How to select the right e-Learning authoring tool
Many people ask us what an e-Learning authoring tools is. How is it different from PowerPoint for example, or PDF? On this page we will explain the difference and will try to help you in making a choice for the authoring tool that meets your requirements.
e-Learning authoring tools or course authoring software
An e-Learning authoring tool (or course authoring software) is software that you can use to create e-Learning modules, quizzes or assessments. Like you use Word to create a document, PowerPoint to create a presentation, you can use an e-Learning authoring tool to create online courses and quizzes.
How to select the proper authoring tool
There are hundreds of e-Learning authoring tools around and they come in many shapes and sizes, so how to select the one that fits your requirements? Let’s start with your requirements. You can come up with dozens of requirements, but it will be much more effective to focus on 10 must haves. In order to help you out I will go over a number of them.
Types of authoring tools
There are many ways to divide the hundreds of available tools, here is our division.
Cloud based authoring tools
These tools live in the cloud, so you do not need to install any software. As long as you have a browser and an internet connection you can use them. So the advantages of cloud based tools are: No installation, always the latest version of the software, ability to collaborate with others and they usually will work on any operating system. The main disadvantage is that you need to have an internet connection in order to work.
Easygenerator for example is a cloud based tool. With us you do not have to install anything and you will get weekly updates of the software (new features and bug fixes) without any extra charge. With easygenerator not only your maintenance, but also the hosting and data are included in the subscription, both for the author and for the learner.
Installed authoring tools
These tools need to be installed on your PC, you also have to install updates to get the later version. many tools will charge you for updates and upgrades. So check that before you decide to buy. Main advantage of these tools is that you can work without an internet connection and they are very often very rich in functionality. That is also the biggest disadvantage, it makes them very complex. You have to be an expert in e-Learning and in these kind of tools in order to get the most out of them. Most of these tools require substantial training. Another disadvantage of installed tools is that they will not allow you to collaborate with other users.
Rapid authoring tools
These are also locally installed tools but they are add-ons to PowerPoint. Basically they allow you to add interactions and questions to a PowerPoint presentation. That is the biggest advantage, you probably already know PowerPoint so the basic usage is simple. But these tools have all the disadvantages of installed tools.
Quiz and assessment tools
There are tools specialized in Assessments and quizzes only. Usually they have more question types and different reporting than e-Learning authoring tools. But they are questions only, you can’t add any content pages with information.
In LMS tools
Learning Management Systems are focused on the learning (learners) part, but many of them do have an built in authoring tool. Usually they are very simple and allow you to create pages only. You can’t create a whole course or a complete assessment. You can use an authoring tool together with most LMS. There are two main standards for exchanging information between a course created by an authoring tool and a LMS: make sure both support either SCORM or XAPI. For more details on SCORM and XAPI go to this page
What is your goal?
What do you want to achieve? Just a one-time course, a series of courses, a whole Academy or may just a few assessments? This will determine what you need. If you will be creating content on a daily basis, you probably will take advantage of the more complex tools (installed ones), it will pay of to take a training in these tools. If you will be authoring every now and then, you would want to go for an easy to use cloud based tool like Easygenerator.
Are you an e-Learning expert?
Almost all the tools are aimed at professional e-Learning developers. These tools are rich in functionality but complex and expensive. You need a training to be able to use them. So if you are not an e-Learning expert don’t go there! There are two options for you. If you do have an LMS check out the authoring capabilities. There are limited most of the time, but relatively simple to use. Your other option would be Easygenerator.
Are you the only author?
This is an important one. There are two ways to collaborate. Co-authoring and reviewing. With co-authoring 2 or more authors will write and create the course collaboratively, review will allow you to give subject matter experts access to check your course and make comments. If this is important for you than you probably should check out the cloud based tools first, because all data is stored online it is much easier to collaborate in these tools. It will not surprise you that Easygenerator offers you both co-authoring and reviewing.
How do you want to share your courses and quizzes?
Another really important issue and most of the time, this will cost you the majority of your budget. You can share your courses via a Learning Management System or via a website or intranet. Learning management systems are quit complex, and usually charge per learner. That can be become costly in the long run. If you have a website or intranet (or wiki), you can host your courses there. You create them in an e-Learning authoring tool and ‘publish’ them on one of these web servers. Tracking and tracing can be an issue here tough. You will find that easygenerator will allow you all these options. You can run an Easygenerator course inside a LMS, or any web server. We will track and trace the learners’ results for you at no extra costs. We can even host all courses for you in our cloud, so you can share them with your learners, again at no extra costs. All these services are included in your subscription.
Do you need a Learning Management System or not?
As I wrote in the previous paragraph, you can share your courses and see the results through Easygenerator at no extra costs. But of course we will offer basic functionality and basic reporting. If you need more details, than you can consider a learning management system. Many of our users just start using easygenerator and decide later on if they need to add a learning management system to it.
What kind of devices are your learners using?
People will take your course via their mobile, their tablets or their PC’s. You need to make sure that your courses run perfect on all these devices. In order to do that you need to select a tool that is a responsive (that means it will adapt to the screen size automatically) and bsecondly, make sure it does not use flash (not supported on tablets and many mobile devices).
Subscriptions versus licenses
In general you will find subscriptions in cloud based tools and licenses in tools that you have to install. The licensing model is the old model, the subscription model the new one. Subscriptions can be taken on a monthly or yearly basis and give you more flexibility. A license is a one time purchase that will give you usage over a much longer period. But do take into account that most subscriptions include free updates and upgrades, while you have to pay a significant amount to upgrade a license.
Made up your mind?
We hope that this is helpful for you and that it help you to make up your mind. If you still have some questions, feel free to ask us anything ([email protected]), or join one of our free Q&A sessions on e-Learning.