A reliable elearning authoring tool is one of the must-haves in the edutech industry. Elearning authoring tools allow us to create interactive modules. Not only that, these tools also allow us to tell our story and reach a wider audience.
So, if you're looking for your first e-learning authoring tool or if you're shopping around for a new one, then I'd like to share these 5 golden rules with you. I hope this can be of much help in selecting your first (or next) authoring tool.
Ease of use ranks first on our list due to the fact that a good UXUI (user experience, user interface) makes elearning designers more efficient and productive in their work. A very good rule of thumb to follow is that if a grade-schooler can use its most basic features (or create a very simple slide) - then it's good to go. You'll be surprised that given the plethora of authoring tools, there are some of them that aren't really that "user-friendly." However, the definition of user-friendly, of course, depends a lot on your preference. What can be too technical or complex to some might just be "noob level" for you.
Another consideration when choosing an elearning authoring tool is its ability to create different interactive activities for your learners. There are free authoring tools that offer very minimal interactivity (ex. the product only allows export to video), and usually the pricier ones have full control on the slide animations and the interactive elements. Just keep in mind that in order to keep your learner engaged, it is always ideal to have interactive elements - no matter how small or subtle - in every slide. So, always put interactivity into consideration.
The question to ask yourself here is "How fast can I get things done and how many can I do?" As mentioned above, good UXUI plays a big part of efficiency and productivity for designers. Moreover, you must also take into consideration the output formats and sizes. Of course, more output formats allow you to deploy the module into different systems. What's more is that smaller output sizes mean better compression; thus faster loading times over the cloud; which in turn, means less resources get used up. Less effort, less resources, and less cost equate to faster creation and greater scalability.
4. Reliability and Support
Two questions to ask yourself (or the vendor) - "Does the software release regular updates?" and "Are there channels to ask for support?" Two vital questions before purchasing, not only an authoring tool, but also any software - in general.
The best and most well-known authoring tools usually release update patches every time a program they're dependent on (ex. Adobe Flash Player) updates. Likewise, premium tools also have, not only technical support hotlines/chat, but also a big community of experts. The biggest advantage of having a bustling community is that you have lots of experts to ask when you're in a rut. Furthermore, there are tons of free templates to download, and countless tips to help you get started in designing your modules.
5. Return of Investment
In all honesty, premium elearning authoring tools do not come cheap. And the painful truth is - at the end of the day, it always boils down to ROI, or return of investment. In layman's terms, "Did we get enough revenue to justify the expenses for the authoring tool?"
So, I guess this should be one of the biggest considerations when getting an authoring tool. "Will the advantages, benefits, and features of the tool justify its cost - and its potential revenue?" if you're looking to create modules as a hobby, I suggest getting the free/low-cost ones first. Once you've mastered using the tool, then you can move on to more professional (and more expensive) software - wherein you can already make a living out of what you're doing.
There you go! I hope these 5 golden rules were able to help you decide on what authoring tool to use. If you have more suggestions (or new rules to add), feel free to use the comments field below. Cheers!