Choosing the right online training tools: LMS and Authoring tools

What tools will you need?

What tools will you need? - Delivering highly effective eLearning courses - TalentLMS eBook

You may have a compelling course ready for viewing but without a Learning Management System, you won’t be able to share with your colleagues. In fact, investing in an LMS is a priority for every learning organization. TalentLMS is such an LMS. Research through your organization’s learning needs:

  • Does your company focus on Research and Development and publish regular newsletters?
  • Does your company acquire new machinery and other sophisticated equipment for operations?
  • Do you work in a field that mandates constant updates in performance?

If yes, then an LMS will serve two core purposes for your knowledge management needs:

  • Organization-wide communication.
  • Course deployment with official learning tracking.

What is important?

What are the most desirable features in an LMS? The ability to upload format independent content. This means, if you have material in pdf, ppt or doc form, you should be able to upload your files without any compatibility issues.

If you need to add videos, audios or images, you should be able to add without any issues. Your multimedia should display seamlessly with your content.

If you need to add interactivity, buttons, actions, animations and branching scenarios, you should be able to do so with ease and finesse.

Cloud-based LMS like TalentLMS provides these and many more capabilities for novice users. The user interface and dashboard is easy to navigate and maintain. The support system reaches out when you need a technical help. There is also a community of subject-matter experts who add to your instruction design process. Is the concept of LMS new to you? An LMS is simply a platform of online courses and other resources that enables easy access and utilization for the user. It has activity tracking features that report performance and enable effective and timely communication between learners and facilitators. An LMS is a vehicle to transport your learning materials to multiple learners.

What to choose?

Cloud vs. deployed

Consider purchasing a completely cloud-based option for your training environment. TalentLMS has great features that will enable you to get started without getting bogged down in details. A cloud-based LMS has several advantages over a deployed LMS.

With limited educational technology skills and lack of instructional designer in your organization, a cloud-based learning management system will go a long way in keeping your team engaged. TalentLMS has excellent server speed as well as short response time from both technical and mentoring support.

TalentLMS will free you from programming and integration complications as compared to a deployed LMS. Deployed LMS require regular version update and an on-site support for breakdowns and other issues. They also prove to be expensive in the long run.

With a lower monthly payment and a freemium start-up advantage, TalentLMS has all your learning and technical interoperability needs covered. Cutting-edge technology from the semantic web enhances collaboration between learners.

Free vs. commercial

Free tools available as trial versions or with basic features. Commercial LMS that are supported and developed by a growing community of software developers.


Before selecting an LMS, consider the following characteristics:

  • If the LMS you choose supports eLearning formats you use:
    • Synchronous Learners enrolled in a synchronous course usually begin and end the course at the same time and attend pre-determined sessions. These courses also administer scheduled online exams. Common features include shared whiteboards in virtual classroom.
    • Asynchronous In this format, learners begin and complete their courses at different times and at their own pace. Message boards and group discussion boards are common features. These courses are available online, in CD’s or DVD’s.
    • Blended/Hybrid Learning This format is essentially a strong mix of three pedagogical strategies: LIVE classroom activities lead by a facilitator, online learning materials developed by the course instructor and independent study time augmented by LIVE activities and online lectures.
  • SCORM Compliance: Scalable Content Object Reference Model, this feature allows your courses to be plugged into many learning management systems. A SCORM-compliant LMS enables you to access a wider learning audience as well as tracking their performance regardless of the location of your course.
  • APIs: Application Programmable Interface, another interoperability feature of an LMS that allows users to access their materials regardless of their browser.
  • External or internal training: Some LMS can be merged easily into your website (ex. eFront). Others direct your learner away from your website to an external server where your LMS is located (like our cloud-based TalentLMS)
  • Mobile learning: An LMS that supports mobile learning has HTML5 programming. This creates a mobile-friendly learner interface and accessibility.
  • Tests support: Supporting and reporting tests is a critical feature of an LMS. Almost all LMS are equipped with this functionality.

E-Learning Course Authoring Tools

The best part about developing courses is the variety of tools and options available to create them. Simple tools, like graphics editing software (GIMP or Adobe Illustrator) can make a world of difference in modifying the graphics to be integrated into the course.

