CTL Blog

Flash on the iPad?

April 09, 2012 | 2 Minute Read

As much of the core content in online courses is delivered in a lecture-style format, students often ask how they can watch online course lectures on their iPad. Lecture content is generally offered in three formats: a fully synchronized, Flash-based presentation; an audio-only MP3 file; and a PDF file of the slides used. Given that iOS devices (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch) do not support Flash at all, you can't watch the fully synchronized lecture presentations on your iPad by default.

You can, however, purchase one of a handful of apps on the iTunes store which will display Flash content for you in a custom Web browser. Photon Flash Web Browser, for example, is one app that manages this task.

Because the Flash Player does not and will not exist on iOS devices, these apps work by rendering the Flash content on a server farm and then send the Flash content to their custom Web browser app as if a movie were being streamed to the app. There is, of course, more at work, because you can click on things in the Flash content and their custom app supports most interactivity in the Flash Player. You can even play Farmville in Facebook on your iPad.

The major drawback to using this kind of app is twofold:


  1. This isn't native Flash, so it's going to run a lot more slowly than a native Flash Player would. Content is being rendered on a server farm and then sent to your iPad in real time. This can be sluggish depending on what you are looking at. A Flash video or online course lecture presentation should play back fairly well. Farmville, on the other hand, can be pretty sluggish.
  2. This takes a lot of bandwidth. If you're on a limited data plan, watching online course lectures or playing Flash games via this app can eat up your entire data plan pretty fast. Again, because the Flash content is being rendered as video and sent to your computer, it requires a lot of data. Additionally, if you're not near the server farms where the Flash content is being rendered, the playback will stutter and be generally sluggish because it takes longer to send all that data around the world to your iPad. The app makers of Photon Flash Web Browser, for example, make it very clear on their iTunes page that the app works best in the U.S., because that is where their server farms are located.
While the Center for Teaching and Learning with Technology continues to look for a long-term, scalable solution to replace the synchronized lecture presentations in Flash with a HTML5-compatible solution that works across all devices, apps like the Photon Flash Web Browser or the Skyfire Web Browser can be considered as possible alternatives if you really want to watch online course lectures on your iPad.