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How To Select Between Totally different Sorts Of eLearning Authoring Instruments

Know your options and find the best solution for you

Whenever you’re rummaging through your toolbox for a home repair, you’re looking for the right tool for the right job. To choose the appropriate one, you need to know the names, applications, and best uses of everything in the box. It’s the same when choosing an e-learning authoring tool, but sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in marketing, hype, and shiny features when choosing. Rather than immediately comparing, it is best to pause for a moment and consider what work to do, how to do it, what types of jobs you want to do in the future, and what types of tools are right that will suit yours now purpose.

There are many types of eLearning authoring tools on the market today. everyone is the right tool for a job, but what’s right for yours? Let’s look at a few key categories that affect the usefulness of an authoring tool and who is best served by them.

Types of E-Learning Authoring Tools by Platform

The first way to break down different categories of eLearning authoring tools is by platform or by the actual location of the software.

Desktop authoring tools

Desktop authoring tools are installed on your hard drive. You might still be using an old school perpetual license, but many desktop solutions now work on a subscription model.

You may have access to cloud storage through the software, but in most cases your software will be on your local drive instead, making collaboration difficult. Using third-party cloud storage for actively updated files is risky. Many desktop software vendors warn against saving course material files to OneDrive or Dropbox because you run the risk of file corruption when you save changes. That means they are limited to backup storage and are not a good solution for centralized asset control.

Even if you can sync files for central access and backup storage, you still need to worry about multi-device access, licensing issues, version confusion, and just remembering and taking the time to back them up frequently. Operating system compatibility is also a bigger issue than desktop vendors are willing to admit. If the software is not native to your operating system, any workaround solutions will only lead to performance issues and other issues.

All of this makes desktop software less than ideal for anyone with a medium or large development team, a large number of reviewers, or a desire to keep centralized control of your course files.

Best for: Freelance developers who carry out projects on their own, companies with one or two-person development teams.

Cloud-based authoring tools

Cloud-based eLearning authoring tools that you access with a login in any browser are the alternative to a desktop. In the past, these were often more limited in functionality than their desktop cousins, but today a cloud-based authoring tool can be as robust and comprehensive as any desktop tool (and in some cases even more). All you have to do is choose the right software.

You probably already know the benefits of cloud-based software, but the main benefits of eLearning authoring software are central file access, one-time update / reuse of content, permission control, and a range of teamwork, collaboration, and oversight functions. These co-authoring / collaboration capabilities can take many forms, so do your homework to see what fits your needs.

Cloud-based tools also offer a modern, mobile-first responsive design rather than their desktop counterparts.

Best for: Medium to large or dispersed development teams, eLearning efforts from multiple organizations, teams with WFH benefits, teams with high turnover or a large number of freelancers.

Types of eLearning Authoring Tools by eLearning Format

The other main method of segmenting the market is through the categories of eLearning that the software can effectively create.

PowerPoint and PowerPoint add-ons

Microsoft PowerPoint is very popular and familiar with subject matter experts (SMBs) and other non-developers who need to create “eLearning”. There are many options these days for add-on software that can turn .pptx courses from “works in a pinch” to something that actively behaves like eLearning.

Some services allow you to easily add a voiceover to your slide deck with minimal technical knowledge, while others allow you to add navigation elements, eLearning assessments, or standards like SCORM or xAPI.

Best for: Part-time developers, newcomers to eLearning who have training on their plate and don’t see it as a large part of their responsibility, and small businesses with simple development needs who don’t want new software.

Authoring tools with a focus on traditional eLearning design

Some of the most popular authoring tools use the traditional eLearning fixed layout design approach originally intended for desktop displays. This is the same approach used by PowerPoint, which makes it easier for new developers to get started (albeit with an outdated approach to content design).

Traditional eLearning isn’t great on small screens like mobile devices, but as long as it’s done entirely in HTML5 it can work in a snap (and with a zoom). If your learner projects are mostly looking at something at least the size of a tablet, then you are fine in terms of usability for the learner.

