Content Conversion

Content
HTML5 is rapidly emerging as the de facto standard for building high quality mobile and desktop applications. HTML5 (together with CSS and JavaScript) lifts the restrictions of earlier HTML standards by natively supporting advanced graphics, video, typography, animations and many other interactive effects i.e. the very set of capabilities required by eLearning.

But what about existing content solutions that are massive in size, highly interactive in nature and implemented using embedded technologies such as Adobe Flash, Authorware, Director, etc? How can they leverage the benefits of an open platform? How can they run on a plethora of devices that don’t support plugins? And how can they be scaled up when needed?

Almost all publishers today have some portion of their legacy content developed and delivered using plugin-based technology such as Flash. And with the ongoing disruption in use of Tablets and Phones, Universities / Schools re-enforcing the use of Mobile devices in Classrooms and the current trends of BYOD, it is becoming less of an option and more of a need for publishers to make the required transition and move to new digital platforms. However, despite the rapid evolution in technology and tools, there isn’t a simple conversion / migration strategy that can convert any legacy Flash based content / tool to HTML5. In fact, even complex solutions with tedious steps, use of ‘de-compilers’ and a hackers approach have failed time and again to successfully convert old content for newer platforms.

Our ApproachGiven our expertise & strength in Flash ActionScripting, HTML5-CSS3-JS, plus a lot of reading, extensive research, trial and errors and studying reverse engineering tools, etc, we figured the exact reasons why Flash content cannot be simply converted to HTML5. In doing a few prototypes we documented the entire process, challenges and learning outcomes. That helped us analyze key problems and eventually we discovered and developed various tools and techniques (some open source & some proprietary) to make the most optimized recipe for converting Flash content to HTML5. However there was more to just be able to convert functionality & content for newer platforms. There were other important questions that had to be answered as well:

  • What about Screen real estate? Should we simply mimic the legacy screen estate just because the old system had it?
  • What about the use of old fashioned style of graphics? Should we simply carry forward obsolete style of graphics from the legacy system and use them as is?
  • What about instructional design loss? Should we simply allow the conversion process to change the meaning of content or lose emphasis?
  • What about the mobile experience? Should we simply mimic the legacy user interaction elements that were merely meant for desktops?
  • What about User Interface design? Should we simply take inspiration from existing systems and use it for HTML5 just to learn that they don’t adapt to multiple form factors
  • What about tightly coupled content solutions that communicate with existing LMS / SIS? Can we afford to lose the communication bridge between the content and management systems?

Sure these factors could not be ignored. We realized we needed to revisit our strategy that would satisfy the conversion requirements as well as usability requirements. Using a cross-function team comprising of Graphic designers, Instructional Designers, Writers, Programmers, Usability experts, Creative directors, Mobile Architects and Product heads, we devised a new solution strategy that would not only run old content on newer platforms but also optimize and enhance existing content, thereby producing a rich engaging user experience that is highly cross-platform, scalable and maintainable.