussing on how quickly out-dated technology can become and the problems this leaves us with, but in L&D, it’s a development that can also be used to our advantage.
‘I think with hindsight, we can see that Flash had the effect of encouraging interactions for interaction’s sake,’ says Dorian. ‘Often, it was a long sequence of pages, leading to a bit of ‘click next’ fatigue for learners. When clients come to us requiring a move to a modern HTML5 framework for their learning, this provides an ideal opportunity to freshen the content up and give it a more modern treatment’.
A good responsive design can give learners a more modern web feel to the content and makes it easier to deliver at the point of need, be that on a work PC, a mobile phone or a tablet. As Dorian highlighted, ‘The trend today is to deliver shorter courses which address the learning need more quickly. Having to update a course from Flash is a great opportunity to tighten up the content and make further reading available as a resource that can be used to support performance in a timelier fashion.’
The demise of Flash can also provide a good opportunity to take a fresh overview of a customer’s library of content, seeing which courses are being used and by who, and how successful they are. It could be that it’s an appropriate time to drop content that is no longer relevant. Equally, some content may not be achieving the desired aims and a more radical redesign could be the best way forward. And by that, we could even be talking about a resource rather than a course.
But as Flash is finally put to rest with scant evidence of respect for its past glories, we shouldn’t forget that Flash once broke incredible new ground for multimedia content. Flash may be dead, but there’s no reason why much of the elearning it first brought to life can’t live on.