Steve Job’s 2010 letter “Thoughts on Flash” was eye-opening. Seven years later, Flash’s failure to deliver seamless mobile learning experiences, its vulnerability to security threats and its penchant for draining battery led to Adobe’s announcement of its withdrawal of support for the Flash player by the end of 2020.
What does this change mean for you? Your e-learning courses developed using Flash or containing Flash elements will no longer play or open in browsers, unless you convert them to HTML5. Here are 10 tips to help you prepare for this transition.
1. Do a Thorough Audit of Your Existing E-Learning Courses
You won’t need to convert all of your e-learning courses to HTML5. A thorough audit can help you identify Flash-based courses that are still relevant to your learners. You could prioritize courses based on their importance (e.g., compliance training, code of conduct training or safety training), frequency of access or duration.
2. Quickly Identify Flash-based Training
From the myriad e-learning courses in your training repository, how can you identify the ones created using Flash or containing Flash components? Simply search for file names that end in “.swf” or “.flv” in your published package for the course. If you find files with these extensions, it means the courses are Flash-based or contain Flash elements.
Alternatively, test your online courses after turning off the “play Flash content” option in your browser. The courses will not play if they are Flash-based.
3. Leverage the Additional Benefits of Flash to HTML5 Conversion
Apart from having a course that plays in all browsers, there are other benefits of converting Flash courses to HTML5. You can take this opportunity to update your content by deleting obsolete information and adding more relevant information. Introduce modern design by making courses interactive and incorporating microlearning.
4. Use Rapid Authoring Tools
Writing HTML5 code for your e-learning course is a time-consuming process that extends your conversion timeline. Authoring tools enable rapid conversion from Flash to HTML5 and support mobile compatibility, content and instructional design updates, and multilingual translations — plus, they can save time and cost cuts.
If you have an in-house team to work on the conversion, use the latest version of your current authoring tool instead of switching to a new one. If you’ve decided to outsource conversion, talk to your e-learning partner for advice on selecting an authoring tool.
5. Choose Effective Conversion Strategies: The Four Rs
There are four conversion strategies that you can use to convert Flash to HTML5, which we can describe as the four Rs:
Use the first strategy when your source files are unavailable or unusable. It works well when you have self-running presentations with basic assessments, and you don’t need to make any content changes. The output of this strategy is an MP4 file with a custom-built assessment that’s integrated in a SCORM courseware shell.
Opt for this strategy when your source files and media assets are available and your existing course used an old version of an authoring tool that now allows publishing to HTML5 only. The content usually requires minor, if any, changes. The output of this strategy is courses with the same (or moderately enhanced) level of interactivity and complex animations, recorded using the latest version of the same authoring tool.
Whether or not your source files and Flash elements are available, opt for this strategy when the course was developed in an authoring tool that’s now obsolete. You should only use this strategy if the media assets and content are relevant and you only require minor content changes. The output of this strategy is courses that have similar or moderately enhanced levels of interactivity, that use existing media, and that have complex animations developed using a new authoring tool.
Opt for this strategy when the course requires a new instructional design strategy; a major portion of the content needs updates; or the media assets, Flash elements and development tool are no longer relevant. The output of this strategy is a brand-new course that follows the complete project development cycle.
6. Be Aware of Development Timelines
The time, cost and development effort depend on your conversion strategy. Here are approximate timelines for a 30- to 60-minutes course:
- Record: four to six hours
- Republish: 12 to 24 hours
- Rebuild: 24 to 40 hours
- Redesign: 180 to 250 hours
7. Follow a Pre-conversion Checklist
This five-step pre-conversion checklist can help:
- Gather resources: Begin by gathering all of the Flash-based courses.
- Organize courses based on the availability of your source files.
- Evaluate courses, and select the ones you will convert.
- Prioritize courses.
- Select your conversion strategy and e-learning vendor (if you decide to source).
8. Consider Outsourcing Your Flash to HTML5 Conversion Project
You can convert your Flash courses to HTML5 in house, but if you don’t have a dedicated team for e-learning development, or you need to convert a large number of courses, outsourcing is a sensible idea. Find a partner that offers a time-tested development process, the required resources and tools, scalability, and a reduction in project cost.
9. Focus on Project Management
Developing large volumes of courses within strict timelines requires efficient project management. If you decide to outsource your conversion project, take advantage of the services of a project manager from the e-learning vendor’s team. Effective project management can help you clearly define the project scope and team members’ roles of team members. It ensures smooth communication among development teams, subject matter experts (SMEs) and stakeholders and helps track deliverables, including sign-off from SMEs and stakeholders to meet timelines.
10. Don’t Skip Quality Assurance
Quality assurance is an integral part of effective e-learning development, and Flash conversion projects are no exception. A quality check of your converted courses will help ensure accuracy of content, good functionality and multidevice compatibility. It will also enable you to check that the course follows appropriate design guidelines, based on your style guide, templates and checklists.
Face the challenge of converting Flash courses to HTML5 head-on. With an effective conversion plan in place, you’ll be prepared for the transition next year.