With all the advances in software over the past several years and the changes to UX (user-centered) focus, plus the need for agile response to change, 2023 is already a challenging year. In this article I will identify some of the trends that eLearning designers and developers face, and how these trends affect selection of authoring tools.
There are several refinements for eLearning design that are increasingly important this year. These include:
- Adaptive learning — Adaptive learning makes use of computer technology to create learning experiences and content that matches the particular needs of individuals. The result is engaging, personalized learning experiences.
- Multi-device compatibility — Delivery platforms can automatically optimize content and delivery for use with an increasing variety of technologies and devices.
- Virtual/augmented reality — Apply immersive technologies to eLearning and performance support respectively, boosting engagement and retention. "Hands-on" simulations and learning aids allow learners to explore complex concepts, systems, and more.
- Gamification — Design elements such as points, leaderboards, accomplishments, and badges help make the learning process more fun and engaging.
- Artificial intelligence — AI-driven features such as automated workflows, behavioral analytics, natural language processing, and conversational interfaces can reduce the authoring burden while helping learners reach their goals faster.
The objective of these refinements for online delivery is learning experiences that at least match the best classroom and experiential instruction, at a lower cost. Each of these design choices demands a match to particular features and capabilities in authoring software.
Authoring tool capabilities are increasing
Design and development expert (and presenter at Learning Solutions 2023) Tracy Parish observes that:
“Something I have found fascinating with authoring tools over the last several years is that the vendors seem to be trying to allow eLearning developers to do so much more, but at the same time finding ways to simplify the tools so that ‘anyone can make eLearning’. What is intriguing in this is that, yes, someone can take a bunch of text about any given subject, use an appropriate authoring tool and get something that is slick, easy to navigate, and responsive. However, what is also happening is that you are seeing seasoned eLearning developers start ‘bending the rules’ of what is being experienced by the learners in these created courses.
Matching software to design requirements
Authoring software must keep pace with changes in practice and technology. In choosing an authoring platform it is vital to think beyond the latest “shiny objects.” Your choices should provide the features and capabilities necessary to enable agile development and flexible workflow. Look for software that matches your situation, that supports the design capability needed for your organization’s strategic goals, and is within the authoring skillsets of your designers and developers.
The key to matching design requirements, skillsets, and workflow can be found in online review sites. There are a number of these sites and it makes sense to take a look at several of them. In addition, the Learning Guild has published many articles and online resources to help practitioners organize this effort and to make good choices based on impartial reviews. Finally, Guild events, both online and in person, feature presentations by experienced developers who address specific approaches to design.
Other factors to consider are the upskilling and reskilling of a population of learners still working from home or just returning to the office, and the requirements that instruction must satisfy for development of hard and soft skills, for regulatory compliance, and for onboarding of new employees. All of these translate to particular features needed in authoring tools.
Begin at the beginning
First, you should identify key features that will support the learning experience you are creating. Next, most organizations already use an LMS. You will need to ensure that the authoring tool you choose is compatible with your LMS and that both the authoring tool and the LMS are compatible with your intended use.
Most authoring tools have a limited range of potential types of learning they can support. For example:
- Standalone courses installed and running on the learner's desktop machine
- Web-based courses
- Soft skills
Your authoring tools will need to support the media in which you intend to deliver courses. The major categories to be sure about are:
- Various image file types
Although not a media type, you will almost certainly need your authoring tool to support accessibility features (Section 508 support) for learners living with disabilities.
Ask the right questions
- The learning curve for developers and for learners
- The platform (Windows, Mac, mobile, web) that the authoring tool uses
Support in the tool for different types of learning experiences, including:
- Conventional eLearning courses
- Branching scenarios
- Interactive videos
Finally, you will want to ask whether the tool will run on mobile devices.
Know what you want to pay and how
Cost and payment options are always important questions. For authoring tools, the possibilities are:
- Free trial, followed by licensing
- Subscription (monthly or annual)
- One-time license
Know where to find available tools and their requirements
You may try to rely on advertisements that you find online or in the mail, but if you have particular requirements you may need to review a larger scope of information and tools to find what you need to best serve your situation.
You may also want to search online services that provide impartial reviews and other details of various tools in an easy-to-use format. For this, I recommend starting with these three web sites, which provide efficient filters to help you focus your search:
Finally, if possible, request a trial version of the authoring tool so that you can test its features before making a commitment.
Good luck in finding just the right eLearning authoring software for your situation!
Learn more about instructional technology and design, tools, techniques, and more at Learning Solutions 2023 in Orlando, April 12-14, 2023
Here are some examples:
No-to-Low Budget Video Capturing and Editing Tools, Video & Media Track
In-class to Online: Lessons Learned Shifting the Delivery of a Workshop, Virtual Classrooms Track
Upskilling Your Design Skills, Tools & Techniques, Development & Tools Track
BYOD: Amazing Apps: 8 Tools You Can Use Immediately on Your Next Project, Development & Tools Track
BYOD: The Art of the Prompt: Unlocking the Potential of AI in Learning, Emerging Tech Track