On July 25, 2017, Adobe made the following announcement:
Adobe is planning to end-of-life Flash. Specifically, we will stop updating and distributing the Flash Player at the end of 2020 and encourage content creators to migrate any existing Flash content to these new open formats.
This announcement has a major impact on any organization which has e-learning courses published to run in Adobe Flash player. And for more than a decade, if you took or built an e-learning course, chances are high that you published or viewed it in the Flash player.
While the end of 2020 seems far away, it is not, especially if your organization has a large library of courses published for Flash output. Now is the time to begin planning your transition from Flash-based courses to alternate delivery platforms such as HTML5.
Here are some questions to consider as you develop your transition plan:
1. What tool was used to build the course?
If it was Adobe Captivate or one of the other big-name authoring tools, you may be in luck. Those tools have the option to publish in both Flash and HTML5 formats. If your course was recently built and published in Flash, it may just be a matter of opening the course’s source file and re-publishing in HTML5. Of course, test your course to ensure its features work well with HTML5. If your course was built in the Flash program, you may have to consider re-building your course with one of the authoring tools mentioned above.
2. How much has your content changed since you first published your course?
You may find as you review your courses – especially the older ones –some content requires updating. The demise of the Flash player brings a great opportunity to review your content, make necessary changes, and then publish it to the HTML5 format. Some older courses were built with text only and no audio. Given the increase in bandwidth that has occurred over the past decade, you may want to re-design the course to include supporting media.
3. What are your plans for mobile delivery?
Until recently, most courses were consumed via desktop computers. Even today, some experts say about 50% of courses are still published solely for desktop delivery. As we near 2020 and organizations re-design and re-publish their existing courses to meet the needs for mobile delivery, we anticipate a huge uptick in this number. Why? If you are updating your content and re-publishing your course in HTML5, it stands to reason that you would make your course available for mobile users. If your course has a shelf-life of 5 years, for instance, what are the odds that at the end of that 5 years, your courses will still be delivered via desktop only? In other words, iif you are taking the time to update your content and publish to HTML5, take the extra step and design it to be viewed on all screens and on all devices.
4. When should I start?
The answer is NOW! Even if you only have a few courses, develop and implement your plan ASAP. While Adobe set its deadline for the end of 2020, it’s really up to the browsers as to when these changes will occur. Let’s say that one of the browsers issues a new release in 2018. If they choose not to support the Flash player with the new release, then your Flash course will not work in that browser at that time. Other browsers may decide to issue challenge statements such as “This page requires the Flash player to run. Do you want to continue?” How many of your learners will know how to answer that? I’m not suggesting that either of these things will happen, but I cannot say for certain that they won’t.
5. Where do I start?
Begin with an inventory of your courses, especially those that require the Flash Player to view. If you’re not sure, look at the course files on your server. If any of the files have the extension .flv or .swf, it relies on the Flash player. If you cannot view files on your server, launch the course in your browser and right-click it. A box like that shown here will appear. If it’s running in the Flash Player, you will see “About Adobe Flash Player” listed as one of the menu options. When building your course inventory, include the following details:
- Course name (and LMS number)
- Course format (.swf, .htm)
- Course length (number of screens)
- Course time (minutes and seconds)
- Most recent publication date (mm/yy)
- Tool used to create the course (Captivate, Storyline, Lectora, Flash, or other)
- Source file availability (yes or no)
- Level of content update required (none, minor, or major)
- Mobile delivery options (yes or no; if yes then list devices)
Put these items into a spreadsheet and develop your plan from there. By doing so, you will help ensure your learners have continued access to your course content after the Flash Player is no longer available.