TOP e-learning software & authoring tools – full guide

Explore the ultimate guide to e-learning software, including tips to select the right one for your organization, and more.

By Alexandra Hemmer

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Whether you’re new to the world of e-learning software or looking to upgrade your current solution, we’re here to help. This guide offers a comprehensive walk-through of e-learning authoring solutions, from handy definitions to tips on how to choose the right tool.

What is an e-learning authoring tool?

An e-learning authoring tool is a software that allows you and other members of your organization to create — author — online learning content. You can create all kinds of content, whether it’s in the form of an e-learning course, a performance support resource, or a microlearning nugget.

The variety of content you can create also allows you to keep up with evolving learning trends. For example, to support employees’ performance on the job, you may choose to create a how-to guide to walk them through certain procedures. To keep up with the shortening attention spans of online audiences, you may want to create microlearning.

Regardless, an e-learning authoring tool enables you to create learning content based on your goals and on your learners’ needs.

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Types of e-learning authoring tools

Authoring tools come in many forms, particularly in the way they’re hosted and the special features they offer. Here are the most common types of e-learning authoring tool software:

  • Cloud-based authoring tool

    A cloud-based authoring tool is one that’s hosted online — also known as Software as a Service (SaaS) tools. That means you won’t need to download any additional software and install it on your desktop. Instead, a cloud-based tool gives you the advantage of being able to access it anywhere, anytime, across internet-connected devices. It also makes it easy for you to collaborate with your teams remotely — an increasingly need given the Covid-19 pandemic and resulting work-from-home trends.

    Moreover, cloud-based authoring tools like Easygenerator automatically and regularly provide software updates. This ensures you’re always using the latest version.

  • Desktop-based authoring tool

    Unlike a cloud-based tool, desktop authoring tools require you to install software into your computer. This makes it a locally hosted authoring tool internet connection isn’t required. For the same reason, desktop authoring tools may be particularly useful for employees who frequently work without internet access.

    At the same time, however, desktop authoring tools often offer a much wider range of features. While this expands your authoring capabilities, these tools tend to come with a complex user interface, making them difficult to use. Most of all, because they’re tied to the desktop they’ve been installed in, locally hosted authoring tools prevent you from working collaboratively across locations.

  • Specialized media tools

    Apart from how they’re hosted, authoring tools can also be categorized by their media specialty. For example, there are authoring tools that specialize in video courses, animations, or gamification. Though they’re narrowly focused on one type of content creation, it also means they’re likely to offer advanced features to ensure high-quality results. For this reason, these. Types of tools may be better suited for organizations that prefer a specific format for learning.

    At the same time, specialized media tools usually don’t offer hosting capabilities. That means you’ll likely need a separate tool to publish and distribute your content with your learners.

  • Authoring tools built into an LMS

    Though a Learning Management System (LMS) stores, manages and tracks e-learning content, many also offer built-in authoring tools. This allows you to easily create and host content on one platform. However, that’s usually where the benefits end.

    To create effective, engaging e-learning courses, it’s best to use a separate authoring tool entered around learners’ needs — not one built into an LMS for convenience. And if you’re still looking to include an LMS in your e-learning strategy, authoring tools like Easygenerator enable you to publish your courses within a compatible LMS of your choice, simply by exporting your content as a SCORM package.

  • LMS-lite authoring tools

    Perhaps the least-known type of authoring tool on this list is the LMS-lite. These types of tools offer core LMS features like publishing, hosting, and results tracking, in addition to core authoring functionalities. The benefit of using an LMS-lite is similar to an LMS that offers built-in authoring functions — to provide the hassle-free experience of meeting all your e-learning needs on one platform. But apart from serving as an all-in-one solution, an LMS-lite authoring tool can offer LMS capabilities in greater detail.

