Selecting course creation tools for asynchronous learning can be a time-consuming task. 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. This article is an update and follow-up to information that has been previously published in Learning Solutions. Like those earlier articles, this one offers an outline of key steps that will take you to resources that should at least save you time.
Authoring tools may be individual tools that you install on a computer, they may be add-ins or plug-ins that extend the capability of PowerPoint to make course development faster, or they may be cloud-based Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) that makes life easier in these days when your development team may be located around the globe.
Begin at the beginning
First, you should identify key features that will support the course you are developing. In addition, the authoring tool will need to be able to convert your content to HTML5 or SCORM in order to deliver the course to your learners.
Most authoring tools have a limited range of potential types of learning they are intended to support. For example:
- Stand-alone courses installed and running on the learner's desktop machine
- Web-based courses
- Interactive eBooks
- Games and simulations
- Cloud-based training labs
- Software and IT products
- Soft skills
- Small business
Your authoring tool will need to support the media in which you expect to need to deliver courses. You may not need to cover all the possibilities, but ones to consider include:
- Various image file types
You will almost certainly need your authoring tool to support accessibility features (Section 508 support) for learners living with disabilities.
Ask the right questions
There are many questions to ask during the search for an authoring tool, including:
- The learning curve for developers and for learners
- The platform (Windows, Mac, mobile, web) that the authoring tool uses and on which the content will be delivered
- Support in the tool for different types of learning designs, including:
- Conventional eLearning courses
- Branching scenarios
- Interactive videos
Know what you want to pay and how
Cost and payment are always important questions. For authoring tools, the possibilities are:
- Free trial, followed by licensing
- Subscription (monthly or annual)
- One-time license
These are ancillary apps that are not actually eLearning applications, but software needed for various types of media development. See the article "Free Ancillary Tools for Course Authoring" for a guide to important examples that you will need from time to time.
Know where to find available tools and their requirements
You can 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. There are 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, which provide efficient filters to help you focus your search: