Content Creation After Flash

Happy Friday from the Developers’ Cave! This week we’re in the ‘simulation section’. As you know, here at Team TutorPro HQ we love to enable two different learning concepts, live learning and simulated learning. In the simulation space we have our legacy tool TutorAuthor NG which produces pure HTML5 and Javascript output – our emphasis these days is very much on live content which bypasses the whole high fidelity simulation debate. Those lucky enough to have our simulation content will get the tool to enable them to edit the content should they so wish. However, we also regularly encounter other leading products such as Adobe Captivate, Articulate Storyline etc. while supporting our Client Family Members. This week we’ve been tussliCave_Man_at_Computerng with questions around the way the world is going and the impact that this will have on content creation tools.

The key to simulation learning is that it relies on some form of playback of the eLearning content, video or otherwise. In the first decade of the 21st Century reliable and compatible playback meant using Adobe Flash and Adobe Flash Player. This was the case for almost all versions of the major browsers. In the second decade of this century the landscape has changed, and is still changing, significantly.

Now the use of HTML5 by developers has rendered Flash less and less important as HTML5 allows visual playback without requiring a separate player such as Adobe Flash Player. There have also been several criticisms of Flash Player’s security capabilities. The trend away from Flash has become so pronounced that shortly Google Chrome will cease supporting Flash save for a few legacy-based exceptions like certain internal networks which will continue to use Flash for some time. Flash support is being phased out from all the major browsers due to issues around its security and by the fact that HTML5 + JavaScript can now do pretty much anything Flash can do but you don’t need a plugin. By the end of 2016 the latest releases of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Edge et al will not by default support Flash. It may well be possible to run Flash based content within the latest releases of these browsers but to do so will likely require the addition of plugins, third party tools, and other technical trickery.

One of the ways we often assist clients with the use or selection of tools is when packaging content for use in a Learning Management System. Increasingly our clients are packaging their eLearning materials to be HTML5 compatible, we are moving our LMS to HTML5 for similar reasons. Whilst both Adobe Captivate, Articulate Storyline, or whatever your favorite tool is, have significant benefits and strengths there is one key scenario you really need to check out and it is simple for you to test this yourself within your LMS and the likely 2017 environment within your organization.

If you don’t already have the latest releases of your content creation tool of choice then simply download a trial version and create a simple piece of content. Package this content for your LMS as a piece of SCORM compliant content and make sure you select options to package as HTML5 only. Load them up into your LMS as you would do normally. Next examine the file structure of the packages you loaded in your LMS in a tool such as Windows Explorer and you may well see that the packages contain quite a lot of Flash files even though they were packaged as HTML5-only. Now, if you find some Flash files delete the Flash files and then try and run the content, oh and make sure you also have the latest release of your browser installed. Remember we are trying to run a test in an environment as close as we can get to the way the world will be in 2017. Why delete the Flash files? – well if the content doesn’t need them to run then they don’t need to be there so we can remove them. You might get a surprise when you try and run the content.

Now these vendors all make great tools, honed to create fantastic eLearning content over many years. They have fanatical followers and have built up considerable ecosystems around them. If we look at the likely landscape in 2017 it’s going to be an HTML5 + JavaScript-only landscape. If you want to produce content that will run without any further configuration of the user’s browser environment in the future maybe now is the time to start to experimenting. You really don’t want to find that that content you spent months creating suddenly doesn’t work after the latest updates rolled out by your IT department. If you already use a content creation tools, then set up a test environment as close as you can get to the likely 2017 scenario. Have the very latest OS version installed and the very latest browser version installed along with up some experimental content using all the features you love to use in your favorite content creation tool.

Now, it could be that for a simple, no frills simulation your tool of choice runs fine as HTML5-only but once you add those features you love such as fades, sliding wipes, it needs Flash for the effect. So load that test piece into your LMS and double check that there aren’t any flash files present. If you don’t create your own content but source third party materials, you can still run such a test. In fact, it is probably even more critical that you do as in this scenario you have no control over how the content is packaged and what file types it contains. You can still set up your ‘2017 environment’ and then run any third-party content from you LMS in the test environment having removed any Flash files.

Some testing and checking now could save you a lot of work later! If you want any help with this, please get in touch. 25 years of experience in building tools and content means we have a lot of experience and we are happy to share it!


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