Mobile Divorces Flash…And What It Means For Training

It’s no secret that HTML5 has taken over when it comes to digital content development for mobile devices. In November of 2011, Adobe announced that it would no longer continue to develop their Flash Player for mobile device browsers. What does this mean for training professionals? It means that anyone developing eLearning content intended for today’s mobile workforce needs to leave Flash behind once and for all.

An important part of the new HTML standard is its support for multimedia and real-time graphics.  When combined with Java Script, mobile content developers can replace the use of Flash to produce animations and interactions in content.  This will bring uniformity to the production of both web-based and mobile content, allowing the same content to run as eLearning on the web and as mobile learning on multiple device types.

While developing new content in HTML5 is a relatively simple task, the real challenge to training professionals is: what to do with the vast library of web-based content that has been developed over the past five to ten years that relies on Flash?  The answer to converting legacy web-based content to a mobile device has both a technical and a design element to it.

From the technical standpoint, there are tools in the industry that are aimed at helping to convert Flash content to HTML5 format.  These tools work nicely when converting Flash video and simple animations into HTML5 and Java Script.  However legacy content pages that are interactive Flash exercises, animations, assessments, and the like will most likely need to be rebuilt manually in HTML5.

From the design standpoint, training professionals should put some energy into restructuring legacy web-based content for mobile deployment.  Length of course, size of screen, fonts, narration, asset file sizes, etc. should all be readdressed with mobile in mind.  One of the key benefits of making content mobile is to offer “learning on the go” – making learning available and convenient at the learner’s schedule – while waiting for the plane to take off or waiting for the kids at soccer practice.  By its very nature, mobile learning needs to be byte-sized chunks of training that can be completed quickly.  Additionally, traditional screen layouts, fonts, video resolutions, etc. do not work well on mobile devices, so some effort must go toward reformatting legacy content to optimize it for mobile devices.

The silver lining for training professionals in that once the industry has moved past the initial transition period, this uniformity will enable companies to rapidly develop content that can be pushed widely to a distributed workforce, regardless of the device or platform they are using. In addition, the transition to HTML5 opens up new possibilities for mobile learning development. Mobile content that can function on smartphones and tablets can be built to incorporate the interactive nature of these devices, producing learning materials with even higher levels of engagement than previously possible.