Deciding to embrace eLearning for your employee training has become a no-brainer nowadays. After all, businesses big and small, from Fortune 100 multinationals to your local hair salon chain, have already done so.
What’s a little more difficult however is picking the right tools to help you with course design, eLearning content development, learning assessment and all the other tasks you need to run a successful eLearning program.
And although you might think we’re exaggerating a little bit there, if you’ve already run a training program just once, you’ll probably have realized the importance of using the right training tools for employees’ development.
Fear not, however, as we’re here to help you with this, by suggesting the (you’ve guessed it) top 10 most useful tools for online employee training and development.
Let’s begin with the most essential content creation tools!
Using corporate training tools can energize your eLearning and boost the experience you offer to your learners. Apart from making the job much easier for you, leveraging the appropriate training tools for employees’ skills growth will also make your course more engaging for the trainees.
So, let’s start with…
1) A text editor
Yeah, we’re starting with the meat and potatoes. Whatever your role in the implementation of an eLearning based employee training program (or a physical one for that matter) you’re gonna need a text editor at some point. In fact, picking a handy text-editor is especially important if you’re doing the writing the course material.
Now, you could go with what everybody uses (Microsoft Word) or its open source alternative (Open Office), and both will surely more than capable for the task. But as those tools are overloaded with features you won’t need, and place premature emphasis on formatting which can be quite the distraction, we suggest something simpler and more focused.
See, while enterprise workers and home users stick to MS Word, professional authors, journalists, and copywriters have increasingly embraced streamlined text-editors over the past decade.
One of the most popular ones, Scrivener, is available for both Windows and OS X and has everything you need to create, organize and refine your course content and nothing you don’t.
Other capable options include Ulysses (OS X) and Page Four (Windows), while a whole cottage industry of text-editors has been created around the Markdown text format, that’s very easy to learn and lets you totally focus on your content.
2) An image editor
So, what’s next in the list of the necessary employee training tool list?
With text covered, the next most useful thing you’ll need will be an image editor. Photoshop is, of course, the undisputed king for this kind of work, but it might not be your best choice for several reasons.
For one, Photoshop is now only sold through a subscription program, which can cost you from anywhere from $10 to $80 per month depending on how many other Adobe programs you need (and even more if you happen to live outside the US). And with Adobe’s subscription model if you stop paying, you can’t use the program anymore, even if you’ve paid several times its worth over the years.
But the real reason is that unless you’re doing heavy photo and design work, Photoshop is probably an overkill for your humble content editing needs (mainly cropping, resizing, making small adjustments, etc).
On Windows, we suggest you check out Paint.net, a free, lightweight bitmap editor, or Corel PaintShop Pro, a mature and very capable Photoshop alternative that’s been around for over 2 decades. If you insist on Adobe, there’s always Photoshop Elements, Photoshop’s scaled-down little brother that thankfully remains available to purchase outside of a subscription program.
3) An audio editor
Whether it’s to edit an interview, to extract the relevant parts from the recording of a lecture, or to trim a piece of music you’re using as a soundtrack to your eLearning videos to the right size, you’ll need an audio editor.
Similar to an image editor, an audio editor is a piece of software that lets you manipulate digital sound content, like mp3 or wav files.
This manipulation can range from trimming (cutting an audio clip to a specified size, e.g. to get rid of irrelevant parts), normalizing (making sure the sound is as loud as it needs to be) and de-noising (removing unwanted sounds, like the hiss of an air-condition) to very elaborate and extreme edits.
When it comes to audio editors the general consensus is clear: whether you’re on the Windows, Linux or Mac, Audacity is the tool you should first opt for.
It’s also popular enough that there are also a lot of tutorials on web pages and on YouTube to help you learn how to use it to handle most basic audio editing tasks.
4) A video editor
Online employee training videos are probably one of the most popular types of training content you can use to engage your learners, and help them learn more easily and efficiently.
With text, images, and audio covered, video is another thing you need to cover to be able to create and edit full-blown multimedia training content.
