If you’re anything like the vast majority of The Guild community, you’re interested in authoring tools (I sure am!). When we asked survey respondents for the 2013 Authoring Tools research report to tell us why asynchronous authoring tools are important to them, the vast majority (84.4%) of the 1,055 respondents said they use authoring tools to create eLearning, and 35.3% said they teach others how to use the tools. Over a quarter of the respondents manage people who use authoring tools.

Figure 1 shows that of those that use authoring tools, 45.9% consider themselves to be advanced beginners to intermediate-level developers and 49.2% consider themselves to be advanced to expert developers, a fairly even split.

Figure 1: Skill level with authoring

Last month I discussed what The 2013 Authoring Tools research report said were respondents’ most used asynchronous eLearning authoring tools, their most important asynchronous eLearning authoring tool, and one asynchronous eLearning authoring tool they’ve considered buying. We also discussed this report at DevLearn 2013 last month, where the audience felt that some of the information in that area of the report was surprising, especially since the lineup of favorite tools has changed since our last report a few years ago. But that’s the exciting thing about the Guild’s tools-research reports, things do tend to move around over time!

This month I’d like to discuss the last half of the report, an in-depth analysis of respondents’ view of the importance of individual asynchronous eLearning authoring tool features.

We knew that respondents considered the most important aspect of an asynchronous eLearning authoring tool to be its features. So we wanted to ask respondents about the importance of specific authoring tool features. Realizing that there could be differences between different kinds of developers, we started first with a question about the importance of power or ease of use (Figure 2). Because Figure 1 showed a split on skill level, you might expect a real split on this question.

We intentionally set the question up as a dichotomy to force respondents to choose. Contrary to what you might expect, many more chose power, instead of ease of use.

Figure 2: Importance of power versus ease of use

We asked a lot of questions in this section about many different types of authoring features (assessments, branching, audio, video, templates, community, progress tracking, etc.). I picked out one feature to share with you.

All assessment micro-features rated as important

Respondents who said that assessment features were important in an asynchronous eLearning authoring tool were asked to rate the features shown in Figure 3. All of the features received a high or very high rating from 50% or more of the respondents, which isn’t surprising, as assessments are relatively important in asynchronous eLearning.

Below are the ratings of each of the assessment micro-features in order of score. (Ratings are the percentage of people who rated the micro-feature high or very high.)

  1. Can choose from wide variety of question types (including multiple choice, fill-in, and hot spot) (94.7%)
  2. Can require questions to be answered (93.6%)
  3. Can show review of question after score (92.2%)
  4. Can format question pages as desired (91.1%)
  5. Can track assessments (90.3%)
  6. Can create randomized questions (84.4%)
  7. Can create global quiz preferences (83.7%)
  8. Can shuffle answers (83.0%)
  9. Can add media to questions (82.6%)
  10. Can randomize questions from banks or pools (80.6%)
  11. Can create pretests where results drive course navigation (76.3%)
  12. Can show references (such as electronic references) to be used with questions (77.2%)

Figure 3: How respondents rated assessment features in asynchronous eLearning authoring tools

Important features overall: top five

At the end of all of the features sections, I was able to determine what respondents felt were the most important features overall by rating percentage and I listed the top-20 features. I’ll list the top-five features for you here.

  1. Can customize how interactions look and feel (95.2%)
  2. Can use numerous text-formatting options (styles, bullets, justification, etc.) (95.2%)
  3. Can choose from a wide variety of question types (including multiple choice, fill-in, and hot spot)  (94.7%)
  4. Can make objects on the screen interactive (93.8%)
  5. Can require questions to be answered (93.6%)

What do you think of these top five features? One thing was obvious in looking at the Top 20: instructional quality and interactivity were quite important to respondents. Great news!

There’s a lot of important information in this report for practitioners, managers, and vendors. With so many developers and authoring trainers responding, this data is really quite valuable. Get your hands on a copy of this report so you can use it to make good decisions about authoring. Thanks to all the people who responded to this (and other) surveys, making this kind of quality data available to our community!