Transitioning from Flash to HTML5 and What It Means for Existing E-Learning Courses on Desktop Browsers

Flash is out, HTML5 is in, and each web browser is embracing this on its own terms. What does that mean for your existing e-learning courses? While each browser has its own timeline for phasing out its support of Flash content, the results will be fairly similar. Here’s what you can expect with the current top 5 (market share) desktop browsers: Chrome, Internet Explorer, Edge, Firefox, and Safari.

Google Chrome

Sometime in Q4 2016, Chrome will default to serving up HTML5 instead of Flash. This means that if your published e-learning courses include both Flash and HTML5 output, the HTML5 version will be presented by default—just as you’d find when you view the course on an iPad. If the course has only been published to Flash and an HTML5 version is not available, the learner will be prompted by the Chrome desktop browser and asked if Flash should be allowed to run. Chrome will honor this setting when visiting the course subsequent times. For additional details, see this Venture Beat article from May 15, 2016.

Mozilla Firefox

Firefox’s support of Flash will mirror that of Chrome’s, but its timeline for this begins in 2017. For additional details, see this Mozilla blog: Reducing Adobe Flash Usage in Firefox.

Apple Safari

With the recent release of Safari 10, Apple’s browser now defaults to displaying HTML5 content, even when that content is available in Flash. It’s the same as what Chrome and Firefox intend to do, but Apple is ahead of them. What’s different is that Safari makes it a little extra difficult to access the Flash plug-in if the content absolutely requires it. This means that when learners access a course that has only been published to Flash (courses with no HTML5 version available), the learner will have to jump through several hoops to be able to access that Flash course. First, they’ll receive a message saying that Flash isn’t installed. Second, the learner will need to click the Adobe link to install Flash, at which time Safari will advise them that the plug-in is already installed. Third, the learner will have to select whether they want to activate the Flash plug-in for the site (course) once or forever. In other words, Apple is making it much more difficult to access web-based Flash content through its Safari browser. For additional details, see this Computer World article or learn how to manage your Flash settings in Safari 10.

Microsoft IE11 and Edge

Microsoft’s browsers are the exceptions. While Microsoft is taking steps with the Edge browser to automatically pause unnecessary Flash content (such as ads or other peripheral content), it should not interfere with Flash content if it’s the central content on the page. This means that your Flash-based courses, whether available in HTML5 or not, should continue to play by default when the course is visited in the Edge browser. At most, the learner will have to click the content area once to begin playing the course. See this eWeek article for details. Meanwhile, IE11 continues its support of Flash (for now), and you shouldn’t experience anything different.

What it means for your e-learning courses:

In Storyline and Captivate:

If your courses are published to Flash only, users in Chrome, Firefox, and Safari will be prompted to allow Flash to be used to display the course. There is a varying degree of the steps one has to take from there before the content will actually play. Thankfully though, browsers will remember the learners’ settings for courses visited from the same domain.

If your courses are published to both Flash and HTML5, users in Chrome, Firefox, and Safari will see the HTML5 version of the course by default. This may limit certain course functionality that is available in the Flash version but not supported yet in the authoring tool’s HTML5 output. For additional information on what is and is not supported with HTML5, see these help articles:

In Lectora:

Unless Flash objects have been directly inserted into the course, there should be nothing to worry about with Lectora’s published output. Courses should continue to appear in the future browsers as they do now.

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