Flash-Based eLearning: Why Learning Needs To Stop Using Flash, Immediately

Flash-Based eLearning: Why Learning Needs To Stop Using Flash, Immediately
Summary: Google's recent move to stop support for Flash in its Chrome web browser (by the end of 2016) is the last straw for the once popular platform. Let's explore why learning teams are moving away from Flash, and consider what might happen to your existing Flash-based eLearning content.

What Moving Away From Flash Means For Your Flash-Based eLearning Content

Adobe Flash, the programming fad of the early 2000s, is heading the same way as other obsolete platforms – into the murky depths of history. Why the move away from Flash, and what does this mean for your Flash-based eLearning content?

Flash Is Old News

First developed in 1996, Adobe Flash revolutionized the online experience. Websites rapidly began displaying video content, and high-end animation was cropping up on pages everywhere. In fact, Flash was an integral part of the early YouTube experience and is still a major player in online games, with many developers turning out title after title in Flash. It was successful because it allowed developers to integrate more graphics into the desktop experience, making it the standard for creating online learning content. Flash helped eLearning move away from simple text display and toward the process of gamification, creating a more visual learning experience.

Unfortunately, as wonderful as early Flash was, it couldn't keep up with other technological developments. For instance, because it was a desktop-first platform, the proliferation of mobile devices made it virtually impossible to keep Flash at the vanguard of developers' tools. On the other hand, HTML5 offers the flexibility that modern developers need since it displays equally well on tablets, desktops, smartphones, and other devices.

Flash's decline began in 2005. Apple released the iPhone, and developers found it challenging to make Flash a workable multimedia solution on battery-constrained devices. As a result, Apple retracted all support for Flash and started looking for an alternative solution. YouTube responded to the lack of real mobile accessibility by switching to HTML5 for video content, starting the long, slow slide into obscurity for this once-revolutionary platform.

As mobile devices overtook desktops, the need for a more responsive development platform was clear. This helped bring HTML5 to prominence. HTML5 already worked seamlessly across multiple devices and offered adaptive displays to support any screen size. Although Android phones still support Flash, HTML5 has now become the industry standard.

Security Vulnerabilities Killed Flash

When security issues came to light in 2015, Google Chrome started actively blocking Flash and removing the autoplay option from Flash videos. This meant that when you loaded a site, content that previously would have automatically played would now remain paused. For Flash-based ads, this was another nail in the coffin.

Other internet browsers and major websites started blocking Flash as well. For instance, Mozilla put up a temporary block until an updated version addressed security vulnerabilities, while Facebook's Chief Security Officer outright asked Adobe to end Flash entirely.

The repeated security issues eventually led to Google's new "HTML5 by Default" plan. The world's largest search engine called for no more Flash-based advertising, even though it was still the most common format for ads.

As of the end of June 2016, no new Flash ads can be uploaded. Advertisers will convert to HTML5 or find another (less lucrative) place to hang their online banners.

While Flash ads are still common, this change to the Google Ad network will force a switch to HTML5. After all, Google reaches 95.5 percent of desktop users, making it the single largest avenue to online customers. With websites that use Flash failing to display properly and the push of Flash advertising against a corner, this platform is rapidly disappearing from the net.

Related: How to convert legacy Flash-based eLearning content into mobile-friendly HTML5 content

What Makes HTML5 The Industry Standard?

Web browsers and hardware developers want HTML5 for a very simple reason: Its reach. HTML5 products work with almost any device, so software developed with HTML5 is accessible to the widest possible audience. Reaching more people is the primary reason for Google's move away from Flash and toward HTML5.

Smartphone market penetration has reached the point where mobile is the best way to connect with consumers. In the United States, 91 percent of the population uses smartphones. Given the dramatic growth in the mobile industry, content that translates seamlessly from desktop to mobile devices is the new standard.

Not only does HTML5 run on more devices, but it also loads and runs more quickly - a critical component to success for content via mobile channels.

Related: How to overcome the top 5 HTML5 eLearning challenges

What Does All This Mean For eLearning?

Today, 63 percent of adults use two or more devices to access the internet per day; smartphone users check their phones more than 1,500 times each week. Of these users, more than two-thirds now use their mobile devices for eLearning, often switching between multiple screens to finish a task.

Mobile learning is not the wave of the future - it is here now and will likely continue to grow in popularity. For that reason, HTML5 is what we choose to utilize.

Elucidat delivers all of your eLearning in lightning fast HTML5, so your courses load flawlessly and quickly on any device; desktop, tablet, or smartphone.

Flash broke amazing ground for multimedia content, but it can no longer meet the needs of the modern learner. If you have legacy Flash-based eLearning, don't worry. It's easier than you think to convert it to HTML5.

Next step: How to convert legacy eLearning courses into mobile-friendly HTML5 courses