A recent eLearning Guild research paper, Authoring Tools 2019, found that most respondents are happy with their authoring tools—and analyzed members’ responses to questions about why they would change or add a new tool. The author, Jane Bozarth, also spoke with vendors about how their customers select and use their products.

One takeaway is that L&D professionals should get to know their existing tools better before casting them aside for newer, flashier models.

Know what you’ve got before moving on

Vendors, naturally, want to see customers take advantage of their support offerings and become expert users—especially if the customer is considering changing tools.

Though only about 8 percent of survey respondents said they were interested in replacing their authoring tool, an additional 19 percent were considering adding an authoring tool. Of these groups, though, nearly three-quarters said the reason was that they wanted additional features.

At the same time, vendors report that “most additional features people request end up being the ones most rarely used.” Other users assume that their tool lacks a feature—without paying attention to updates, advanced features, and productivity enhancements in their existing tools.

Vendors also lament the lack of savvy among some shoppers: “A question like, ‘Should we buy Camtasia or Rise?’ indicates more work is needed to specify desired end results, and more clarification around what different tools do.” Camtasia is a tool for creating video tutorials from screencasts, while Rise is an authoring app that creates responsive online courses.

The upshot? Before deciding to make a costly switch or addition, think through the business reasons you’re considering a change or seeking to add a particular feature—and be sure your existing tool lacks it. A data-based evaluation of whether you’ll really use that feature could convince you that it’s not worth the pain of changing tools.

A support quandary

Bozarth’s research revealed a disconnect—or perhaps tension—between vendors and L&D professionals on the issue of support.

From the vendors’ perspective, L&D professionals should be investing more time in learning how to use their authoring tools. “Be careful of the temptation to pick up a tool and start using it without checking any of the training or help resources. Often people jump in, hit a hurdle, then say the tool is too difficult and doesn’t do what they need,” one vendor told Bozarth.

Even when users do reach out for assistance, vendors find that “Most of our support calls have to do with features users could learn about if they just checked the support resources.”

Support resources often include documentation, tutorial videos, webinars, and user forums.

But the user responses pushed back against these assumptions, emphasizing that it can be hard to find support that resolves a specific issue or question by searching vast video libraries and user forums. “I have to go to a forum or watch video tutorials to get help. Sometimes I need direct communication with a human,” one practitioner commented.

Look beyond vendor support

The eLearning Guild offers myriad opportunities to learn about using authoring tools from your professional peers, whether through Learning Solutions articles and research reports, online conferences, or workshops, sessions, and in-person networking at annual conferences. The DemoFest showcase of eLearning projects, hosted twice annually at eLearning Guild events—DevLearn and Learning Solutions Conferences—helps users understand what authoring tools can do and provides opportunities to see completed eLearning projects and talk to the developers.

DevLearn 2019 Conference & Expo offers daylong workshops on using Storyline and Captivate—for both beginning and experienced users.