As more learners take their e-learning courses on iPads and other mobile devices, it’s important to publish your courses in the most suitable format for your audience. Some authoring tools, such as Articulate Storyline and Articulate Studio, can simultaneously publish to multiple formats and smartly deliver the appropriate version. But you’ll still want to understand the pros and cons of delivering courses in each format.

When choosing how to best deliver your course content, there are three main formats to choose from: Flash, HTML5, or a native app like the Articulate Mobile Player. Here’s what you need to know about each of these.


In the past, most e-learning courses were accessed from computers so Flash was the primary publishing format. Flash is still the preferred format for learners using traditional computers because it provides an easy and robust experience for these learners. Plus, when it comes to tracking course completions, the Flash format can easily communicate with most Learning Management Systems (LMSs) via all the common tracking methods (AICC, SCORM and Tin Can).

It’s a good idea to use the Flash format if your learners will access your courses from computers and other devices with Flash-compatible browsers.

Alternatives to Flash

While Flash is an ideal format for computer-based courses, most mobile devices, including tablets and smartphones, don’t support Flash. This means e-learning developers can no longer rely solely on Flash to deliver content.

To create courses for mobile devices that don’t support Flash, there are two other publishing options: HTML5 or a native app built specifically for a particular device operating system. There are some trade-offs for each and neither is a perfect replacement for Flash.

Selecting a publishing format for mobile devices hinges on two primary factors:

1. What type of tracking, if any, is required?

2. Which specific mobile devices do you need to account for ?

If you need to track courses accessed from mobile devices, your publishing format options may be dictated by your Learning Management System (LMS). You’ll need to confirm that the publishing format you choose can communicate with your LMS.


HTML5 courses can be tracked via AICC, SCORM or Tin Can, as long as your LMS supports it. While HTML5 is becoming increasingly popular, it’s still a relatively new and evolving technology. It’s important to note that HTML5 content isn’t handled the same way in all browsers. On some devices, your HTML5 published content might look and function differently than you intended.

Consider using the HTML5 format if your learners will access your courses from a variety of different mobile devices and operating systems.

Mobile Apps

Apps built for specific operating systems offer a consistent viewing experience. But if you need to deliver to multiple mobile platforms, a dedicated app may not be available for all of them. Mobile apps are developed around specific authoring tools for specific mobile device operating systems. This means that each one has a unique set of capabilities, which limits how content is displayed and how, or even if, it can communicate with an LMS to track your courses.

The mobile app format works well when you’re publishing for mobile learners who will access your courses via compatible devices with the same or a similar operating system.

TIP: Use this helpful chart to compare the Articulate Storyline features supported in Flash, HTML5, and the Articulate Mobile Player app for iPad.

Bottom Line

While tools like Storyline make it easy to deploy your content to learners who use mobile devices that don't support Flash, there’s really no single publishing format that works the same way on all of the devices your learners might be using. To successfully select the best format for your e-learning courses, be sure to identify which devices your learners are using and test your content thoroughly on all of them.

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