Online learning has become indispensable in the modern digital era. With the rise of remote work and demand for reskilling, e-learning authoring tools have become a necessity to create engaging online courses quickly.
This guide will provide a comprehensive overview of e-learning authoring and help you choose the right tools to design high-quality courses without coding.
What is E-Learning Authoring?
E-learning authoring refers to the process of creating digital learning content like online courses, quizzes, simulations, and assessments using authoring software.
These tools provide built-in templates, interactions, media, and assessment tools to develop engaging learning experiences without programming knowledge.
Benefits of E-Learning Authoring Tools
Here are some key benefits of using e-learning authoring tools:
Faster course creation: Pre-built templates and drag-and-drop interactions reduce development time significantly compared to coding a course from scratch.
Engaging learning: Interactive elements like gamification, simulations, branching scenarios, and adaptive learning personalize and immerse learners.
Easy collaboration: Cloud-based authoring tools allow multiple contributors to work together easily from any location.
Lower costs: No need for physical classrooms or instructors for each learner. Courses can be rolled out across the organization.
Consistency: Standardized course templates ensure consistent learning experiences.
Customization: Tailor courses to your organization‘s needs by tweaking templates instead of rebuilding them.
Scalability: Courses can be updated easily and delivered to large audiences across geographic distances.
Analytics: Get detailed insights into learner progress and engagement. Identify gaps and optimize course effectiveness.
Thus, e-learning authoring tools streamline course creation, lower costs, enhance engagement and personalization, and provide data-driven insights.
Types of E-Learning Authoring Tools
There are three main types of e-learning authoring tools:
1. Cloud-Based Authoring Tools
Cloud-based tools are accessed online through a web browser. They are hosted on remote servers instead of installing software on each user‘s device.
- Accessible from anywhere with an internet connection
- Faster deployment without installation
- Seamless collaboration in real-time
- Automatic updates
- Need constant internet connectivity
- Limited offline functionality
- Less control over software management
Examples: Articulate 360, Adobe Captivate Prime, EdApp
2. Desktop Authoring Tools
These are installed locally on each user‘s computer and allow working offline. They provide advanced features for expert e-learning designers.
- Work offline after installation
- Advanced creative options
- Stable performance
- More control over software
- Need installation on each system
- Collaboration can be challenging
- Upgrades need individual updating
Examples: Articulate Storyline, Adobe Captivate, Lectora Inspire
3. Rapid Authoring Tools
Rapid tools are plugins that extend Microsoft PowerPoint with e-learning features to quickly convert presentations into online courses.
- Fast course creation using existing PowerPoint slides
- Easy to learn for new authors
- Retain PowerPoint‘s ease of use
- Reliant on PowerPoint
- Less advanced features
- Need Microsoft Office
Examples: Adobe Presenter, Articulate Studio, iSpring Suite
So which type of authoring tool is best for your needs? Consider these factors:
Team collaboration: Cloud-based tools facilitate seamless teamwork.
Advanced features: Desktop tools offer richer creative options for expert designers.
Offine access: Desktop tools allow working without internet connectivity.
Fast course creation: Rapid tools leverage existing PowerPoint slides to accelerate authoring.
6 Key Factors When Selecting an E-Learning Authoring Tool
Choosing the right e-learning authoring tool is crucial to create engaging, high-quality courses efficiently. Consider these key factors during your selection process:
1. Intuitive User Interface
The interface must be easy for both expert and novice users to learn quickly. Complex tools with a steep learning curve can slow down content creation.
Look for an intuitive drag-and-drop timeline or workflow, customizable templates, and a visually appealing WYSIWYG editor.
2. Collaboration Features
Authoring e-learning courses involves teams of SMEs, graphic designers, reviewers etc.
Choose a tool with built-in collaboration capabilities like:
- Real-time co-authoring
- User role management
- Version control
This streamlines working together remotely and improves productivity.
3. Responsive Output
With mobile learning on the rise, it‘s vital that courses are responsive across devices like smartphones, tablets, laptops etc.
The authoring tool must support responsive HTML5 output that adapts seamlessly across screen sizes and orientations without loss of functionality.
4. Assessment Creation
Quizzes, surveys, polls, and other assessments are key to engaging learners and tracking comprehension.
Look for a tool with an easy wizard to create interactive assessments without coding them individually.
5. Analytics and Reporting
Data analytics provide visibility into learner engagement and content effectiveness.
Choose a tool integrated with an LMS that offers dashboards to view completion rates, score trends, frequently missed questions etc.
Pricing models for authoring tools include:
- One-time perpetual license fee
- Monthly/annual subscription
- Per-learner pricing
- Free versions with limited features
Evaluate all cost components like license, hosting, updates, support etc. factoring in your team size, number of learners etc.
7 Key Questions to Ask Before Choosing an E-Learning Authoring Tool
Here are some important questions to ask when evaluating authoring systems:
1. What is your output format?
- SCORM for compatibility with most LMSs
- xAPI for capturing detailed learner interactions
- AICC for aviation and defense organizations
- LTI for education institutions
- HTML5 for device responsiveness
Choose tools that output to formats matching your tech stack.
