Changing authoring tools is not a new problem for eLearning pros, and there have been many approaches to the task. In this article, I offer a quick overview of selection criteria that work.

The T-Set

One approach that appeared in Learning Solutions and has had wide adoption is called the T-Set. It was developed by Joe Ganci and John Hart, and it boils down authoring tool selection to optimization across four important factors:

  • Talent: Who does the work? Will it be done in-house or by others? Does your in-house team have the bandwidth (skill set) to do the work? Are all three key roles (instructional designers, subject matter experts, programmers) involved in the project?
  • Topics: What is the topic (or task) to be learned? Is the topic complex, is there a lot to be learned? Do the topics involve closed, discrete lessons, or more open-ended needs? Are they more linear (information and compliance) or will they require branching and non-linear navigation?
  • Techniques: Which of the four basic techniques (tell me; show me; let me; test me) will be used to facilitate learning?
  • Tools: Is the choice of tool guided by strategy, not driven by marketing? A tool strategy is one in which you take into account the talent you have in place, the topic to be learned, and the techniques to be used. It also involves taking into consideration the characteristics of the company that makes a tool you are considering.

The article by Ganci and Hart linked above is one that is essential reading as part of your tool selection preparation.

Authoring tool features everyone wants

In the past, Guild Research has surveyed readers to learn which features are at the top of their “important” lists. Here, in no particular order, are the ones that turn up often. You may want to look in the various software review sites for tools that have strengths in the features that are most important to you.

  • Can customize how interactions look and feel
  • Can use numerous text-formatting options (styles, bullets, justification, etc.)
  • Can choose from a wide variety of question types (multiple choice, fill-in, hot spot)
  • Can make objects on the screen interactive
  • Can require questions to be answered
  • Support for accessibility
  • Support for responsive content
  • Support for video output and interactive content

What kind of learning delivery?

  • Stand-alone courses installed and running on the learner's desktop machine
  • Web-based courses
  • Mobile learning on mobile devices
  • Interactive eBooks
  • Cloud-based training labs

What kind of topics?

  • Equipment operation, troubleshooting, and repair
  • Software and IT products
  • Soft skills
  • Compliance
  • Small business skills

What kind of media will be required?

  • Text
  • Video
  • Animations
  • Various image file types
  • Audio

What kind of learning designs?

  • Conventional eLearning courses
  • Microlearning
  • Branching scenarios
  • Simulations
  • Interactive videos

What kind of platform will be available for developing eLearning?

  • Windows
  • Mac
  • Mobile
  • Web

What do you want to pay and how?

  • Free
  • Free trial, followed by licensing
  • Subscription (monthly or annual)
  • One-time license

Support from publisher/vendor

  • What kind of support is available for learning to use the tool?
  • Are there active groups of users?
  • Are there webinars or courses on the tools?