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This fall Google will start blocking Adobe’s Flash in its Chrome browser. This is not surprising, but we think that a lot of organizations haven’t fully considered how this will affect their existing eLearning systems.

Considering that 71.4% of users worldwide use Chrome as their browser, Flash’s fading into the sunset will have a tremendous impact on eLearning. After all, eLearning’s love affair with Flash has spanned the last 15 years. We’ve relied on Flash to deliver audio, video, timed events, and animations. And now it’s nearly over.

Envisioning this Flash-less future, your organization has probably already begun using HMTL5 to create new training. This is a good thing. HTML5 is an open standard adopted by W3C that is incorporated into the latest browsers. It’s the best long-term option for supporting BYOD access to eLearning on a multiplicity of devices, stationary and mobile. Training has finally broken free of the training room and is available when and where people want to access it.

But what about those older legacy courses housed in the darker recesses of the LMS? Many of them are workhorses that are still an essential part of your employee onboarding strategy. You want to make sure today’s learners can access these courses from their mobile devices and browsers that don’t support Flash.

The solution is to migrate old courses from Flash to HTML5. So let’s look at some ways to approach this.

Three approaches to converting legacy courses to HTML5

Approach #1: Off-the-shelf tools. A number of companies (like this one) offer tools that promise quick, affordable migration, but they have limitations. Off-the-shelf tools make Flash training viewable, but don’t convert it to a truly responsive, mobile-ready design. This approach may have its uses, but it’s not a comprehensive solution for most legacy courses.

Approach #2: Rapid conversion. This approach keeps proven content intact while updating Flash-based courses to responsive HTML5. This extends the shelf life of content, increasing accessibility and refreshing the look and feel of the course. This approach uses minimal customization, apart from incorporating corporate logos and colors, so existing content is preserved while getting a minor facelift that meets the visual expectations of today’s learners. Rapid conversion is most appropriate for typical course design without immersive visual themes or complex, custom simulations.

Approach #3: Re-design and re-build. For courses with highly customized or complex content, or where content has changed significantly, this may be the only solution. This approach requires the most time and money, but is sometimes the only approach available.

So which approach is best? That depends largely on the design and content of your eLearning courses, as well as on your budget and timeline. In most cases, you’ll use a combination of approaches for different courses in your eLearning library. Because of this complexity, you’ll need to examine your legacy courses and come up with a plan.

Developing a strategy for conversion

Where do you start in planning to convert legacy courses? We propose a three-part strategy.

  1. Prioritize. Ask yourself a number of questions about your existing courses. For example, which courses are most heavily used? Most critical to your company’s training strategy? Easiest to convert? The metrics you’ll use are up to you, but you need to determine some way of ranking which courses should be converted first.
  2. Identify what’s needed. For each course (or more likely, set of courses, since many will have the same characteristics), what is needed to bring them up to date? Does the content need updating? Is the course design effective, or should it be re-worked to make the course more useful? Is the look-and-feel out of date? If so, what will help – updating colors, using new graphics/photos, or a complete redesign of the interface?
  3. Determine which approach to use. After analyzing courses, it should become apparent whether rapid conversion or a complete re-design is needed. In general, off-the-shelf tools are usable only for the simplest courses.

Converting legacy courses to today’s technology won’t be a simple process. But consider the alternative: stale-looking content – content that just might be mission-critical for your organization – trapped in the training room, accessible only on desktop computers running out-of-date browsers. That’s no solution.

Your legacy eLearning is too important to ignore. Flash won’t disappear in a day, but it is on the way out. Plan now for updating and giving new life to your legacy eLearning courses.