2. What level of technical expertise is needed?
- Code-free drag-and-drop tools are easy for beginners
- Advanced tools offer programming for complex interactions
- Some tools require HTML/CSS knowledge
Evaluate team skills to determine the level of complexity needed.
3. Does it integrate with your LMS and HR systems?
- Integration with your LMS, SSO, and HRMS avoids data silos
- Some tools even offer built-in LMS functionality
Proper integrations provide a seamless learning experience.
4. Does it offer robust asset management?
- Asset libraries allow reusing media and templates across courses
- Version control maintains updates efficiently
- Search helps locate assets quickly
Organized assets prevent duplication and aid consistency.
5. How does it support accessibility standards?
- ADA, WCAG compliance enables access for disabled learners
- Look for tools that allow adding alt text, captions etc.
Follow accessibility best practices to make learning inclusive.
6. Does it offer custom branding and themes?
- Match your organization‘s brand guidelines for a cohesive look
- Choose tools that allow applying styles, logos, themes etc.
Customize courses to align with your brand identity.
7. What third-party extensions are available?
- Some tools offer plugins to add extra functionality like simulations, VR etc.
- Open API allows connecting with other edtech apps
Extensions bolster capabilities for unique learning interactions.
By answering these key questions, you can determine the best e-learning authoring tool aligned with your business needs.
Top E-Learning Authoring Tools Compared
Now let‘s examine some of the leading e-learning authoring platforms in more detail:
1. Adobe Captivate
Adobe Captivate is a premium desktop authoring tool offering advanced features, themes, and responsive output.
- Intuitive drag-and-drop timeline
- 2500+ eLearning templates
- High-fidelity simulations
- VR capabilities
- HTML5 responsive publishing
- Assessment builder
- Analytics integration
- Accessibility support
- Mobile app for review and publishing
Pricing: $24/month individual plan. Volume discounts available.
Who‘s it for? Medium to large businesses wanting advanced responsive courses. Expert e-learning designers.
2. Articulate 360
Articulate 360 brings together leading authoring apps like Storyline and Rise with collaborative cloud authoring and publishing.
- Multi-app authoring suite
- Cloud-based content collaboration
- Responsive courses on any device
- Customizable interactions
- Quizzes, surveys, and assessments
- Analytics and reporting
- Content and user management
- LMS integrations
- Accessibility compliant
Pricing: $999/year for 1 license. Volume pricing available.
Who‘s it for? Large organizations wanting multi-tool authoring capabilities combined with cloud collaboration.
Easygenerator enables code-free course development in a cloud-based platform with ready-made templates.
- Intuitive drag-and-drop builder
- Responsive mobile-ready courses
- Custom themes and branding
- Built-in translation tool
- Collaboration workflow
-Quizzes and assessments
- SCORM compliant
- Analytics dashboard
- API integration
Pricing: Free version. Premium plans start at $299/month.
Who‘s it for? SMBs and startups wanting quick course authoring capabilities in the cloud.
4. iSpring Suite
iSpring Suite is a PowerPoint add-on for rapid e-learning development.
- 2200+ course templates
- Drag-and-drop interactions
- Quizzes, surveys, and forms
- Screencasting and video lectures
- HTML5 responsive output
- LMS integration
- Analytics dashboard
- Accessibility support
Pricing: $699/year personal plan. Volume discounts available.
Who‘s it for? Organizations with existing PowerPoint slides who want to convert them into interactive online courses quickly.
5. SAP Litmos
Litmos provides cloud-based course authoring combined with its learner experience platform.
- Intuitive course builder
- Robust SCORM support
- Custom branding theming
- Responsive design
- API based integrations
- Dashboard analytics
- Role-based permissions
Pricing: Contact Litmos sales for quote based on needs
Who‘s it for? Mid to large enterprises that need integrated authoring and delivery capabilities.
Getting Started With E-Learning Authoring
Here are some tips to kickstart your e-learning authoring journey:
Start small: Don‘t build complex courses initially. Start with a short module focusing on 1-2 learning objectives.
Use templates: Leverage preset templates to quickly build the course structure instead of starting from a blank canvas.
Focus on visuals: Use images, iconography, and videos to communicate visually. Avoid lengthy text.
Add interactivity: Include drag-and-drops, hotspots, hover effects etc. to engage learners.
Test responsiveness: View the course on different devices like mobiles, tablets, laptops, and desktops.
Review analytics: Check completion rates, test scores, dwell times etc. to identify gaps and improve course effectiveness.
Gather feedback: Get input from SMEs and learners to incorporate improvements in the next version.
E-learning authoring tools empower anyone to create interactive digital learning experiences quickly without coding. With their pre-built templates and streamlined workflows, you can develop engaging courses that improve learner outcomes and save time and costs.
Evaluate your team skills, business needs, and technology environment to choose the right e-learning authoring platform. Leading solutions like Adobe Captivate, Articulate 360, Easygenerator, and iSpring Suite offer a balance of features, ease of use and output quality.
Start small, continually test and optimize your courses, and explore more advanced functionality offered by these tools. With the right authoring solution, you can deliver impactful learning that boosts workforce productivity and organizational success.