Forklift dropping Flash icon into trash can

As you might have heard, Adobe has finally decided to end its support of Flash on December 31, 2020. 

Initially created as a way to enable video playback in web browsers, Adobe Flash became so much more over its 20+-year history. After video playback came interactivity. And then that same Flash Player install would let you add interactive games and activities to your site. Once static web pages could now be so much more engaging. 

It’s no surprise, then, that e-learning professionals embraced Adobe Flash wholeheartedly. Instead of having to settle for static informational web pages, they could grab learners’ attention in new and exciting ways. They could bring the interactivity to the learners rather than making them download a separate program. It was the underpinning for the authoring apps that designers used to develop interactive learning. 

So how did something so integral to authoring e-learning content come to rest at the side of the digital superhighway? 

The Fall of Adobe Flash

While Adobe Flash was praised for what it brought to the web in general and e-learning development in particular, it was also reviled. 

Adobe Flash was a closed system that required lots of training for developers to properly use and required users to download resource-hogging plug-ins. Eventually, malware and viruses emerged that specifically targeted Adobe Flash, leaving learners and developers alike exposed. It became clear that, as much as everyone liked what they could achieve with Adobe Flash, it came with a price. 

Apple’s lack of Flash support for iOS is largely attributed as the killing blow. After all, if your mobile learners can’t take training on their iPhones or iPads because the underlying software isn’t supported, you have to find another solution. Steve Jobs famously said in his 2011 biography that Flash was a “spaghetti-ball piece of technology that has lousy performance and really bad security problems.” His scorn of Adobe Flash was so strong that Apple ended support of the software before anyone else.

And so, what was once viewed as the harbinger of the next generation of the internet became a technological albatross that needed replacing. Thankfully, HTML5 was waiting in the wings.

The Rise of HTML5

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), is the organization responsible for updating and maintaining HTML. They recognized that the future of the web was interactive, media-rich, and multi-device. When the time came to update HTML, they included a whole new set of standards that let web developers add audio, video, and interactive elements right into their web pages using the same type of code they were already familiar with, thus HTML5 was born. 

The flexibility to add multimedia and interactive elements in HTML5 makes it a popular publishing option for multi-device e-learning since it’s supported on all modern devices—not just desktop browsers, but phones and tablets as well. There’s no special app to install for HTML5, since it’s built into the device’s browser, which is why it’s our technology of choice for all the authoring apps in Articulate 360.

What’s Next?

So how does this affect you? Articulate 360 apps and Storyline 3 don’t use Flash, so you can rest assured that any training you create won’t be affected when it’s sunsetted by Adobe. If you’re using these legacy Articulate products: Storyline 1, Storyline 2, Studio ’09, or Studio ’13, click here for more information on how this will affect you.

But what about those courses that you’ve already built with Flash? We get it; we have plenty of those ourselves. The best approach is to take a deep breath, sort out what you need to do to identify those courses that are affected, and then start republishing. We mapped out the process we’re using here. And if you’re not sure exactly how to republish your courses for HTML5, we’ve got you covered there too.

So, updating existing courses is one issue, but what about the cool things you can build for HTML5 going forward? If you’re stuck for inspiration, check out our amazing collection of e-learning examples. All built without a hint of Flash.

Big changes like the sunsetting of Adobe Flash can be frustrating and even a little scary. But rest easy knowing that your training will be better than ever with HTML5. 

Dimitrios Kavouras
Craig Hadden