Support for Flash will end in 2020. Converting content from Flash to HTML5 is becoming an important matter.

If your organization has been building eLearning for a while, it is very likely you have a library of courses developed in Flash. And if you are like many of our clients, the number of courses borders on overwhelming. Whether you are converting a few or a lot of courses, getting the scope right can turn a potentially costly effort into an efficient, manageable one.

We believe there are four goals for conversion.

  • Maintain or improve training outcomes.

  • Make the conversion as simple as is possible.

  • Make accurate predictions about costs and effort.

  • Keep the costs under control.

Below we’ve outlined several factors to consider. In the end course will follow one of four paths . . . we’ve found it useful to think about the conversion process as 1) don’t convert, 2) republish, 3) rebuild, or 4) redesign. Each path represents different level of effort and may involve resources with different skill sets.

Path 1: Don’t convert the course

Presumably, the course was first developed for some worthy business purpose or performance need. The first decision to make is whether the course is still needed today. Your understanding of your organization may make the answer obvious, but if things are murky, check in with the business stakeholders, subject matter experts or top performers to ask:

  • Does the business purpose still exist?

  • Does the performance need still exist?

  • Do the knowledge or skill requirements still exist? 

If the answer to all three questions is no, it is unlikely there is a reason to convert the course, so remove the course from your list. If the answer is yes to one or more of the questions, the course will follow one of the other paths.

Path 2: Republish from old technology to new

A course may take the REPUBLISH path when:

  • Source files are available.

  • The course was built with an authoring tool (in other words, NOT programmed by hand in Flash).

  • Existing structure and content can be mapped to new templates.

  • No or very minimal content updates are required.

  • Overall, instructional quality and outcomes are satisfactory.

In this category, a conversion or authoring tool will be used. Levels of effort to REPUBLISH a course can be broken into three levels:

  • LOW: Course has basic interactions and most will function in new technology.

  • MEDIUM: Requires re-creating a few, simple course elements.

  • HIGH: Requires re-creating many course elements or when interactions are complex, video and/or audio that cannot be reused, requires visual enhancements.

Path 3: Rebuild the some or all of the course

A course will take the REBUILD path when:

  • Either the source files are not available, or course was programmed by hand in Flash.

  • Some or most of the existing structure and content cannot be mapped to new templates.

  • Limited redesign needed to move from Flash to authoring tool functionality.

  • Some content updates are required.

  • Overall, instructional quality and outcomes are satisfactory.

Levels of effort to REBUILD a course are broken into three levels:

  • LOW: Simple updates to content and course design; no audio or video.

  • MEDIUM: Moderately complex course design and more interactivity; course includes audio or video.

  • HIGH: Complex course design. Course requires redesign to move from Flash to authoring tool functionality.

Path 4: Redesign the course

A course will take the REDESIGN path when:

  • Most or all of the existing structure and content cannot be mapped to new templates.

  • Substantial or complete redesign needed to move from Flash to authority tool functionality.

  • There is a need to update the design or content to improve instructional quality and outcomes.

The level of effort to REDESIGN a course is akin to developing a course from scratch. Follow your estimating approach for new eLearning course development.

Other considerations when converting courses 

Ensure you have the right resources to support the different paths. Courses which are simply moving from an older technology to a newer technology (Path 2: Republish) can be assigned to resources with programming or authoring tool skills. Courses in Paths 3 and 4 require significant changes to course content, flow, activities and interactivity and should be assigned to a skilled Instructional Designer.

In many cases, courses built in Flash were designed with “seductive elements” like music, animation, sound, and other exciting effects. Research(1) finds that unless absolutely necessary for the instructional objective, these elements are likely to have a detrimental effect on learning and retention. The conversion process is an opportunity to

  • Revamp course templates to simplify and standardize interactions

  • Streamline course content

  • Remove unnecessary distractions

  • Improve outcomes by introducing evidence-based strategies of challenging and spaced practice, feedback, etc.

Because technology evolves so fast, we encourage using commercially available technology whenever possible. The latest versions of many popular authoring tools support conversion, offer the HTML5 output, include robust functionality, have responsive design for mobile delivery, provide a wide variety of tools, templates and types of interactions, and offer flexibility for customization.

Lastly, the odds of making accurate predictions about cost and effort, the third goal we mentioned above, improve substantially when a repeatable decision making process is used because you’ll get most of the decisions right. It’s very likely, especially in a large-scale effort, you’ll need to move a few courses from one path to another.

If 2019 is your conversion year, we can help!

(1) Will Thalheimer; Bells, Whistles, Neon, and Purple Prose: When Interesting Words, Sounds, and Visuals Hurt Learning and Performance – a Review of Seductive-Augmentation Research; 2004