To Flash or Not to Flash

by equusnyder

questionmarkA cyber-colleague, Christopher Pappas, posted an article to his blog back in June, “The Importance of Sharing Your eLearning Expertise.” One point resonated especially loudly with me:  Writing forces us to think.

I reflected in my comments to him that writing my thoughts is indeed clarifying for me, and in some cases, I can argue myself right out of the point I was trying to make.

For instance, last week I publicly declared that we would no longer be investing in eLearning content built in Flash. “Flash is dead” is current the mantra. From here on out it would be HTML5. But at this stage is that wise and/or necessary?

This year has been a year of change. The company for whom I worked sold part of its business to MicroPort Orthopedics – I went with the new company. As part of the transition, I stood up a new LMS for the previous company and then repeated the process for my current company.

All of these changes occurred at rapid-fire speed and have required that I take some concessions in areas, though the need for change in those areas is great. So, as much as I hate it, 2014 was a year of maintaining status quo with certain pieces of the puzzle. One of those pieces is our eLearning content.

We are just finishing a “course conversion,” working with third-party vendors to recreate some courses built in proprietary eLearning software into Captivate or Storyline. After describing our needs and giving my Flash Declaration to these companies, one of the vendors returned their bid with two prices – one for the course development and one for an HTML version.

“Why would they charge more for HTML?” asked a coworker. “After all, you just click on a box in Storyline and out spits your HTML version. What is the cost in that?” Their bid and his response made me start to think about my declaration.

The truth is, while Flash is dying, it still works (sometimes) for most eLearning, given you aren’t trying to run it on your tablet. Couple that with the fact that most of our employees are hardwired. Most of us sit in an office, cube, or at a local kiosk to take our training on a computer – the very training I was so insistent not be created in Flash anymore.

The second piece of this is I am a huge proponent of mobile learning, but I frequently have to rein myself in and make sure we’re going mobile for the right reasons. Will these “converted” courses work on a mobile device? Sure, but they aren’t designed for it (thus the additional HTML cost from the vendor.) They’re designed to be eLearning, not mLearning. (A post for another day.)

So why am I so hung up on “Down with Flash!”? For three reasons:

  1. Because of the negative experiences I’ve had with Flash and the issues it’s caused in courses because of its less-than-desirable behavior.
  2. Because of the feeling of abandonment I get from Adobe, creating a product on which we’re all dependent, and then walking away without a viable solution.
  3. Because of the shiny object syndrome – I want the new toys – the HTML5, the xAPI; I certainly don’t want to live in the past (aka Flash).

These reasons may not be enough to justify my Declaration of Independence from Flash, at least at this stage of the game, in a year of maintaining status quo.

This causes me to wonder how other companies are coping. Do I need to keep a foot in the Flash door? Will Flash continue to suffice until HTML5 is solidified or a better alternative is created? How does your company deal with this?

Thank you, Christopher, for indeed stimulating my mental processes. I think I just won another argument with myself.