Audio editors like Audacity offer the capability to record voice-overs for a demonstration. They are simple to use and add a layer of interactivity. Similarly, video editing tools like Camtasia are popular. They enable a software simulation capture via screen recording. Again, easily integrated in your learning content.

Another effective feature to add to your courses is the human-cutout figures. Register in sites like these to avail the free cut-out download options and use them to add a layer of realism in your courses. After determining the content organization of your eLearning course, you are ready to develop the content using a course authoring tool.

There are several available in the market as a free, community-supported tool, as a commercial license software or as a SaaS (software as a service). How do you choose from an overwhelming list like this? For a first time e-learning developer, use the following points to narrow down your choices:

  • Is it compatible with your existing LMS? Share the final file type rendered by the authoring tool with the support at your LMS. Make sure the course can be uploaded and maintained easily using your current LMS.
  • Determine how easy it is to use. The best course authoring tools are available as free trials AND a free demo that teaches how to use them. Play with a few and see what features they have to accomplish your needs. You can have authoring tools that will convert your power points into e-learning content. Also, some authorware can convert current pdf files into interactive content. Do you need branching scenarios with immersive, real-world backgrounds and decision-based interactivity? Try HTML5 and Flash generating course authorware.
  • The list above shares SCORM and other compliance features. Check for those in your narrowed down courseware.
  • If mobile learning is your main output, make sure the tool you select is device independent. Mobile learning interface have a different layout and feel. Don’t let excellent instruction design get bogged down by incompatible authoring tool.
  • Some authoring tools are best used when you use the developer’s hosting environment. Investigate early on if the tool you like can allow you to export your files to your own LMS. This is also a good time to compare LMS features with your existing learning environment requirements.
  • Some courseware are social from the onset. They provide features to add in the course that encourages the establishment of an online learning community.
  • If your LMS lacks course tracking and other analytics reporting tools, there are courseware available to do that job for you.
  • Your learners should be able to access your course regardless of their browser, operating system and platform. Make sure your narrowed down choices supplement for these variations.
  • Analyze your audience to determine their learning preference. Do they prefer extensive graphics? Are they content on podcast and YouTube videos? What about game-like features? While all bells and whistles are great to have, determine your learner and organization needs to omit extra costs in purchasing expensive authoring tools.
  • Make sure your selected tool allows you to create a variety of assessment items. Common assessment types include True or False and Multiple Choice Questions. These are not sufficient if you need to develop “skill-based” training as opposed to “knowledge-based” training. Options like Drag and Drop, Match the Following, Fill in the Blanks and Label the Diagram enable learners to decide and arrive to a conclusion before providing the correct answer. You will be able to justify the cost of such a tool to your organization better if you present it as “performance-enhancing” authoring tool.
  • Create a report containing the checklist of all features in your authoring tool for your management to make sure it matched with your current needs.

Some Good Examples of Course Authoring Tools

While competition in selling course development tool is a tie between several “best” tools, there are a select few that have made it at the top of the list and continue to remain at the top! We will discuss a few to help you get started. Remember, the best tool for an organization cannot hold the same value for yours. Determine your learning needs to arrive to your own best choices.

  • Adobe Captivate
  • Articulate
  • Flash Course Development Tool Kit
  • Composica
  • Exe Learning
  • iSpring Suite

While features and functionalities of these tools may differ, but they offer pretty much similar options in course development and deployment. Basically, if you have worked with one tool, it is easier to work with others, because you begin to understand the logic and workflow of the program.

Also, most programs are WISIWIG – what you see is what you get – which implies that they have user-friendly interfaces. The learning curve associated with most is relatively lower, as there are minimum programming skills required.

What’s more, the above-mentioned course authoring tools (and many others) come with a strong network of supporters, developers and users. If there is an issue that needs to be resolved, you can easily reach out to the support community and expect a solution within twenty-four hours.

The other factor that helps determine the right choice is the monthly price. We suggest you try the tool for some time before purchasing a yearly membership, which is much cheaper in the long-run. Some tools also come with options that reflect different prices. The highest price comes with more functionalities. The trial version usually has all the functionalities. The trial period for some authorware lasts between two weeks to one month. It is a good time to note down all the features that you will use frequently and purchase the membership accordingly. Simply look into your learning needs before finalizing an authoring tool.

Good luck!

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