    Easygenerator is an example of an LMS-lite authoring tool. While we specialize in helping you create engaging learning content, you’ll also benefit from being able to choose a wide range of publishing options. Not only can you export your course as a SCORM or xAPI package, but you can also choose to generate a private link or embed your content onto an existing website. Moreover, you can track your course results and your learners’ activity by leveraging our extensive data-driven insights.

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Why do you need an authoring tool?

Many companies are already familiar with Learning Management Systems (LMS), but the case for a separate e-learning authoring tool may still seem vague. The truth is that the traditional model of creating e-learning costs too much time and money, paving the way for many other challenges in the Learning & Development (L&D) space. With that, we’ve identified several ways a good authoring tool can make a difference.

Here are the key reasons to get an e-learning authoring tool software:

  • Create engaging, interactive content

    An authoring tool comes with a variety of creative features and elements, allowing you to add quizzes, fill-in-the-blank questions, true-or-false exercises, videos, interactive images, and much more. This enables you to create an inviting learning experience that encourages your learners to engage with the content.

  • Create need-based content

    Gone are the days of relying on generic, off-the-shelf content. With an e-learning authoring tool, you’ll be able to create custom content tailored to your learners’ needs. And with a user-friendly authoring tool, you can equip subject matter experts (SME) in your organization to create learning content themselves, directly for their peers — an approach known as Employee-generated Learning (EGL). This makes it even easier to identify the learning needs throughout the business and create personalized content accordingly.

  • Speed up your content production cycle

    Using an authoring tool built for SMEs can also speed up your content production cycle. Traditionally, the central learning department or third-party content creator would be responsible for producing e-learning. As part of the process, they would also have SMEs review it for accuracy. This would then turn into a back-and-forth exchange of multiple reviews before the content finally reaches the learner.

    However, when SMEs create content themselves, it ensures accuracy and shortens the time taken for content to reach learners. Moreover, cloud-based authoring tools with features like co-authoring and reviewing make it easy for authors to collaborate remotely and in real-time, which also adds to a quicker turnaround time.

  • Reduce the costs of content creation

    Outsourcing your e-learning content creation may seem like a quick and cheap solution. But in the long run, an authoring tool can lead to major savings for your organization. For one, as knowledge continues to evolve, you’ll have to find a way to keep your content fresh over time. With an authoring tool, this task becomes much easier.

    Easygenerator, for example, allows you to store your content on the platform and make changes anytime. That means all you have to do is create your e-learning course once and make minor changes as you see fit – without having to re-share the link to your course every time. More importantly, this saves you time from having to create the entire course from scratch to accommodate every little update.

  • Track your learners progress in greater detail

    While an LMS offers features to track your learners’ progress and generate reports, they are often limited. At the same time, LMSs often come with a complex user interface intended for instructional designers. With the right authoring tool, you can expect a user-friendly approach to measuring progress. More importantly, you get access to extensive data on your course and your learners, beyond just knowing whether they passed or failed.

    A tool like Easygenerator offers insights like how long your learners spent on each section and question, how many attempts they made at a question, or where they dropped off in the course. In return, you’ll learn what parts of your course might have been too easy or too challenging, allowing you to make strategic improvements to your content.

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How to choose an e-learning authoring tool

Now that we’ve covered the benefits of getting an e-learning authoring tool, it’s time to discover how to choose one. When it comes to making your decision, we’ve outlined a few important factors for you to consider.

Here are the questions to ask when choosing your e-learning authoring tool software:

  • Is it user-friendly?

    Regardless of whether your SMEs have a background in instructional design, it’s essential to get an authoring tool that’s easy to use. A smooth user interface will make it easier for anyone in your organization to easily share their knowledge in the form of engaging content. This, in return, speeds up the content creation process and the circulation of knowledge throughout the organization.

    Easygenerator, for example, offers a simple drag-and-drop experience, allowing you to add all kinds of elements just by dragging the content block of your choice. Want to add a quiz? Just drag it into your and customize it with your own text. Features like this contribute to a zero learning curve, allowing anyone to quickly come aboard the authoring tool.

