We are updating this post with the latest prices and features from the latest releases of these tools at the first quarter of 2015.
There are multitudes of e-learning tools that you can use; however, most of them can be costly and boring. I've created a list of the top seven cost-effective and fun tools that I use to create e-learning courses. These tools might require some skill to navigate, but once you do get the hang of them - the sky's the limit! Let's start our countdown of the seven fun and cost-effective tools or applications that aspiring e-learning instructional designers like you can use.
1. Adobe Captivate 8 / Articulate Storyline 2
Adobe Captivate and Articulate Storyline are the 'backbone' tools for every e-learning enthusiast. These are where most of the work take place; and tinkering around with both will give you the misconception that 'rapid' e-learning courses can be done 'rapidly' (a 1-hour course will approximately take a designer around 80 hours of using the software). When it comes to functionality, both programs pretty much do the same thing - transform boring slideshows into highly interactive, story-telling 'packages' that may include videos, quizzes, animations, etc. There's a small difference between both though; Adobe Captivate also allows you to export the package into video formats (i.e. mp4) aside from the usual (flash, html5, iOS). Articulate Storyline, on the other hand, sticks to the standard. And oh yeah - both tools now support both iOS and Android, and support most, if not all, mobile devices and browsers.
I'll be very honest, these two tools come at a price (Adobe Captivate: $29.99/mo, Articulate Storyline: $1398 - as of February 25. 2015); however, if you just want to have a little bit of airtime with both of them without the damage; don't worry - both software packages offer free full-function 30-day trials.
You can check out Adobe Captivate here:
You can check out Articulate Storyline here:
2. ActivePresenter by Atomi Systems.
If you've heard of Adobe or Articulate Presenter, then I'm sure you know that rapid eLearning modules can also be created through MS Powerpoint. The downside is that these two programs are quite costly ($24.99/mo for Adobe Presenter and $1398 for Articulate Presenter - as of February 25, 2015) and does require you to have MS Powerpoint installed. In comes ActivePresenter by Atomi Systems to the rescue! What makes this application so awesome is that it has a free version which pretty much covers all the necessities of producing a rapid e-learning course. Additionally, it isn't dependent on MS Powerpoint; but the user interface is quite similar to that 'oh-so-familiar' MS PP interface. With this application at your disposal, you can make rapid' e-learning authoring, well... more rapid - by creating rapid e-learning courses straight from the comfort of a very familiar interface. Yay! (Insert confetti and fireworks here) Oh, did I mention that it's free? I think I already did. Double yay! (Insert more fireworks and confetti here)
You can check out ActivePresenter here:
You can check out Adobe Presenter here:
You can check out Articulate Presenter here:
Pretty much already equated to photo-editing, Adobe Photoshop is (arguably) the ultimate tool when it comes to designing, editing, and retouching photos. It doesn't come cheap though ($4,860.00/year for the Creative Cloud - as of February 25, 2015), and this is where GIMP comes in. GIMP actually stands for Graphic Image Manipulation Program. What makes Gimp so awesome is that it is absolutely free! If you need support for the product, there are tons of how-to's, forums, and groups created specifically for it. The user interface is also cinch to use; quite reminiscent of PhotoShop and MSPaint. Why they decided to name it after a suit made for S & M, i really don't know.
You can check out GIMP here:
You can check out Adobe Photoshop CC here:
4. FL Studio 11 (Fruity Loops Studio)
If you're a music enthusiast, I'm sure one time or another, you've aspired to produce your own songs or beats. If you still want to follow that unrealized dream, then this application is for you. Fruity Loops Studio by Image-line allows you to produce your own e-learning beats using a wide range of instruments. You don't need to have your own band or orchestra because this application can synthesize different kinds of instrument groups - from percussion to brass. Additionally, you can also use FL Studio for recording character voices and voiceovers and mix them together with music through the use of the built-in mixer. FL Studio also offers midi input support - so if you have your own keyboard/synthesizer, you can plug it in through a midi port and compose your music from there. Yep, all of that power for only $99 (as of February 25, 2015)!
You can check out Image-Line Fruity Loops Studio here:
5. Crazy Talk Animator
Who said that creating your own cartoon animation needs a lot of time and money? Crazy Talk Animator by Reallusion allows you to animate 2D characters easily. The fun part here? You don't only get to animate drawings, but you can also puppeteer and lip-sync pictures of real people too! These animations can then be exported as videos then inserted into your rapid e-learning courses. You can do all of these for only $49.95 (as of February 25, 2015). How awesome is that?!?
You can check out Crazy Talk Animator here:
6. AV Voice Changer Software Diamond
Are you a one-man(or woman) e-learning wrecking crew? Got no budget or time to hire voice actors? Then the AV Voice Changer Diamond is the perfect tool for you! This awesome piece of work allows you to morph your voice into different characters - a baby, a woman, a man, or even an alien being from outer space. The AV Voice Changer Software goes for $59.97 - not bad compared to talent fees of professional voice actors; attitude not even included. You can use this on your own - to create voices for your elearning characters - voice acting required though.
You can check out AV Voice Changer Software Diamond here:
Vyew is a tool for virtual classrooms. While it's not really a tool for rapid e-learning per se, it's rather a medium for blended or facilitator-led learning. Vyew allows you to hold live video and voice conferences for free for up to 10 people. What makes Vyew more fun is the interactivity of its annotation and whiteboarding tools. Other interesting points to consider are that you can upload Powerpoint presentations, create pop quizzes, include live video/music links, and visit the slides even after the session. Highly recommended to bring out the facilitator in you.
You can check out Vyew here:
This list sums up the tools I use to create e-learning courses. I hope this helps budding instructional designers who want to take a crack at e-learning creation. Do you also have low-cost and fun tools that you'd like to share with everyone? Share them by writing them down through the comment fields below: