One way that eLearning authoring tools distinguish themselves from their competitors is the raft of features they offer. Many L&D pros even switch tools because they’re adamant about having a certain feature. But purchasing a tool based on a feature that you’ll never use can lead to a poor choice of a tool that can be your work companion for years.

Authoring Tools 2019, an eLearning Guild research report, tabulates members’ responses to questions about the features they use and what they’d look for in a new or additional tool.

Most popular features

Many popular eLearning authoring tools pack a lot of power. Features that L&D professionals are most likely to use lead with quizzes—44 percent of survey respondents use them. Audio tools and image and asset libraries round out the top three.

Some respondents commented that they’d like to see AR/VR features or gamification added to popular authoring tools, but these are features that get little use: Only 8 percent of respondents use the game features in their authoring tools—and a mere 2.5 percent are building AR or VR content. In the middle of the pack are text, animation, scenario-building tools, screen recording, video, and mobile or responsive output.

Users like their tools to be easy to learn and flexible, and they want tools to have strong support.

Beware marketing hype

Authoring tool features don’t always live up to expectations. Disappointment with an authoring tool may stem from users’ experience with a much-needed feature falling short. Asset libraries may turn out to be full of unusable images or be poorly organized and lack search capability. And, “A number of respondents complained that supposedly ‘responsive’ output was not really responsive,” the report states.

A great way to find out about how features actually work is networking with peers. Engage with user forums and attend events like the DemoFest showcase of eLearning projects, hosted twice annually at eLearning Guild conferences, where you can see what authoring tools can do and talk to eLearning developers about how they use each tool.

Think beyond authoring tools

Even the vendors admit that flashy features are a poor reason to choose an authoring tool: “The bells and whistles that differentiate the products are so rarely used.” Instead, focus on your goals and needs, as well as who will be using the tool and their skill level.

The days of working with an LMS plus an authoring tool—and that’s it—are past. Supporting some new and popular eLearning functionality, like digital credentials or branching scenarios, could require LMS support as well as an additional tool with the ability to create the content or the credential system.

That elusive single solution that does it all may never exist. Rather than purchase a new authoring tool to add learning games or VR-based eLearning capability, consider add-on or dedicated tools when you want to create new types of eLearning. And consider embracing the LXP or learning experience platform paradigm. Using an LXP allows integration of an LMS, content authored in your existing tools, and newer forms of eLearning, workflow learning, and performance support, such as:

Get to know your authoring tool

Above all, before purchasing a new authoring tool, become an expert user of the ones you have! In addition to user forums and video help tutorials, learn and network with other eLearning professionals, and read Authoring Tools 2019, free from The eLearning Guild. Advance to the next level with a hands-on workshop: DevLearn 2019 Conference & Expo offers daylong workshops on using Storyline and Captivate—for both beginning and experienced users.