  • Is it desktop- or cloud-based?

    As we covered earlier, e-learning authoring tool software can be either cloud-based on desktop-based, which makes a difference in your content creation experience. Cloud-based authoring tools allow you to easily access your tool – and, therefore, your content – from any internet-connected device, regardless of where you are. This is ideal for teams that want to collaborate remotely and in real-time — an increasing need as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

    A desktop-hosted authoring tool will require you to install it into a computer, which can create a dependency on that device each time you want to work on your content. That said, a desktop-based device may be suitable if your employees work offline most of the time.

  • Is it compatible with an LMS?

    If your organization already has an LMS in place or you simply want to work with one, it’s important to get a compatible authoring tool. An incompatible authoring tool means your LMS won’t be able to display your content correctly, which ultimately impacts the types of data reports you can generate.

    Look for an authoring tool that allows you to export your e-learning content in LMS-friendly standards like SCORM. But beyond that, make sure that it exports in the right version of SCORM based on the version your LMS supports. Other e-learning publishing standards include xAPI, cmi5, and AICC.

  • What kind of data can I track?

    As we mentioned in the previous section, analytics is one of the advantages of using an authoring tool. That said, you’ll want to look for a tool that offers extensive tracking and tracing. Data regarding your courses, your learners, and the results generated all play a major part in keeping L&D informed. They also enable authors to understand their learners’ experience in detail, which ultimately helps with making strategic improvements to course content. The more detailed the data you can track, the more insights you’ll gain into your learners’ needs and how your content can help.

  • What kind of content creation features are there?

    Perhaps one of the most obvious questions to ask is what kind of content you’ll be able to create. Authoring tools are, after all, designed for content creation. For one, can the tool only generate e-learning courses? Or can you also create other types of learning content, like one-pager resources for performance support?

    Apart from that, you’ll also want to know what kinds of elements you can add to each course or resource. For example, interactive quizzes and exercises create an engaging learning experience and serve as a way for you to measure your learners’ progress. The ability to include videos and images also prevents your content from becoming text-heavy, making it easier for online learners to process knowledge. Knowing your organization’s goals can also help inform what types of content creation features you should be looking out for.

  • Will it help me scale my e-learning output?

    The content creation process doesn’t stop once a course or resource has been published. As we mentioned earlier, knowledge is constantly evolving, and it’s important to check in on your content to make sure it’s continually relevant. This requires a tool that allows you to create scalable content. Fortunately, the right authoring tool will make this job easier for you — one where you can easily update your existing content without having to re-share or re-create it from scratch every time.

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Top 10 e-learning software and authoring tools

Still not sure what the best e-learning authoring software is? Even given all the tips above, we understand that choosing an authoring tool can still feel daunting. For that reason, we’re offering you a closer look into the pros and cons of some of the top authoring tools in the market. Whether you’re looking for e-learning software for Mac users, e-learning software that supports SCORM, or just want a general e-learning software comparison, we’ve got you covered.

Here’s an overview of the top 10 e-learning software:

1. Easygenerator

Let’s begin with our solution, Easygenerator. Our e-learning authoring tool is built with the user in mind. That includes subject matter experts and anyone who would like to share their knowledge in the form of engaging courses. But our ease of use may not appeal to all audiences, as we’ll discover below:

