What is Flash and why is it going away? 

Flash is a web technology owned by Adobe. It’s known for its capability to deliver highly interactive and richly visual content. Flash was the predominant format used for developing online content for roughly the years between 2002 and 2012.  

As mobile web browsing gained popularity with the advent of smartphones, it quickly became obvious that Flash did not fit into this new paradigm, for 2 primary reasons: 

  1. Flash presents significant issues with both security and performance on mobile platforms. 
  2. Flash requires users to manually install (and update) a 3rd party browser plugin to run. 

In 2010, these limitations were famously outlined in an open letter by Steve Jobs at Apple to the technology community. This move was widely considered to be the beginning of the end of the “Flash era.” However, because of the high volume of legacy content created with this tool, browser support for the technology has persisted.  

This is going to change in 2020, when most browsers will no longer display Flash-based content. In anticipation of this, many browsers already warn users when a web page attempts to load Flash content, asking for explicit permission to enable the plugin. For users of a Learning Management System, this will become a significant roadblock to a learner’s ability to consume Flash-based training. 

How can I tell if my content is affected by this? 

To assist our customers in identifying which of their content will be affected, we’ve created a report that scans your course catalog and identifies files created with Flash. These files are recognizable by one of two file extensions (.swf and .flv). After submitting a request for this report, we provide a list of course modules that contain these file types, along with some insight into usage. 

Another method of identifying Flash-based content is to launch a course module. As previously stated, some browsers (notably Chrome and Firefox) warn the user that Flash content is attempting to load, and will require permission to proceed. In other situations, right-clicking on the content screen will open a contextual menu with an About Flash item, as pictured here: 

 Finally, a less reliable detection method is to simply evaluate the date the course was created and published. If this was between 2002 and 2012, there is a decent chance the course is dependent on Flash technology. 

So, what are my options? 

Unfortunately, there is no magic button to convert Flash content to a more modern web format. For this reason, it’s important to be intentional in your preparation for this transition. A few pragmatic  considerations will help you craft a strategy that is realistic for your particular needs: 

  1. Identify and quantify   
    The first step is to gain an understanding of how much of your content is affected by this transition. Is it 2 courses or 200? Are these courses in an easily reproducible format? Are they videos or static screens? Do they include highly animated and interactive content? Do you still have any of the original design files and assets?
  2. Prioritize 
    Next, make some honest (and sometimes difficult) decisions about whether the course should be updated or simply retired. Is the course still relevant? Is it still being consumed? When was the last time it was completed by a learner? Is the information crucial to your audience? 
  3. A Blessing in Disguise 
    Once you’ve arrived at a list of content that needs to be updated, shift your perspective to see this as an opportunity to improve the course experience. Perform an audit of the course content to see if a rewrite would make the course more relevant. Revisit the visual design to modernize the look and feel, and make the course responsive to fit on mobile devices.
  4. Take Action 
    The BlueVolt Creative Team can work with you on all phases of your update strategy, from instructional design to content development and deployment. Contact us to get the ball rolling; staying ahead of this issue is the best way to maintain a strong and successful training program. 

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