Comparing Online Authoring Tools
This was originally posted on td.org in November 2018.
Choosing the right e-learning authoring tool for the job is a daunting process. Not only do you have to take stock of your existing L&D assets and liabilities, but you’ve also got to figure out which tool will work best for your overall vision. Our experience in the training and development industry has given us a unique perspective on two of the most popular authoring tools on the market—Articulate’s Storyline series and Adobe’s Captivate. We’ve also developed our own in-house authoring tool called DesignLab. Each tool is built to handle specific training and development tasks, so we will outline all three.
How to Find the Best Online Authoring Tools
Before we get into the nuts and bolts of each tool, here are some big-picture questions that should be addressed during the selection process:
• Is convenience and ease of use more important than total creative freedom?
• Does your design team have the skills and knowledge base for complex authoring tools, or are you better off with something that anyone can pick up and learn?
• Do you know your audience’s needs and wants?
• Do you need to track user data?
• Is mobile-friendly training a priority?
• Does the price include updates and technical support?
• Are there training resources available?
With those considerations in mind, let’s discuss the nuances of these three authoring tools.
Storyline 360 is a foundational e-learning authoring tool that allows instructional designers to deliver customized, interactive courses to every device. With Storyline, designers can create effective and engaging courses and presentations that include voice-overs, video, animation, and dynamic user interaction using a PowerPoint-style interface.
- The interface is similar to Microsoft PowerPoint.
- Screen adjusts to fit all mobile devices, including landscape- and portrait-view options.
- The responsive player supports touchscreen gestures.
- A content library of over 3 million images, icons, and videos.
- Character animation templates that can change expressions and poses.
Adobe Captivate is an authoring tool that is used for creating e-learning content such as software demonstrations and simulations, branched scenarios, and randomized quizzes. The 2019 release adds new features including creating VR projects for immersive e-learning.
- Voice-over narration.
- Compatible with Photoshop.
- Accessible on both PCs and Macs.
- Monthly subscription option of $30.
- Mobile-friendly display and content previews.
DesignLab is built to optimize flexibility. Its utilization of HTML5 makes it intuitive on mobile and desktop platforms, and the AllenComm team of instructional designers and programmers has created a wide range of activities that allow developers a lot of creative freedom.
- Access to courseware experts.
- Branded templates.
- Ever-expanding activity library.
- Responsive, web-based, interactive, media-rich.
- User-friendly interface.
We’ve had success designing learning solutions in each of the previous authoring tools, but that success depends on a solid plan and strategic resources before implementation. Gaining an understanding of each tool and coupling that understanding with your own assessment of professional goals is the best way to develop an engaging and effective learning solution.
I never use just one authoring tool. For example I work in Storyline 360 but edit my audio in Adobe Audition (you can also use audacity – it’s free). I also use snag-it, ppt, photoshop, after effects and camtasia for screen capturing (I like it better than SL360). I have found that just one tool is not enough! Expand your horizons and bring media elements (audio, video, images, animations) into SL360 – don’t try to create these media elements in SL360.