Pros

  • Easily create engaging content: Thanks to our tool’s many content blocks, varied question-types, and drag-and-drop interface, anyone can easily create engaging content. You can also customize logos, colors, and fonts to match your brand. And if you’re not sure where to start, we offer many ready-to-use templates that you can customize.
  • Create scalable content: The main goal behind the tool’s user-friendliness is to shift the content creation process from L&D to SMEs. This unlocks the expertise that already exists within a business and enables a peer-to-peer knowledge sharing approach known as Employee-generated Learning (EGL). Learning needs don’t always have to go through a central learning department. Instead, SMEs can identify the need and begin creating content.
  • Not desktop-dependent: Easygenerator is a cloud-based authoring tool. That means you can create content on one device and continue your project on another – as long as you have internet. This also enables seamless remote collaboration. For example, remote co-authors can easily create content together in real-time and leave comments for each other in the app.
  • Easily work with an LMS: Choose from a variety of publishing options in Easygenerator — including SCORM. Just export your course as a SCORM package and import it into an LMS that supports the right version of SCORM. Easygenerator also allows you to track your courses in an LMS using xAPI, giving you even more flexibility to work with an LMS.
  • Extensive tracking: Easygenerator provides data-driven insights on your course and your learners. You’ll get detailed behavioral metrics like when your learners are most active, what questions they had to re-attempt, and even how many attempts they made.
  • PowerPoint Importer: As a bonus advantage, Easygenerator recently launched a new PowerPoint importer, enabling you to convert your existing PowerPoint training content into an e-learning course. While PowerPoint may be a familiar way to create content, static slides are ultimately meant for presentations. To facilitate a meaningful and effective asynchronous learning session, you need to create an interactive e-learning course that learners can guide themselves through.

Cons

  • Limited creative features: Because our tool is built for subject matter experts and not instructional designers, you won’t find specialized media features like gamification functions or video editors.
  • Internet access required: To use our cloud-based authoring tool, you will need a stable internet connection throughout the content creation process.

Best suited for

  • Subject matter experts (SME)
  • Authors who are new to e-learning
  • Authors who want to collaborate remotely
  • Organizations looking to apply an Employee-generated Learning approach

2. Articulate Storyline 360

Articulate 360 comes as a suite with both Articulate Storyline 360 and Articulate Rise 360. Each has unique offerings. Let’s start with the former:

Pros

  • LMS-friendly: Articulate Storyline 360 supports SCORM, AICC, and xAPI (TinCan), offering a lot of flexibility for authors who want or need to work with an LMS.
  • High-quality content creation: The software comes with a wide range of creative features, enabling experienced e-learning authors to create high-quality learning content.
  • Learning community: Articulate offers an active online learning community to help users make the most out of their authoring tools. That means you aren’t alone in the content creation process.

Cons

  • Complex interface: Though Articulate software offers endless content creation possibilities; the downside is that the interface is challenging for those without a background in instructional design.
  • Desktop-based: Articulate Storyline 360 is a desktop app. That means you’ll need to rely on one device to facilitate and complete your content creation process.
  • Windows-native: The Articulate Storyline suite is native to Windows, making it primarily accessible to Windows users. There is no Mac-native version.
  • Leads to a top-down learning culture: Because you need to be a well-experienced author or designer to make the most out of the app, your employees will likely have to rely on a central learning department to pump out content.

Best suited for

  • Experienced e-learning authors and instructional designers
  • Creating highly customized learning content

3. Articulate Rise 360

Next, we’ll move on to Articulate Rise 360. As part of the Articulate 360 suite, Rise carries certain similarities to Storyline 360, but it’s also a unique product. Let’s take a look:

Pros

  • Cloud-based: Articulate Rise is hosted online, which means you can continue your content creation process across multiple devices – Mac or Windows – provided you’re connected to the internet. This also facilitates remote collaboration and content reviews.
  • Create scalable content: Rise allows you to easily clone and edit your content. That means you won’t need to create the same content from scratch just to update it.
  • Intuitive user interface: Rise 360 is easy to use, which means you won’t need as much experience to use it as you would for Storyline 360.
  • LMS-friendly: Rise 360 supports SCORM, xAPI (TinCan), and AICC.

Cons

  • Expensive: The Articulate 360 suite leans on the pricier end of authoring solutions according to online customer reviews.
  • Internet connection required: As with all cloud-based authoring tools, you will need an internet connection to use Articulate Rise 360.

