Just as you might use Word to write a document or PowerPoint to put together a presentation, you’ll need to use an e-learning authoring tool if you want to create an online course. But while the market for word processors and presentation decks is dominated by two or three big players, there are literally hundreds of tools available for creating online educational resources.
That means choosing the right tool can be a daunting task for L&D professionals. To make that choice easier for you, we’ve listed seven types of authoring tools you need to know about – and how you might benefit from each.
Put simply, cloud-based authoring tools only exist online and don’t require any software to be installed. They have the advantage of being accessible anywhere and anytime – provided you have internet – with unlimited potential for collaboration across teams and locations. Cloud-based authoring tools like Easygenerator provide automatic weekly software and feature updates. Its online subscription also allows you to have all hosting and data management taken care of.
Installed (locally hosted) tools
Installed tools require you to download software on a physical computer. They are particularly useful for employees who are regularly required to work without internet access and often offer a wider range of functionalities than non-installed tools. This can make it difficult to use. Frequently requiring significant levels of training, they’re most suited for e-learning experts. Their biggest drawback, however, is an inability to work collaboratively – a feature which is indispensable in this day and age.
Rapid authoring tools
These are very similar to installed tools but they come in the form of Microsoft plug-ins which allow you to add assessments and interactivities to a PowerPoint presentation. They’re relatively cheap and easy to use given that most users are already familiar with PowerPoint. Rapid authoring tools have the same disadvantages as installed tools. Their lack of customization also means they’re not ideal if you’re looking to produce a highly interactive course.
Quiz and assessment tools
If you want to create a simple quiz or an online assessment for your employees, there are a variety of e-learning authoring tools that focus on doing just that. Fast, cheap and easy to use, their wide range of question types and reporting tools sets them aside from most other course authoring software. Do bear in mind they are assessment tools only. Their functionality is limited, which means you cannot add additional pages or information to your assessments.
Specialized media tools
These tools focus on one specific form of content creation, like editing instructional videos or building interactive presentations. They usually work hand-in-hand with other e-learning tools. For example, you can upload a video from another tool, edit it using the specialized tool, then publish it on your LMS or another e-learning platform.
These tools can give you many advanced features because of their narrow focus on one type of content creation. This is advantageous if your organization has a strong preference for one particular form of e-learning content. However, there may be compatibility issues, because these tools almost always rely on your other programs or e-learning infrastructure to deliver the finished product. Universal e-learning formats like SCORM help reduce compatibility issues, but incompatibility is still a risk that needs to be considered.
Tools included in Learning Management Systems
Learning Management Systems (LMS) are primarily focused on the administration, reporting, and tracking of organizational learning. While not specifically designed for this purpose, some LMS do have an in-built authoring tool which allows you to create a number of simple pages. Even so, an LMS won’t enable you to build an entire course or assessment. This is why most L&D professionals prefer to use an authoring tool that is SCORM or XAPI compatible and can, therefore, be integrated with an LMS.
Screen recording tools
If your organization requires a lot of software simulations or step-by-step tutorials in its e-learning activities, then screen recording tools can be very beneficial. These are tools that enable you to capture and annotate or add voiceover commentary to onscreen activities. Screen recording tools create highly effective content because they walk learners through real-life situations. This essentially enables employees to learn by doing, because they follow the steps in real-time right on their screen.
However, these tools can be difficult to use, making the content creation process lengthy. You may also run into compatibility issues here, as these programs will generally work with specific file types and project files that won’t work universally.