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Using Flash to Build M-Learning


As the result of personal digital assistants (PDAs) becoming more and more popular, many organizations are looking to use these devices to deliver training. Moreover, some mobile telephones are now equipped with technology that could make them possible delivery systems as well. Here’s how you can use Macromedia Flash to create e-learning applications for PDAs.

 

Most PDAs on the market have operating systems that fall into one of two categories: PALMÒ or Pocket PCÒ.

 

Flash player support on mobile devices

 

To play a Flash movie on a mobile device, you need to install a special version of Flash player that targets that device. Macromedia has released a Flash player for all Pocket PC compatible devices, as well as a Flash player for Sony Clie PALM devices.

 

Flash player for Pocket PC devices.
To download the latest Flash Player for Pocket PC devices, go to www.macromedia.com/software/devices/products/pocketpc. At this site, you can also download the Flash player for Pocket PC Developer’s Kit. This kit includes examples, tutorials, components, and more that will help you when developing e-learning for Pocket PC devices.

 

It’s important to note that you don’t need the Developer’s Kit to be able to develop Flash applications that will run on a Pocket PC device. The Flash player will display normal movies created with Flash MX and MX 2004. The advantage of using the Developer’s Kit is that the included files have been optimized for mobile devices.

 

Flash player for PALM OS devices.
Currently, it appears that Macromedia has not released a version of Flash player that can be installed on PALM OS devices other than the Sony Clie.
For more information on Macromedia’s support of the Flash Player on Sony Clie devices, go to www.macromedia.com/devnet/devices/sony_clie.html.

 

Flash player for mobile phones.
Macromedia has released a copy of the Flash player, called Flash Lite, for mobile phones. To read more about support for this player, go to www.macromedia.com/software/devices/products/flashlite
.

 

Creating Flash Content for the Pocket PC

 

There are two ways to run a Flash application on a Pocket PC device. Developers can embed the Flash movie inside an HTML page, copy the files to the Pocket PC, and then open the HTML page in Internet Explorer. Or, they can use a Flash player application created specifically for the Pocket PC OS.

 

Using Internet Explorer.
Playing Flash content in Internet Explorer on a Pocket PC is a snap. Simply embed the Flash movie in an HTML page. You can either do this by publishing the Flash movie to HTML, which embeds the flash movie in an HTML page for you. Another option is to use Macromedia Dreamweaver. Simply choose
Insert
g Media g Flash.

 

Once you have created the HTML page, copy the HTML page, along with the supporting Flash files to the Pocket PC device. Open the HTML page using Internet Explorer, and you should see the Flash movie begin to play.

 

That said, there are a couple of things to remember. First, make sure the page margins are set to 0 pixels when you embed the Flash movie into an HTML page. This will ensure that the Flash movie plays at the top left of the browser.

 

More important, remember that your screen real estate is limited to the size of the Pocket PC screen. This means that the training application should be designed with that screen real estate in mind. You can create a Flash movie that is larger than the screen size, but Internet Explorer automatically reduces the size of the movie to fit inside the viewable area, which makes larger Flash movies difficult to view and read.

 

Flash MX 2004 provides some templates that can help you with real estate decisions and previewing. To access the templates, create a new Flash file (File g New) and choose the Mobile Devices category on the Templates tab (see Figure 1).

 

Figure 1 

 


Also, Flash provides an image of the device surrounding the stage, enabling developers to easily visualize the user experience (see Figure 2).

 

Figure 2

Figure 2

 

Using a Flash player.
To maximize the use of screen real estate, you may want to design your learning application to play in full-screen mode. In full-screen mode you eliminate the browser toolbars and window borders, resulting in more room for learning content. In order to do this, you must use a Flash player application to package the Flash movie as an executable.
 

  • Macromedia’s solution: To play a Flash movie in full-screen mode, you need a Flash player. Macromedia offers a development version of the Flash Player for Pocket PC devices that allows you to create a stand-alone application (it creates an EXE file) from a Flash movie. By distributing a stand-alone application, the end-user can avoid the headache of having to download and install the Flash player plug-in for Internet Explorer. For more information on the stand-alone development version of the Flash Player, go to www.macromedia.com/software/devices/products/pocketpc.
  • Third-party solutions: There are other Flash players available on the market. The most popular is Flash Assist, from Ant Mobile Software. For more information on this player, visit www.antmobile.com.

Get started today

 

Hopefully, these tips can help take the fear out of developing e-learning for mobile devices—and help you to take advantage of m-learning at your organization.

 

 

Publsihed: February 2005

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