Best E-learning authoring tools - or best elearning course builders
E-learning is an effective method of conveying knowledge and skills, and it is typically developed with what is called an authoring tool, or in English, an "authoring tool". In this post, we will take a closer look at what an authoring tool is and give you a brief introduction to some of the most relevant tools on the market in 2023.
Here's an overview of the topics we'll cover:
- What is an authoring tool?
- Articulate Storyline: The most versatile and powerful solution
- Articulate Rise: The easiest tool with beautiful responsive design
- Vyond: An animation tool with great value in e-learning production
- Camtasia: The perfect tool for easy video-based e-learning
- Adobe Captivate: An experienced alternative with its challenges
- Are there any good, free SCORM authoring tools
- Beware of 'dirty tricks' from LMS providers: Dont use Authoring tools that is built into the LMS - or use with care.
What is an authoring tool?
An authoring tool is a program that allows you to compile text, audio, images, and videos into multimedia presentations. You can also create interactive elements, such as quizzes, and publish content in the SCORM standard, so it can be integrated into various Learning Management Systems (LMS).
There are a large number of authoring tools on the market. Just a few years ago, there were already several hundred tools to choose from, and the number has likely only grown since then. Fortunately, the most relevant tools can quickly be narrowed down to a handful, which we will review in this post.
Two types of SCORM authoring tools: Cloud or Desktop?
When it comes to SCORM authoring tools, there are two main types: cloud-based and desktop-based tools. Let me give you a quick comparison:
Cloud-based authoring tools: Online and easy to use
Cloud-based authoring tools are entirely online and hosted on an external server. You don't need to download or install anything, and you can work on your e-learning projects from any computer with internet access. This gives you a high degree of flexibility and makes it easy to collaborate with others.
Desktop-based authoring tools: Local installation and more control
Desktop-based authoring tools, on the other hand, are installed directly on your computer. They may require an internet connection for certain features, but many of them can work offline. With a desktop-based tool, you often have more control over your files and settings, and you can work on projects without worrying about the internet connection.
There are advantages and disadvantages to both types of SCORM authoring tools, so it's about finding the solution that best suits your needs and working style.
The most relevant authoring tools in 2023
There are two major providers of e-learning authoring tools, as well as a sea of smaller manufacturers and open-source products. In this article, we will focus on the most relevant tools for e-learning in 2023, including Articulate Storyline, Articulate Rise, Camtasia, and Adobe Captivate. We will also briefly mention other tools such as Elucidat, Lectora, iSpring Suite, and Adapt, to give you a sense of the various options available.
Articulate Storyline: The most versatile and powerful solution
In the world of e-learning authoring tools, Articulate Storyline is one of the most versatile and popular solutions. In this section, we will discuss why Storyline is so highly regarded and highlight some of its main strengths.
Articulate Storyline: Strengths and benefits
Articulate Storyline is a desktop-based tool that offers incredible flexibility and control over your e-learning content.
Here are some of the main benefits:
- User-friendly: Storyline features an intuitive user interface that resembles Microsoft PowerPoint, making it easy for new users to learn and get started.
- Interactivity: With Storyline, you can easily create interactive elements, quizzes, and simulations, making your e-learning content more engaging and effective.
- Powerful and versatile: Although Storyline is easy to use, it can do a lot. The tool is capable of handling advanced features and interactions, allowing you to create e-learning content tailored to different levels of users and learning needs.
Articulate Storyline is part of the Articulate 360 suite, which also includes Articulate Rise.
Articulate Rise: The easiest tool with beautiful responsive design
When it comes to ease of use and rapid creation of e-learning content, Articulate Rise is an excellent choice. This cloud-based authoring tool is particularly suitable for those who want to create attractive and responsive content without spending too much time on design and technical details.
Articulate Rise: Strengths and benefits
Here are some of the main benefits of using Articulate Rise:
- Very easy to use: Rise is known for its simplicity and user-friendliness. You don't need to be an experienced designer or programmer to create beautiful and engaging e-learning content with Rise.
- Responsive design: Content created with Rise works well on different screen sizes and devices, ensuring a good experience for all users, whether they are using a smartphone, tablet, or computer.
- Template-based: Rise is based on a template system, making it quick and easy to create professional-looking courses. You can choose from various pre-defined blocks and templates to suit your needs.
Limitations: Template-based design
It is worth mentioning that the template-based design in Articulate Rise can also have its limitations. While it makes it easy and quick to create content, it can simultaneously mean that you have less creative control and flexibility compared to other, more advanced authoring tools. Here are some of the drawbacks that can arise with the template-based design:
- Less creative control: As Rise is based on pre-defined templates and blocks, you may find that your options for customizing the design and layout of your courses are limited. This can be a disadvantage for those who want to create more unique and custom-designed content.
- Locked design: In some cases, template-based tools like Rise can lead to uniform and recognizable content that doesn't necessarily stand out from the crowd. If it is important for you to create entirely unique e-learning courses, this may be a factor to consider.
Despite these limitations, Articulate Rise is an excellent choice for those who want to create beautiful and responsive e-learning content with minimal effort and time. If you prioritize user-friendliness and speed in your work with e-learning, Rise is a tool worth considering.
Articulate Rise is part of the Articulate 360 suite, which also includes Articulate Storyline.
Vyond: An animation tool with great value
in e-learning production
Although Vyond (formerly known as GoAnimate) is not technically an e-learning authoring tool, it still deserves an honorable mention due to its versatility and ability to create engaging animated videos that can be used in e-learning contexts. It does not publish to SCORM, but use it to create videos and then use the videos in Articulate Storyline or Articulate Rise.
