Authoring tools have become essential software for instructional designers and trainers. if you are thinking about choosing one, you need to know what they are, what their key features are, and compare them with the different options available on the market.
In today’s article, we’ll take you through all the essentials of authoring tools, so you can choose a solution that lets you generate amazing content while making your job easier. Let’s start!
What is an Authoring Tool?
An authoring tool is a software that allows you to create courses for online training and can be distributed in different ways, the most common through an LMS (Learning Management System).
The main purpose of authoring tools is to create content that enhances the student’s learning experience. That’s why most authoring tools offer you the possibility of including multimedia, interactive resources, graphics, images, and even exercises. So, these tools are more powerful than other programs for making presentations, like PowerPoint.
How do the authoring tools work?
Authoring tools are perfect for ordinary users, trainers, or instructional designers who want to create e-learning courses easily. Usually, this tool works by creating slides where you can add the content of your lesson.
How do you do this? You create your slide and add text, images, video, audio, animations, simulations, and endless interactive resources that will help you create powerful online training that connects with your learners. Some authoring tools have basic style templates that allow faster course creation.
Old authoring tools require extensive knowledge of programming, code, and design; the latest-generation tools allow you to create courses more intuitively, although some are still easier to use than others. That’s why you should review its features and look for the right one for you.
Authoring tools’ essential features
Authoring tools have different functionalities, but here are some of the essential features to look for so you can create powerful training courses quickly:
Slide editor with an intuitive interface
The best authoring tools allow you to create stunning courses in a few minutes, so they must have a low learning curve and be easy to use. Therefore, the first aspect you should consider is its slide editor.
While most of these tools give you basic style templates, the way you add text and images, change colors, and edit your slide should be simple and intuitive.
Look for features like WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get). An editor with this functionality ensures that the final result of your course will be just what you see in the editor. Thus, you will not be surprised when you present your course in navigation mode on your website or publish it in your LMS.
The templates, colors, and variety of fonts must be broad. If you’re a freelance or work for a company developing content, you should pay special attention to this. Your course editor must allow you to customize with your corporate branding or that of your clients.
Resources to generate engagement
With engagement, we mean that extra touch in your courses that will make your students learn in a fun way without even realizing it. The secret is in the use of interactive resources for the experience to flow:
- Multimedia content: Power your course with audio, video, and images. Creating dynamic courses with audiovisual support helps knowledge retention.
- Exercises: Choose a tool that provides different exercises, not just the classic single or multiple-choice question and answer activity. Some come with interactives that allow you to drag, fill in the gaps, and match; perfect for creating more original exercises.
- Games: Great for boosting motivation and enhancing knowledge retention.
- Responsive Courses: If one student is viewing the course on his phone and another on the Tablet, both must see it adapted to the screen size. Their experience should be optimal regardless of the device.
If you don’t have much time to create content, features to increase productivity are necessary. Therefore, your tool must have functionalities like:
- Stock gallery and Photo editor: It will save you from using different specific apps to search for images and make adjustments, such as cropping, editing a photo, or changing its color or shape.
- Compatibility with web translators: Ensure it’s compatible with the leading web translators. You will save time from editing the texts by hand and having your translated course super-fast.
- Machine translation: Newer tools incorporate advances in neural networks and artificial intelligence, offering machine translations.
- Restore point (backup): A tool with a restore point allows you to recover previous versions of your course. Useful for large companies that work collaboratively or teams of instructional designers.
- Auto-save: This feature automatically saves your course every few seconds as you work. This way, you avoid losing information while working.
Cloud-based collaborative tool
A cloud-based authoring tool allows you to access all your projects and work anywhere. They don’t require any preview installation, you log in to your account through the web, and that’s it. The best thing about having a cloud-based tool is that it allows you to collaborate with other editors and work simultaneously.
Some functionalities you should look for to boost collaboration and speed up your work are the option of creating and transferring projects, organizing folders, and assigning permissions for users. These functionalities are perfect for freelancers, large teams of instructional designers, or training departments.
If you are a freelance designer, you may want to assign editing authorizations or transfer a particular project to a client. On the other hand, if you are part of a large team, these features are great for collaborative work, simultaneous editing, or simply for centralized management of different projects.
The alternative to transfer projects deserves special mention. Sending projects to your clients, external collaborators, or members of your team provides much autonomy when editing, correcting, or simply sending the final result for approval.
Distribution and e-learning content international standards
E-learning content has several forms of distribution, the most typical being publication in LMS. Still, the content must be compatible with the LMS for publishing on it.
How is that? Imagine a DVD player that only reads CDs with MPEG-1 or MPEG-2 standards. Still, there are endless standards for video: MOV, WMV, and WMA. The same goes for LMS platforms and e-learning content.
The most common international standards for e-learning content are SCORM1.2, SCORM 2004, or Tincan/xApi. If you already have an LMS, you should first check compatibility with the standards offered by the authoring tool in question.
Flexibility is a plus if you don’t have an LMS or are a freelance designer. So better choose an authoring tool that allows you to create courses in the most common international standards.
What other options do you have?
- Direct Link: Share the course by sharing a link.
- Web/Intranet: Your tool must allow exporting the course as a micro-site or offer a code to embed it in your intranet or website.
- Built-in distribution system: Some authoring tools allow you to share the course from the same software, analyze tracking, manage teams, and offer certificates.
Technical support and help
The human team behind the software must be there to give you a hand if you have any problems. Whether it’s when creating the course, distributing it or if your students have problems accessing it. Please get to know the technical support team and their help possibilities.
Also, review the online training for the tool of your choice. The best authoring tool developers also care about creating educational content, tutorials, and webinars. It would help if you had a complete training portal at your disposal and even a free trial account. Look for this!
Comparison of the best e-learning authoring tools
You already know the essential functionalities of the authoring tools. To make your work easier and save you precious time searching for the right one, we have prepared a comparison of the best authoring tools according to their essential features: isEazy Author, EasyGenerator, iSpring Suite, Gomo, Rise y Articulate Storyline. Check it before making the final decision!
Lean on customer reviews to finish choosing!
When you buy a product, you look at customer reviews and ratings to ensure it is the purchase you want to make. The same goes for authoring tools, and there are websites like Capterra where you can read reviews and compare.
Reviewing other consumers’ opinions will help you have a more precise idea of what you can expect from each one and what impediments you may encounter before trying them yourself.
How much does an authoring tool cost?
The authoring tools’ prices change according to the number of authors that will use the tool, the storage capacity, the style templates they offer, the possibility of using custom templates, and the type of distribution, among other factors. Evaluate your needs, check the pricing page, and choose the best option for you.
Keep in mind that some authoring tools are sold in annual plans and others monthly. It is a point to consider depending on your budget and your needs.
Still don’t know how to choose your authoring tool?
You already know what an authoring tool is and its essential features. If you already look at the comparison and the reviews of different authoring tools, but you still have doubts, try isEazy Author for free and see first-hand how it helps you create spectacular courses without effort.