Authoring Tools

If you are getting your content developed externally, does it matter what tools the developers use to build your e-learning? Well yes it does because there are certain strengths and weaknesses that you should be aware of when selecting an authoring tool.

So what type of tools are there? The answer is quite a few and the number is growing exponentially now that there is much more interest in developing e-learning courses in-house.

Powerful but Hard to Use

Most high quality e-learning is developed in Flash (currently Flash Professional CS6). This powerful tool gives unlimited flexibility and in the right hands produces the most professional results. However its complexity and sheer flexibility also means that development and maintenance of Flash based content is expensive and often fraught with difficulties – try giving one Flash developer another developer’s code to work with!

Flash is also not mobile device friendly. It has compatibility issues on some platforms and won’t work at all on iOS devices such as the iPad or iPhone.

Less Powerful but Easy to Use

The easiest to use tools are usually based on PowerPoint. Tools such as Adobe Presenter and Articulate Studio both use PowerPoint as their authoring environment but then publish to Flash (or in some cases HTML5). You get the best of both worlds – sort of. In practice they are limited by the functionality of PowerPoint which falls down on its learner interactions (it is after all a presentation tool). Nevertheless these tools are capable of some very professional looking output and they can also import Flash code to add extra bells and whistles.

There are also pure HTML development tools such as Lectora – these have a slightly steeper learning curve but if you are familiar with web page development tools you have a head start and they output courses that don’t rely on having the Flash plug-in installed. Articulate Storyline hedges it bets and produces content in both Flash and HTML5 so is likely to work across a wide range of devices. However there are some things that aren’t fully supported in HTML5.

Desktop or Online

Both Flash and Articulate Studio or Storyline are desktop tools – you have to buy the software and install it on a PC. This can get expensive and limits the number of authors – each author needs a separate licence to run the software. Online authoring tools need no software install and are therefore more flexible – allowing multiple authors who simply log-in via a standard web browser. Kaplans’ Content Point (formerly Atlantic Link) or CrossKnowledge’s Mohive  products are examples of  online authoring environments that are relatively easy to use and which publish output to Flash. CM Group’s Luminosity Studio has similar features but outputs to HTML5 instead of Flash. These tools are also much more suited to collaborative authoring.

How can we help?

We use a variety of tools but we focus on the popular rapid tools such as:

  • Articulate Storyline
  • Articulate Studio
  • Articulate Quizmaker
  • Adobe Captivate
  • TechSmith Camtasia
  • Zenler Studio

We also run training programmes on a variety of tools. See e-learning training courses page.

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