Fortunately, this is an area where OS makers themselves offer quite capable software that should cover all your needs when it comes to editing training video. Microsoft has the excellent Windows Movie Maker that comes pre-installed with most Windows versions (and it can also be downloaded online for free) and Apple offers its own very good iMovie editor for just $14.99.
You’ll be able to edit footage, add music and sound effects, create titles and export your masterpiece ready for consumption in both, while the learning curve is not very steep for either. In fact, given their popularity and ease of use, it’s quite possible that your little cousin is already uploading his own videos on YouTube using one of these editors, and can show you everything you need to get going.
If you ever outgrow these two video editors (something unlikely for most basic productions), you can always step up to pro and semi-pro NLE platforms like Adobe’s Premiere Pro, Apple’s Final Cut Pro X, and Sony’s Vegas.
There you have it, you’re now one step closer to creating your own employee training videos!
5) Secondary content creation and management tools
With these four big content creation tools covered, let’s briefly discuss a few other tools you might need for creating, editing and managing your eLearning content.
Scanning software will help you achieve the optimal transfer of third-party text, drawing and photos in the digital domain. While both Windows and OS X offer a bare-bones scanning app, we suggest you take a look at something like VueScan if you really want to take full control of your scanner.
You might also need some OCR (optical character recognition) software if you want to automatically convert scanned books into electronic text that you can manipulate in your text editor and add to your courses. ABBYY FineReader and ReadIris seem to rule this particular niche, and are both equally capable.
While creating online content for employee training you’ll need to juggle a lot of information and details. To help you organize it all, we suggest a note taking program such as Microsoft’s OneNote or Evernote Corporation’s Evernote. They’re both available for the two major desktop and the two major mobile platforms (and also for Windows Phone, but you probably don’t care about that, do you?).
6) A backup solution for employee training: The LMS backup
Moving beyond content creation tools, let’s discuss data protection tools for a moment, something that’s as essential to content creation as anything we’ve already presented.
After all, what’s the use of toiling over the creation of your training content, only to lose everything the moment your hard disk fails or some computer virus decides to delete your home directory?
For a professional, and if you’re doing employee training you’re very much a professional, backup is one of the most mission-critical issues – and data protection tools are here to help!
Of course, with a Cloud based platform such as TalentLMS your course data, learners info, settings, etc are automatically backed up safely for you, leaving you without anything to worry about. As a content creator though you’ll also have many documents, presentations, images videos, etc. you work on that have not yet been uploaded to any LMS course. Those, you’ll need to backup yourself.
Now, when it comes to backup there are several different options, each with its own trade-offs, complexity and cost.
Perhaps the simplest (and cheapest) form of backup is making a copy of your data (e.g. to an external hard disk, a USB stick, etc).
Note that your backup HAS to be an external disk. A copy on the same disk is neither safe, nor a backup. Don’t keep the second disk in the same place as your computer either — in case of accident, burglary etc, both your data and your backup might be gone.
To handle such simple backup options, a tool such as Microsoft’s own Backup and Restore or Apple’s Disk Utility will do. There are also third party options such as Acronis True Image (Windows) and SuperDuper (Mac), that offer a few more features.
A more advanced option, that offers both backup and access to different versions of your files (as they’ve changed through time would be Windows’ “File History” feature and Apple’s Time Machine, both of which you need to enable on your own in your OS settings.
Last, but not least, there’s the online LMS backup option, in which you make backups of your data in the Cloud. The two most robust and popular services when it comes to online backup are BackBlaze and CrashPlan, with both offering clients for Windows, OS X, iOS and Android, along with several subscription plans to choose from.
(Note: In their basic setup, Google Drive and Dropbox are ways to sync your data across many PCs and not actual backup solutions. If you accidentally delete your data on your home computer, they’ll be gone from those services too. Keep that in mind.).
The essential training tools for employees’ development
And with that we conclude part one of our series on the top 10 most useful tools for online employee training.
Content creation tools will not only make your course development a real breeze, but will also give you the huge benefit of offering your learners high-quality, engaging, professional content that will keep them motivated throughout the training process!
Stay tuned for next week’s second part of the essential training tools for employees’ skills development, where we’ll be focusing on learning assessment tools to help you measure the effectiveness of your employee training program.