eLearning (sometimes also written as E-learning) is a form of asynchronous training delivery that creates training materials in an engaging electronic format that can be published in a variety of ways, such as on a website, learning management system or distributed via a USB memory stick or CD/DVD.
Types of Authoring Tools
There are a lot of authoring tools available out there, and as such this makes the selection of them very difficult for a training department. Mostly though they divide into two main groups, those that are aimed at an individual author, or those that are aimed at a group of collaborative authors.
If you simply want to find a list of eLearning tools out there, then we suggest this list from eLearning Industry. If you are working alone or in a small company then it’s likely that you will use single authoring tools and most probably toolsets like Articulate Storyline, 360 or Adobe Captivate and maybe might even mix in some basic videos using Techsmith Camtasia or similar. These are all great in their own right, but don’t scale with a company as it grows. However, if you are a training manager or instructional designer in a larger company, read on.
Indicators for a Multi-Authoring Toolset
The list below is far from complete, but are some of the most likely indicators that you have grown beyond the standard capabilities of most of the single authoring toolsets:
- Your content is in a variety of formats and not recognizably similar, diluting your brand
- You measure content production timelines in weeks or months, rather than days
- You use different tools for different output types, e.g training manuals are built in word and eLearning is built in a different tool, e.g. Articulate
- Your licence costs are steadily increasing as you add individual authors, reviewers and approvers to the mix
- There is no automatic workflow that all content goes through, meaning your quality checks are all manual and time-consuming
- You are starting to need content in different languages
- Authors are finding integration problems as they struggle to make different authoring tools work together
- Somebody has asked you for an EPSS solution (Electronic Performance Support – or also known as “help at the point of need” and you don’t know how to do it
- A hard disk with a million folder levels is being used as the storage repository for the authors. It’s getting hard to find things that you worked on a while ago
- As you publish and distribute your content it is a manual process with no documented procedures (or badly documented procedures that are out of date)
- Version control is an ad-hoc affair and left down to the professionalism of the authors with no automatic version control or roll-back method
Moving to a Multi-Authoring Toolset
If you have decided that it’s time to evaluate some of the multi-authoring tools, then you have come to the right place. We’d like to suggest that some of the following criteria are used:
- Time how long it takes to produce the same piece of content in each authoring tool from start to finish for a piece of SCORM based eLearning and a training manual and work out if it is efficient or not.
- Gauge the complexity of the toolset graphical user interface (GUI). Is must be simple and intuitive for your authors to learn.
- Ensure that reviewers and approvers of the tool have a simpler GUI that adapts to their needs.
- Does it have a software simulation capability as well as the ability to produce “soft-skills” type training materials?
- If it takes longer than 10 minutes to produce a software simulation then kick it into touch. Also, if you can’t update those simulations easily either by automatic re-recording or simple Photoshopping then you ought to reconsider.
- Can you have branched learning paths to make the way a user goes through their eLearning under their own control?
- Does it support translation of the training materials into a local language using .XLIFF or some other standard?
- Is the workflow customisable to suit your needs and can you have different workflows for different projects?
- Ensure the licensing costs are competitive as the number of authors and content reviewers/approvers grows. There must be no more price increases as you create training on different applications.
- Are assessments and quizzes standard functionality or extra? If not, then it’s time to think again.
- Can the output be in HTML5 format AND responsive or does it only support old formats like Flash and HTML4?
- Ensure the business case stacks up and it’s a scalable solution.
Once you have decided on a multi-authoring toolset, you’ll need to prepare the various stakeholders for what’s coming. Analysis of your stakeholders will include everybody who is involved in the content creation, review, and approval process and your learners themselves. Make sure you don’t miss the sales people, learning management system administrators, IT personnel and geographically remote people. Your communications plan needs to cater for all of these people during the implementation phase of the toolset.
Once the toolset is implemented, then you will need to have a plan in mind for when to upgrade it. Most vendors will release software upgrades at various times of the year, some minor and some not quite so minor. Ensuring your toolset is hosted in the cloud relieves a lot of the headaches involved with performing an upgrade. Software as a service (SaaS) solution is our recommended path.
If you’d like to find out more about how we can help you with a multi-authoring eLearning toolset implementation then please get in touch with us.