Vyond: Fast, easy, and creative
Vyond is an online tool that makes it easy to create animated videos for various purposes, including explainer videos and e-learning content. Here are some of the main strengths of Vyond:
- Easy to learn and use: Vyond is designed to be user-friendly and quick to work with, making it accessible to users at all levels.
- Wide range of elements and styles: Vyond offers a large selection of backgrounds, objects, and characters, as well as three different drawing styles. This makes it easy to create diverse and exciting videos.
- Customization and integration: You can create custom characters and upload your own graphics and sounds in Vyond. The tool can also be smoothly integrated with other e-learning tools like Articulate Storyline and Rise, making it easy to include your animated videos in your e-learning courses.
- Lively and interesting videos: One of the things we particularly appreciate about Vyond is how the characters move and interact during a scene. This makes the videos more dynamic and engaging to watch.
All in all, Vyond is a fantastic tool for creating animated videos that can enrich your e-learning projects and give your courses a professional and engaging appearance. Although it is not a e-learning authoring tool, it is certainly worth considering as part of your toolkit when working with e-learning content.
Camtasia: The perfect tool for easy video-based e-learning
When it comes to video-based e-learning, Camtasia is one of the best tools on the market. It is a good solution if you want to create content that primarily focuses on video recordings, screen recordings, and light editing of video and audio.
Easy and quick to work with. Camtasia is known for its user-friendly and intuitive interface, which makes it easy and quick to produce high-quality video content. It is a desktop-based tool, which means you can use it even if you do not have an internet connection.
Camtasia is equipped with many handy features such as the ability to record your screen, add effects and animations to your videos, insert quizzes and interactive elements, and much more. I probably wouldn't use Camtasia to create quizzes when I have Articulate Storyline or Rise, but in a pinch, it can be used.
You can edit your videos with effects and transitions, add high-quality text and images, and adjust audio and color.
Flexibility and integration. Camtasia can export your content in various formats and sizes, giving you the flexibility to use your content on different platforms. You can also integrate your Camtasia content with other e-learning tools like Articulate Storyline and Rise, making it a good solution if you want to combine different media.
Camtasia is a good solution for creating video-based e-learning content with its user-friendly interface, powerful features, and flexibility. If you want to produce professional and interactive videos for your users, Camtasia may be the perfect choice for you. If you have already decided to purchase the Articulate 360 suite, wait to buy Camtasia until you have explored whether you can "make do" with Articulate Replay, which is included in Articulate 360. Articulate Replay can do some of the same things as Camtasia, so you might save some money.
Adobe Captivate: Adobe Captivate: An experienced alternative with its challenges
Adobe Captivate has a long history within e-learning tools, dating back to 2002 when it was launched as RoboDemo. After Adobe purchased
the product in 2004, it has evolved to be one of the most well-known e-learning authoring tools on the market.
Adobe Captivate: From screen recordings to e-learning
Captivate began as a tool for screen recordings and has since expanded its functionality to include e-learning content. It is a versatile tool that can do a lot and is reasonably stable to work with. It is the closest alternative to Articulate Storyline that we can come up with.
Limitations: Overwhelming user experience and lack of focus
Adobe Captivate tends to have an overwhelming and inconsistent user experience. This is partly due to the product's evolution through a series of updates and additions that do not always follow a clear vision. Additionally, e-learning and Captivate are just a small part of Adobe's large product portfolio, which means that it sometimes seems to be deprioritized compared to their other tools and products.
A powerful tool, but not our first choice
Despite its limitations, Adobe Captivate is still one of the better e-learning tools on the market. It is capable of handling a wide range of tasks and is a serious alternative to Articulate Storyline. However, as you may have guessed, our preferred e-learning tools are Articulate Storyline and Rise, due to their user-friendliness and cohesive design.
If you are already familiar with Adobe Captivate or other Adobe tools, it might be the right choice for you. It is important to choose the e-learning authoring tool that best suits your needs and skills. But if you are new to e-learning and looking for a more intuitive and user-friendly tool, we would recommend taking a closer look at Articulate Storyline and Rise as the primary alternatives.
Are there any good, free SCORM authoring tools?
I regularly research available authoring tools and am, of course, particularly interested in good free products. I have looked into Adapt. Although Adapt is free and open-source, we have had bad experiences with it, especially when it comes to SCORM support. This can lead to problems with tracking students' progress and saving data correctly.
Moreover, Adapt can have a steep learning curve for new users, and it can take time to master, which can be a challenge for those who want to get started quickly with e-learning content.
My conclusion is that I don't think any of the free products I've seen are worth the effort. Either they are a bit difficult to use with either a programmer-like or very template-like approach. What you save in relation to purchasing a license for Articulate 360, you quickly furnish in lost productivity and poor quality.
Another thing to consider when choosing an authoring tool: If you choose a product that doesn't have a large company behind it, you risk the development of your authoring tool stopping - and that you end up in a situation where you can't update your content.
Beware of 'dirty tricks' from LMS providers: Dont use Authoring tools that is built into the LMS - or use with care.
When choosing an e-learning authoring tool, it's also important to be aware of the potential pitfalls of using content modules in Learning Management Systems (LMS). Although some LMS providers claim that their platform can run SCORM content, it doesn't necessarily mean that you can export the content you create in their content module as SCORM.
Locked to an LMS provider
If you can't export the content as SCORM, you may end up being locked into that specific LMS provider. This can limit your flexibility and make it difficult to switch to another LMS provider in the future if you need to.
Investigate the LMS's SCORM support
To avoid this situation, it's important to investigate whether the LMS you're considering supports the export of SCORM content before choosing a provider. It's generally a good idea to create content in a separate authoring tool so that you can easily export and import it to different LMSs as needed.