Insider advice: eLearning editing tools

I’m often asked about authoring tools – either for recommendations or I am asked whether we can build courses using them (the answer is yes – we use all of them by the way). However as we do have some expereience with them all, I thought I’d take the opportunity to provide a quick update on where the world’s at with authoring tools.

A word of warning
One piece of crucial advice – if you buy an authoring tool you’re locking yourself into that tool. Permanently. There is no way to take a tool built in one of them and expect to import it into another. We are occasionally aked for “the storyline” by a client after they elect to buy Articulate years after we developed the course. Sorry – no can do. We built the course in the tool you used at the time! If you now have another tool, you can only use it for new courses.

The players
Firstly – the market status – perhaps not surprisingly the big two – Adobe Captivate and Articulate Storyline are continuing to dominate the market with Trivantis Lectora placed a solid third. However a range of alternatives such as DominKnow, Axonify and TechSmith are carving out solid niches.

Alternatives
For the tech-savvy there is a really good, free option available in Adapt. It has no xAPI at all and (unless you’re able to write your own plugins to extend the tool itself) will not create sophisticated interactions. On the other hand, if you are able to program and you  want courses with a beautiful interface that’s highly responsive for mobile devices, Adapt may be an option.

Some LMSes have built-in authoring tools. Avoid themThey are addons to a system designed for something else. These create courses that are very limited in functionality and suffer from technical limitations. The big issue is that they, like other authoring tools will lock you in to them, but in the case of “built in authoring” in LMSes, you’re lockign yourself into a tool that is limited and will not grow with you. Not only that, but you are also locking yourself into retaining that LMS forever as well!

The review
Articulate has taken an interesting direction recently. As Storyline cannot produce responsive content, it seems to have proven impossible to create good mobile courses. The company’s response has been to sidestep the issue. They have a separate product (Rise) that is mobile compatible. The bad news is that courses are currently not able to be moved from storyline to Rise. Also Rise is somewhat more limited in functionality than Storyline (at the moment at least). Both Storyline and Rise have online cousins and a subscriptino to Artculate 360 provides access to clud based versions of both. However be aware that the installed versions and the cloud versions are not the same. In fact there are rhumours that Rise 360 may lag Rise in the future for functionality. Like other cloud tools, Rise 360 stores your content on a server owned by Articulate.

Both Captivate and Lectora have a reputation for being more difficult to operate than Articulate but have the capability to create more complex modules such as by including VR elements or complex interactions. Don’t buy these tools unless you’re ready for a steep learning curve!

All three of these tools claim to be xAPI ready – a claim that irritates me.

xAPI is not supposed to be a way to do exactly what you do with SCORM. To be truly xAPI aware, I want to see a course measuring how people interact with its interface, collecting statistics on the way they play, rewind and fast forward AV elements, providing granular details on people’s learning.

SCORM is able to capture scores, pass/fail and responses to questions. The easiest way to pretend to be xAPI compatable is to collect all those scorm data and transmit it twice – once in SCORM and once in xAPI. That’s what Lectora, Articulate and Captivate do currently. It does not bring value other than marketing value.

I hope this changes over time, but until then anyone wanting the true value of xAPI needs another tool such as DominKnow which was developed in the wake of the xAPI standard. DominKnow is easier to use then the others here. It produces beautiful courses that are truly responsive. The downside of DominKnow is that it doesn’t offer some of the more complex features you find in Lectora Captivate or Articulate – for example its ability to allow programmers to set variables and add programming code is limited. You would probably struggle to create a complex educational game (for example) with DominKnow.

Note – Global Vision Media is a DominKnow partner

 

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