Training Media Review asked a panel of 33 training and
education professionals to rate the authoring tools they have used
regularly. The review summarizes the comments of the panelists who
have used Flash.
The panel's consensus is that Adobe's Flash is a primary choice for
building instructional content that requires animation and
interactivity. Flash's vector-based graphics and adjustable
compression settings typically result in small file sizes that are
well suited for web delivery. Noted as advantages were its
compatibility with other development programs and flexibility to
create a wide variety of instructional content, as well as the
availability of Flash player on most user systems.
One reviewer expressed the consensus succinctly:
The universal compatibility of the SWF (Small Web Format) files
Flash produces is the main reason this product is the cornerstone
development application of e-learning product development
departments around the world. Its flexibility allows for the
creation of simple conceptual content for elementary school
students up to advanced interactive simulations of complex
processes to train commercial airline pilots.
Another panelist reported that Flash is "very flexible and is
especially appropriate for content best presented via animation.
The Flash player is now nearly ubiquitous on user machines."
Examples of other instructional development uses cited by our panel
ranged from simple to complex:
- "converting art or photos to other formats"
- "pieces relying heavily on audio"
- "simulations and labs, but more developer skill is required
than with Director"
- "pieces that rely heavily on database interaction, including
surveys and tests"
- "one-way communication to an audience that needs to interact,
even via touch screen responses. Combine audio and video for
professional authoring at a low price point."
Panelists agreed that in the hands of an experienced instructional
developer, Flash can be used to create a wide range of content, but
it is especially useful for producing content with animation and
interactivity. One reviewer raved: "[Flash] can do just about
Limits and drawbacks
Although Flash is powerful and flexible, most reviewers tended to
agree that developing content in Flash isn't always the easiest or
fastest solution. Learning Flash is difficult. And in order to be
used to full potential, the application requires that the developer
know the programming language ActionScript. Reviewers were united
in their view that getting the most out of Flash requires time and
Not all comments were encouraging in this regard. A panelist said,
"Flash has versatility. If one has resources and time, it can be
used to produce amazing things." Another warned, "Unless you have
lots, and I mean lots, of experience with Flash, it is
difficult to create anything that isn't one of its built-in
Learning Interactions. It is a very complex tool that is hard to
learn." Perhaps this comment says it best:
It's not the product's fault; it's the user's skills. The software
requires a good deal of artistic talent. I outsource Flash work to
someone with better graphic design skills than mine. Flash has a
long learning curve, and requires knowledge of coding and
However, not all content created in Flash requires an experienced
developer with a background in programming. Flash comes with a
library of pre-built reusable objects and interactions. One
reviewer said, "Fortunately, Flash comes with a series of built-in
Learning Interactions that help new developers create effective and
attractive interactive assessment content, including drag-and-drop,
matching, and fill-in-the-blanks type quizzes and tests."
Panelists pointed out several types of content for which Flash may
not be the wisest development choice:
- "printed material, such as handouts and quizzes"
- "DVD-based explorations"
- "anything involving manipulation of objects in 3D"
- "to convert motion video files to SWF format."
- "[basic] drawing, navigation, and image enhancement"
- "rapid e-learning, Flash takes too long to produce, and fewer
people are competent in its use."
Many of our panel members also suggested that in some situations,
other tools might be easier or more efficient to use.
- "Photoshop, Fireworks, or Freehand are better products for
artwork, complex imaging work, and navigation."
- "Flash can be cumbersome when it comes to creating some
content, such as recorded processes or simulations. I like to use
Captivate to create a basic recording with audio, and then use
Flash to enhance the content. Also, Flash attracts some users who
want to create animated presentations that could be more easily
produced with a presentation application like PowerPoint."
- "Flash is commonly used for software simulation training.
However, other tools are much easier to use and can output the
content as Flash."
Most reviewers agreed that Flash is a powerful program in the right
hands and used for the right purposes. Flash's overall rating is
slightly better than Good, which reflects the panel consensus that
Flash is highly capable but not the easiest to learn. High ratings
for Compatibility and Value for the Money indicate high user
satisfaction with the product and the content it produces. Flash's
steep learning curve contributed to the mediocre rating of Ease of
Finally, once again, a former Macromedia product received low marks