Elearning authoring tools - which tool to use when?

Posted on Sep 16, 2014

Elearning

With an increase in the number of elearning authoring tools now available, it can be difficult to know which one is right for your elearning.

Before selecting a tool you must ensure you are clear on who will be completing the elearning, and the devices on which it needs to be deployed.

Sometimes a combination of authoring tools are used to create a suite of elearning modules. This is particularly useful when certain modules might for instance need to be deployed on mobile phones, while others could be deployed for completion on a desktop computer.

When deciding on a suitable tool, considerations are likely to include the talent and skills available within your team, the type of content and desired interactions, the budget and also the timescale in which the course has to be delivered.

To help you to decide, let’s take a look at some of the most popular elearning authoring tools available today:

Adapt

This recently launched open-source responsive elearning tool streamlines elearning courses across multiple devices; intelligently adapting its content and interactions to suit desktop & laptop computers, tablets and smartphones. It has strong customisation capabilities and uses JavaScript and HTML in order to offer cross browser and platform functionality. Due to its flexibility, Adapt saves on time and costs as only one single course needs to be created, eliminating the need for development in multiple authoring tools. Adapt is the perfect tool for when you have a clear need to be able to access elearning on a wide range of modern devices.

Articulate Storyline

This is an incredibly easy to use tool, largely due to its interface being intuitively based on PowerPoint's design. It is a rapid tool that grows with you, allowing for a simple start, building up to create highly interactive and exploratory elearning courses through the inclusion of storyboarding, animation, templates, multimedia and advanced editing features. Due to its popularity and widespread usage, Storyline has a large community of supporters and a very useful tutorial area. This tool is great for beginners and experts alike as it is an ideal introductory tool to build elearning, where skills can then easily be taken further.

Lectora Publisher

It allows for easy creation of rapid interactive multimedia content and intuitively detects if Flash or HTML5 media support is available and chooses the appropriate method to run the elearning course. Lectora is simple to use - elearning courses are built using easy-to-master drag and drop techniques. It allows for flexibility and a variety of media can be incorporated such as videos, animation, sound and PowerPoint import. It also has social media functionality and Tin Can API support which offers a great way to track mobile learning and informal learning. Articulate Storyline is an ideal tool for cross browser compatibility and for inexpensive rapid development, however it does have a key limitation in that it is not responsive.

Adobe Captivate

This is one of the most popular software packages for PowerPoint conversions and rapid creation of simulations. With the addition of customisable actions and variables in recent versions, it allows for great scenario based training. Adobe Captivate 6 and upward enable the creation of both Flash and HTML5 based content, whilst having the advantage of being able to detect whether Flash or HTML5 is supported by the users’ device, and then automatically delivering the appropriate version of the course.

The most recent release, Captivate 8, uses HTML5 publishing to deliver one course to mobile tablets and phones, the web, desktops and Learning Management Systems. As Adobe Captivate has been available for many years, it is mostly used for its familiarity.

The evolution of HTML5

It is argued that the elearning industry is evolving and shifting towards HTML5, primarily due to the huge increase in learners using mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets (primarily the iPad and iPhone) to access elearning courses.

We are now using these devices to do more, making mobile learning a natural extension to the tasks already being completed on mobile devices. Consequently, the method of designing and developing elearning has had to change to accommodate this and as such, HTML5 is being increasingly used for its mobile compatibility, its versatility and its features.

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Elearning courses have traditionally been designed using Adobe Flash, which has allowed for highly immersive and effective content. However, many mobile devices no longer support Flash, causing problems for elearning developers. HTML5 is now widely adopted as an alternative as it is supported on a wide range of platforms and browsers, thus allowing learners to access elearning on-the-go.

A key benefit of HTML5 is lower battery consumption from the course, as well as provision of offline storage and data management. Therefore, when compared with Flash based courses, HTML5 courses can run more efficiently and faster, without draining the power on learners’ mobile devices.

It is also worth keeping in mind the drawbacks associated with HTML5, such as it being unable to work on older browsers and it also requires video/audio tags or links whereas Flash courses are able to support audio and video directly.

eLearning Industry put forward predictions for 2014 and some of these are already evident this year. We have seen an increase in the use of video based learning, where more rapid development tools are enabling development of interactive video-based learning content.

It is also apparent that the top authoring tools are continuing to invest in HTML5 and responsive mobile learning. Furthermore, more tools offering cloud based authoring options were predicted to emerge, and these are increasingly being used to create more accessible interactive elearning and mobile learning content without the need of a desktop with pre-installed software. Cloud based tools typically allow for the use of a wide variety of media such as videos, surveys and voiceover.

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Author: Alan Bourne, Head of Development, Sponge

Alan leads the development team at Sponge. Equally adept with Flash, HTML5, Articulate authoring tools and Lectora, he is responsible for the technical solutions of projects that work online and cross platform.

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