Flash Is Finally Dead: What Does That Mean for You and Your E-Learning Courses?

It’s official; Flash is dead. Murdered actually. It officially died on December 31, 2020, but it wasn’t until this week (January 12 to be exact) that Adobe reached into your computer and squeezed the last bit of life out of it. OK, maybe that’s a bit dramatic. But as of January 12, 2021, your Flash player stopped working, whether you like it or not.

What does that mean for you?

Your Flash player has been deactivated, but if it is still enabled in your browser, it poses a security risk. Because it is no longer being supported and updated by Adobe, it is vulnerable to hackers. Check out the official messaging from Adobe and this article from CNN on the risks and how to uninstall.

And if you aren’t ready to say good-bye to your Flash player, beware of any site that offers a way to keep playing your Flash content. Any service like that could easily involve malware.

What does that mean for your e-learning courses?

For years, popular authoring tools like Articulate Storyline 360 and Adobe Captivate have let you publish to both HTML5 and Flash at the same time. I did some testing with Storyline courses to see how the different options now work in different browsers.

HTML5 only

Courses play just fine, as expected.

Flash only

Courses won’t play at all, as expected.

If Flash is still enabled in the browser, here’s what users will see in Chrome. If they try clicking the Update plugin button, they are redirected to the “oh, no you won’t” page from Adobe.

Here’s what a user will see in Internet Explorer. If they click the icon, they are redirected to the Adobe page.

HTML5 with Flash fallback

In both browsers, these courses worked just fine for me.

At our sister company, Artisan E-Learning, we’ve heard from a few companies where their servers will reject any files that have Flash in them. So while the course would play if loaded, they weren’t allowed to load it.

Flash with HTML5 fallback

This was the big wildcard for me. When you publish to this option, the course “sniffs out” whether a student has the Flash player. If they do, it presents the Flash version of the course. If they don’t, it presents the HTML5 version. So how does the inactivated Flash player register with Storyline? It depends. It depends on which browser they are using, and what the Flash settings are.

In both Chrome and Internet Explorer, if my Flash player was enabled, Storyline served up the Flash version, which then wouldn’t play in the deactivated plalyer. If my Flash player was disabled, Storyline didn’t detect it and served up the HTML5 version, which played fine.

So if you have courses published to this format, they should play if your learners have disabled their Flash player (which they should anyway).

Try it yourself

If you’d like to test it out for yourself, here’s a smiley face published in both combination formats.

Flash with HTML5 fallback

HTML5 with Flash fallback

You can tell which version of the course is being served up by looking at the url. These links point to the story.html file, which has the “sniffer.” Then it is quickly directed to either the story_flash.html file or the story_html5.html file.

Diane Elkins
Diane Elkins is the co-owner of E-Learning Uncovered, as well as Artisan E-Learning, a custom eLearning development company specializing in the use of Storyline, Captivate, and Lectora. Diane has been in the eLearning industry since 2001, speaks regularly at national conferences about eLearning, and is co-author of the popular E-Learning Uncovered book series.

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