This topic has been discussed to death since 2010 or even earlier. The future appears to be leaning towards multi-devices and multi-access learning. The corporates are encouraging a BYOD (bring your own device) trend, with the staff accessing corporate applications on multiple devices. Mobility is in major demand and there is a demand to access knowledge when and where is needed and on the devices of their choice. This makes it imperative that learning becomes as dynamic. The buzzwords are BYOD, responsive designs, and augmented reality etc. What are the implications of these on learning design frameworks and tools? Does it mean that all our legacy eLearning content in Flash is dated and need to be moved to HTML5? Is HTML5 ready to take up the challenge? Let us explore.
What is HTML5
Let us delve a little more into HTML5.
- The fifth version of HTML has new tags like <canvas> and <SVG> elements that can be placed in HTML code like the <image> tag.
- HTML5 does not require any plugins unlike Flash, which works with browser plugins.
- HTML5 supports drag and drop activity within the code itself.
- <audio> and <video> tags allows placing audio and video files directly in the HTML code.
- Most smartphone browsers are compatible with HTML5.
- Multi-device and multi-access requirements find support with HTML5 with responsive web design.
- HTML5 is the open standard adopted by W3C and is being incorporated in all new browsers.
- Poor performance by HTML5 app. This is due to limited access to a phone’s hardware, especially with heavy graphics use.
- Device fragmentation can be an issue, as many device manufacturers and users have not updated their OS. The course or application loses the ability to ‘write once and run anywhere’ due to this fragmentation.
- HTML5 cannot handle the development of sophisticated native app for iphone or androids like Flash or Xcode.
- There are no standard format for HTML5 video. There are three main video formats (MP4/H264, Ogg/Theora, and WebM/Vp8) supported by HTML5 browsers but unfortunately no single format works in all browsers.
- Each HTML5 course has different experience on different browsers.
Flash and eLearning
Flash has been on the eLearning scene for decades now. Released in 1990s, Flash player was a browser-based plugin for displaying various graphics and animations, mostly vector-based. With its popularity with animators due to its rich graphics and creative medium for animations, it gained acceptance in the eLearning industry for web-based training and computer-based training. Flash player continued to offer new features and developers continued to exploit these features to create interactive, experiential, rich-media content. When Adobe released desktop Flash runtime called Adobe AIR or Adobe Integrated Runtime, it opened doors for creating content as standalone applications for desktops. The same AIR is now used for creating native applications for mobile devices, including iPhones and iPads.
The robustness of Flash player and programming has seen creation of media-rich motion graphics, animations, 2D and 3D graphics, and highly interactive eLearning content. It is believed that the Flash runtimes are particularly and uniquely suited for creating and deploying games with console-quality graphics and deploying premium video. A quote from Ray Pastore (Assistant Professor of Instructional Technology, University of North Carolina, Wilmington), “…eLearning tools such as articulate, etc. do NOT do what flash does and neither does HTML5 – they are not even close to as powerful. So those are not options to replace Flash.
If you are talking mobile, flash is one of the best options for publishing to both android and iphone/ipad – at least if you are trying to publish native apps. If I am developing a sophisticated app for the ipad, I would probably use either Flash or Xcode because HTML5 cannot handle it…”
This discussion about the death of Flash has been on for a few years and yet, eLearning development in Flash continues.
Future of eLearning
It is not a hype, we are indeed moving towards mobile devices for connectivity, learning, and business, and BYOD is the future norm. However, desktops are not being phased out just yet. We may have a decade or more before mobile devices completely take over. Here is what I think is happening:
- People are delving into HTML5, some more than others.
- There is a demand for responsive design, but the cost of development and the skillset limitation is not a supporter.
- Native applications are better published using Flash CS6. People prefer native apps to HTML5.
- Flash supports gaming better.
- HTML5 still has a long way to go and we may be looking at HTML6 or even 7, before Flash is outdone. Flash would be evolving too.
I do not see HTML5 replacing Flash. There will be a co-existence and HTML5 still has a long way to go before it provides capabilities of Flash. Why should we go with one over other? Choose a mix using HTML5 and Flash to complement each other. Utilise the features of both and create a better solution depending upon the requirements like mobility, native application, desktop, animations, interactivity, ROI etc.
||Sarvam Sri Krishna Arpanamastu||