The transition out of Flash confronted us with a number of challenges.
The first and most important question was how to find a software solution that enabled us to recreate the Flash courses without losing the identity, features and interactions of Arabic Online.
Simply transferring the content into html5 would not solve this problem. The Arabic Online Flash courses were designed for a laptop or desktop computer screen with a fixed size interface – and for a good reason. A mobile or smartphone screen forces developers and content creators to work with micro content – short texts, exercises with single sentences and with a lot of scrolling or swiping. This is in turn leads to extreme segmentation of language and a focus on small chunks of language that can fit onto a small screen.
The Flash courses in Arabic Online did not work with micro content. The Flash courses saw language learning as an active process and learners as active meaning makers. With Arabic Online learners are guided by a task-based approach through a series of units, modules and steps to acquire Arabic and an awareness of Arabic culture. To achieve this students work with a substantial amount of content on a screen.
Context is vital
When working with an input dialogue, it is important to see all of that dialogue, the context in which it is spoken and to be able to work with all the multiple interactions on the same screen. When working with a drag and drop exercise or text, it is important to see all the sentences or the complete text together in that exercise and not just a line of text or a sentence at a time. Language doesn’t consist of isolated words and sentences. Context is vital. To reduce language to single sentences is to focus on form, vocabulary, grammar and ultimately outdated language learning methodologies.
Additional material for mobile learning
The Arabic Online developers did not discount mobile learning at all. We have developed additional material and courses that are designed specifically for a mobile screen, such as Easy Arabic 1 and Easy Arabic 2. In other words, the approach of Arabic Online, in a post-Flash world, is not to have content that would simply ‘respond’ or ‘change shape’ when viewed on a mobile or a laptop. Rather the aim is to develop content that is specifically suited to a particular device, so that learning will be meaningful and appropriate.
To illustrate this, the image at the top of this article shows a section from the Flash-based course in the new non-Flash format that has been re-programmed to work without the Flash player.
For those who are already working with Arabic Online or have been studying with Arabic Online over the past year, there is no discernible difference.
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