Best suited for

  • Authors who are new to e-learning
  • Authors who want to collaborate remotely

4. Adobe Captivate

Adobe Captivate shares many similarities with other Adobe software. From an e-learning authoring perspective, here are some of the pros and cons:

Pros

  • High-quality content creation: Like other creative software by the company, Adobe Captivate is designed for experienced e-learning authors looking to create high-quality content. The tool even enables Virtual Reality (VR) learning experiences.
  • Runs on Mac and Windows: As a desktop-based software, Adobe Captivate runs smoothly on both Mac and Windows, making it accessible to a much wider pool of e-learning creators.
  • Supports many e-learning formats: Adobe Captivate is compatible with SCORM, AICC, xAPI (TinCan), and HTML5.

Cons

  • Steep learning curve: Because the software specializes in high-quality content creation, you’ll likely need a lot of experience to know your way around the interface.
  • Desktop-based: Desktop-based authoring tools not only make it challenging to collaborate on and review content remotely, but they also make it difficult to scale your content output.
  • Leads to a top-down learning culture: Because you need to be a well-experienced content creator or instructional designer to make the most out of Adobe Captivate, employees will have to rely on a central learning department to pump out content.

Best suited for

  • Experienced authors or instructional designers
  • Creating highly customized, interactive learning experiences

5. Elucidat

Elucidat is a cloud-based authoring tool that also supports LMS formats. Let’s dive deeper into its pros and cons:

Pros

  • Supports many e-learning formats: Elucidat supports HTML5, SCORM, and xAPI (TinCan), giving you a range of publishing options, including your LMS.
  • User-friendly interface: Elucidat takes pride in its what-you-see-is-what-you-get interface, otherwise known as WYSIWYG. This offers a seamless user experience for authors.
  • Cloud-based: The software is easily accessible across internet-connected devices, enabling smooth remote collaboration and reviewing.

Cons

Learning curve for advanced features: To truly customize your content, you’ll want to take advantage of Elucidat’s more advanced features. This comes with a learning curve.

Expensive: Compared to alternative authoring tools, Elucidat leans on the more expensive side of the spectrum.

Best suited for

  • Subject matter experts
  • Experienced e-learning authors

6. Gomo

Gomo is another cloud-based authoring tool offering a range of content creation options. Here’s a look at what sets them apart:

Pros

  • Cloud-based: As with all other cloud-based authoring tools, Gomo makes it easy to create, collaborate, and review content across multiple internet-connected devices.
  • Responsive to different screen sizes: You can be assured that your content will respond well to any screen size, from desktop to mobile, and in any rotation.
  • Provide courses in different languages: Gomo provides support to help you create content in multiple languages, allowing you to reach a wide pool of learners.

Cons

  • Complex interface: The Gomo interface is not very intuitive. This makes it harder for those without an e-learning or instructional design background to jump onboard.
  • Limited customization features: Gomo is not designed for experienced designers looking to create highly customized content.

Best suited for

  • E-learning authors of any level
  • Authors looking to create courses in multiple languages

7. iSpring Suite

ISpring Suite stands out, not only for being a desktop-based authoring tool but also one that specializes in PowerPoint-based learning. Let’s look at its specific pros and cons:

Pros

  • Great for PowerPoint users: If you’re an avid PowerPoint training creator and are looking to elaborate on your content, iSpring Suite is your tool. With PowerPoint integration features, you won’t have to create slides from scratch but can continue working on existing content within the tool.
  • User-friendly interface: It doesn’t take a highly experienced instructional designer to navigate iSpring Suite’s interface easily.
  • Video editor: If your goal is to include quality video content, iSpring Suite’s video editor will meet your needs.

Cons

  • Not ideal for e-learning: While the focus on PowerPoint may be appealing, it’s not an engaging way to facilitate an asynchronous, online learning experience. PowerPoint is meant for presentations, where someone can guide the learner through the content. For an engaging e-learning experience, you’ll need an authoring tool that can create interactive content.
  • Desktop-based: iSpring Suite is primarily desktop-based, which makes it challenging to engage in remote collaboration, which also makes it difficult to create scalable content.