Calling these “traditional” can be a little misleading; A fixed pixel authoring approach can open doors to all kinds of creative eLearning solutions, from movie-style animations to games to slide-style courses.

Best for: Organizations that do a lot of formal learning and are not interested in adding less traditional approaches, those that need visual content synced with voice-over narration, and those that do not want or need to deliver on mobile devices.

Responsive e-learning authoring tools

Responsive authoring tools produce eLearning that adapts seamlessly to the learner’s screen size. E-learning created in a responsive tool looks great and works well on all devices.

You can still create formal responsive-style courses, but this design choice opens up other possibilities, like scrolling infographics and searchable knowledge bases.

Many responsive authoring tools are limited to fast authoring with a more template-based design approach. The design constraints that are imposed can give the impression that Responsive eLearning is itself limited in its capabilities. Not true! Responsive design requires rethinking traditional design, but you can find tools that give you even more creative flexibility than traditional e-learning.

Best for: Organizations that have employees in the field or otherwise away from the desktop, organizations that rely on informal learning, situations where it is best to minimize the number of page loads, and organizations that want to optimize a single set of assets for which all devices.

Specialized authoring tools

Most general authoring tools can create one or more of the “specialized” types of eLearning described below. However, specialty tools either do the basics and save money in the process, or offer more sophisticated functionality than general-purpose tools.

Best for: Organizations that only need to produce eLearning in a certain format, teams that produce a high volume of a certain format, projects in a special format that can benefit from complex or advanced functions.

Authoring tools for screencast and software simulation

While you can create software lessons using screenshots, photo editing, and elbow grease, it’s a lot faster and easier with specialty tools. There are various solutions to choose from, depending on your goals and needs. Screencasting tools often make it easy to save screen recordings, then tag, dub, and share those videos.

There are also software simulation tools that build the lesson as you go through the movements: logging clicks and keystrokes to take screenshots with hotspots in addition to written instructions. This technology also allows learners to practice the steps in a simulated environment (and be tested on it later!).

Branch scenario authoring tools

Branch scenarios (or simulations) are eLearning’s answer to experiential learning. Some processes and problem-solving scenarios are too dangerous, inconvenient, expensive, or rare to recreate in reality.

Branching scenarios allow a learner to go through a series of decisions in response to prompts and experience the consequences – and then try again. Branch simulation tools simplify the setup process. Look for tools that give authors an overview of all possible branches in the learner’s decision tree; This makes development and editing much easier.

Branch simulations typically focus on dialogue or behavior (action), and tools provide a library of contextual visuals to aid in the experience. Some dialog simulation tools also offer the ability to add audio.

Interactive video authoring tools

HTML5 puts video learning on steroids by adding interactivity; the ability to add hotspots, do comprehension tests, convert the video into a branching simulation, and much more. Interactive video authoring tools make it easy to add these features without advanced knowledge of video editing.

VR / AR / 3D video authoring tools

There are special tools for creating virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and / or 3D video e-learning. They usually allow you to transform 360 ° videos or equirectangular photos by adding hotspots, 3D objects, animations, branching simulations, quizzes, and other elements. In addition, they often contain specialized publishing features that are compatible with popular VR headset brands.

Authoring tools with advanced functions

Some eLearning authoring tools provide additional features to enhance your authoring experience. Some cloud-based tools include built-in communication and review capabilities that provide context for conversations and keep all project communication in one place.

Another category of advanced features is publishing. Example: DominKnow | ONE offers a hosting option called Convey to make publishing easier and streamline course updates, as well as a mobile app add-on service that supports offline course access for learners.

A tool with versatility

dominKnow | ONE is a cloud-based tool with traditional and responsive design options, software simulation and branching scenario functions, integrated collaboration tools and optional advanced publishing support services. Contact me or leave a comment below.

dominKnow | ONE

dominKnow | ONE is a fully featured collaborative course authoring solution with responsive, traditional and software based simulation creation and an adaptive interface that makes it simple enough for SMB but powerful for advanced designers, all in one central system

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