Instructional Design

How to Choose the Right Course-Authoring Tool

talentlms_blog_thumbsSo, you have the content ready with learning objectives. You have also planned out the assessment items and completed the storyboard. The best part is, you are enjoying this instructional design process. It has your creative juices on a free flow!

You have come up with a storyline to embed in your new course. A fictional character that has problems and needs the learners’ help through active decision making process. Well done! What have you planned about the eLearning development? Have you a selected an authoring tool? A software that will convert your notes into the actual course? A tool that will enable you to integrate multimedia at the right places.

With the market rife with these tools, selection can be a daunting process. In this article we uncover the tips to help you choose the perfect course authoring tool. We are helping you to match your course development needs with the features available in popular course authoring tools. So brace yourself, here’s something you never knew!

Determine your objective

ELearning courses are designed according to the course objectives. Are you aiming to provide information, skill or change in behavior? If it’s all about disseminating knowledge, your course will be linear with periodic assessments and revision opportunities. If it’s a skill, you need to simulate the real-world operational equipment and/or environment. If it’s a behavior change you need to teach.

Think of scenarios that replicate the work context of your learner. Define your course objective as a knowledge, skill or attitude (KSA).

Establish your course delivery resources

Are your learners remotely distributed and this course is completely offline? Is the course administered live while still online? Is it a blend between in-class and online instruction? Will this course be accessed using mobile devices? This is the right time to ask these questions.

What is the level of interactivity of your course?

Not all e-courses are created equal. Some are simple “click for next” while some are “click to know more”. Are you planning to add videos, clickable images, real-life scenarios (we bet you are!), or other elements?

Many eLearning authoring tools have templates with libraries of digital learning objects that are quite simple to add. Determine how interactive you want your course to be.

Do you need course performance and evaluation analytics?

Business intelligence, big data and data analytical tools have found their way into educational technology tools. A lot of eLearning tools provide analytical tools that track learners’ behavior, performance, gaps and overall effectiveness of the course. These tools demand a higher price, but the investment is well worth it.

The basic goal of any eLearning course is to give knowledge and test its acquisition. Tracking tools provide insights to your efforts, as well as measure if your efforts really accomplished the basic goal.

Do you have an LMS in place?

Make sure the course authoring tool you select will be compatible to your current learning management system. Determining this in the beginning saves you the hassle of changing your deliverable formats later on.

Ease of use or more control?

Assess your personal technical skills. How good are you in learning a new software? Most eLearning authoring tools and learning management systems come with a WYSIWYG interface. The user does not need to know the programming details at all.

But, such software may limit your creative control. Are you okay with the course templates available? Or do you believe in custom made courses that allow you deeper control over the elements? So while choosing your eLearning tool you will have to consider between a convenient tool and the one that provides more control over your course.

Don’t forget about quiz and assessment creation

Think of your course as a waste of time if you have very few assessment items. Align your course objectives with assessment items. Do you need a tool that offers a variety of assessment items? Are you offering more artifact upload assessment options and long textual answers?

The current eLearning authoring tools offer advanced character recognition and scoring for more control over how learners are assessed. Think of your needs and search for the right tool.

Think of your learners’ needs

How digitally savvy are your learners? Are they teens? Are they seniors? Are they experts? Are they novice? Is this a job-aid? Or a full-fledged course? Think of your learners and use the appropriate features in your eLearning authoring tool. A well-planned content will inevitably fail if not suited for your audience.

Budget, budget, budget!

When you are done with your research, you will discover an impressive list of tools that you would like to try. Most of the software come with options like “cloud based” or as a desktop application. Both have pros and cons. Both come with a monthly or an one-time cost.

Analyze your technical capabilities and determine the value of the software’s support system available with each tool. Each option comes with a price tag. The best advice we can provide, is to try out the authoring tool or the learning management system for free for some time. Discover your comfort level with the features and the degree of responsiveness from the support team.

These tips should help you plan your budget appropriately.

Conclusion

“Over-whelming” is the only word that comes to mind when going through an eLearning authoring tool exercise. With these tips, the selection process should be easier.

While you narrow your choices, write down features you need and evaluate each tool with the degree of availability and support for that feature. Challenge yourself into learning new programs and software. It will only build your technical skillset and enable you some advanced control over your courses.

By the way, if you are looking to hire an instructional designer we suggest you talk with Vicki from Digital Wits, who is great at her services and as a person 🙂

  • Paul Schneider

    Great overview of things for folks to think about! I would add a couple more items
    * Are you going to be doing this 100% on your own, or do you have team members to collaborate with when developing the course.
    * How will you be managing the review process (and or approval) of your course materials before it is ready for learners?
    * When it comes to updates how will you be managing your content, where will you store it etc.
    * How does this course fit into your overall long term strategy? How many courses do you plan on developing, are you designing multiple courses that have the same or shared (reused) elements across courses? What other output formats (besides SCORM) do you need?

  • Rob Allen

    Will Adobe Captivate 9 work well with Talent LMS? Is it a tool recommended by Talent LMS provider? Have they demonstrated the integration?