Best suited for

  • In-person trainers looking to up their PowerPoint game
  • Authors looking to create video-based learning

8. Lectora

Lectora is a cloud-based authoring tool offering the opportunity to create custom e-learning content. Let’s take a closer look:

Pros

  • Supports multiple e-learning formats: Lectora supports HTML5, xAPI (TinCan), SCORM, and AICC.
  • Cloud-based collaboration: Like other cloud-based authoring tools, Lectora can be accessed from any internet-connected device across Mac and Windows computers. This facilitates remote collaboration and reviews, making it easier to create scalable content.
  • PowerPoint Importer: Lectora enables you to continue working on your existing PowerPoint training content by importing it into the tool.

Cons

  • Complex user interface: Lectora comes with a steep learning curve, especially if you’re not an experienced instructional designer. Moreover, there are limited support services to lean on.
  • Slow response rate from support: Next to limited support services, Lectora may also be slow to respond to support-related requests, at least according to online reviews.

Best suited for

  • Experienced authors with a background in design
  • Authors looking to collaborate remotely

9. Synapse

Synapse is another prominent e-learning software focused on managing training requests and increasing productivity for L&D teams. It offers training request management, project planning, and content authoring features. Here’s how they stand out:

Pros

  • User-friendly: According to online reviews, Synapse is very easy to use. Its course authoring features are particularly easy for those without a background in instructional design.
  • Project management: The tool specializes in L&D operations, making it an ideal solution for central learning departments looking to keep up with training requests centrally.

Cons

  • Not an authoring tool: While Synapse offers built-in course authoring functions, creating e-learning content is best done with a tool that specializes in authoring.
  • Expensive: Users have also reported that Synapse can be very expensive. If your Learning & Development team is on a tight budget, this may be an issue.

Best suited for

  • Learning & Development teams looking to manage training requests
  • Learning & Development teams looking to increase their efficiency

10. isEazy

Headquartered in Spain, isEazy is an e-learning authoring tool that promotes a user-friendly experience for content creators. Here’s a closer look at its pros and cons:

Pros

  • User-friendly: isEazy’s interface is easy to navigate. They also offer a WYSIWYG editor that allows you to edit your content exactly as it would appear in the final version.
  • Range of content templates: The software makes it easy to create interactive content thanks to its wide range of templates that are easy to customize.
  • Ideal for a Spanish market: As the company is headquartered in Spain, isEazy’s support services may be ideal for companies with a large presence in the country.

Cons

  • Better suited for presentations: Though they offer a wide range of interactive content options, the tool is better suited to create visually enhanced presentation slides rather than an asynchronous e-learning experience.
  • Ideal for a Spanish market: This can be an advantage if your organization has a large presence in Spain. But if not, you may find isEazy’s support services limited.

Best suited for

  • Subject matter experts
  • Authors looking to create visually enhanced PowerPoint presentations
  • Authors looking to create an interactive learning experience

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Conclusion

As we’ve covered, there are different types of e-learning software out there for you to choose from. However, at the end of the day, choosing the right authoring tool largely depends on your organization’s unique goals and needs. Once you’ve identified what problem you’re trying to solve, you’ll have a much easier time identifying the authoring features you need, and therefore, the right type of e-learning software.

If you’re still not sure where to start, we recommend signing up for a free 14-day trial of Easygenerator, during which you get unlimited access to our authoring features. Our user-friendly interface makes it easy for anyone to start creating engaging courses and resources. And if you ever find yourself stuck, our personalized support services are always at your fingertips. Just leverage our live, in-app support chat, or reach out to our customer support team for a personalized onboarding session.

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About the author

Alexandra Hemmer is a copywriter at Easygenerator. Originally from Singapore, she spent her higher education years in the U.S. where she kickstarted a career in content marketing and journalism. She currently resides in the Netherlands, embracing her Dutch-Indonesian roots.

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