What do you need to create a successful e-learning course? An experienced instructor, great content and the right authoring tool.
Whether you are creating employee training or college online courses the e-learning software that you use is very important. You need a tool that facilitates the creation of learning content without having to worry about the technical issues. Finding the best software can be time consuming, especially if you have to test several tools before landing on the right one for you. So, we have researched the web for you to find out how the e-learning authoring tools, or e-learning software, are rated by the experts in the field. Below you will find two lists of tools with their main features and functions along with the criteria used to compile them.
Top 5 E-Learning Software Tools
When it comes to rating the best e-learning software we would like to present you two lists compiled by the experts who have tested different products and chose their favorites.
The software company iSpring created a “White Paper” on the best e-learning authoring tools by asking experts in the field to share their experience working with each tool. The team also created a course by using each software in order to determine its features and how easy it is to use them. Their research ended up in a list of 5 preferred tools:
- iSpring Suite
- Articulate 360
- Adobe Captivate
- Lectora Inspire
The experts at PCMag have tested a total of ten authoring tools and evaluated their elements testing all the pros and cons they found. As a result, two tools stood out as having sufficient features, adequate pricing and being user-friendly – Articulate Storyline 2 and Trivantis Lectora Inspire, which were the Editors’ Choices. However, we will stick to their advice and warn you that the listed software options might not necessarily be the best match for your business. Have a look at the list below and pick up the one that works best for you:
- Articulate Storyline 2
- Trivantis Lectora Inspire
- iSpring Suite 8
- Gomo Learning
- TechSmith Camtasia Studio 8
- Shift eLearning
Features and Functions
There is a set of basic features that an e-learning software must have in order to be efficient for course creation. Some of the main elements you should look for include:
- Possibility to include video in your training course. As a minimum, the software should allow you to insert video links, while some of the more functional tools such as Articulate Storyline 2 and TechSmith Camtasia Studio 8 will allow you to record video directly using your webcam.
- Importing Microsoft Power Point presentations. This is a very useful feature, especially if you have several presentations that you have already prepared for previous trainings. You can simply add them to your new course.
- Possibility to drag and drop elements from one part of the course to another or even from one course to another. This will save you a lot of time and effort.
- Course creation templates. Templates make life much easier and are a must for smaller companies who do not have a designer at their disposal. The variety of templates depends on the tool you choose but even the free H5P offers 20 templates for course creation.
- Ability to save the e-learning course as an online or local file. This gives you freedom to offer the product to customers who will use it online or who would prefer to download it onto their desktop and work even when there is no internet connection.
- Unique features. The more expensive and elaborate authoring tools offer a variety of components, which are not very common or are unique only for their product. This can be the possibility to embed webpages, a rich image library, quiz creation, etc.
The more complex each element is the more freedom it gives you. Think about what you will need most while creating the e-learning course and choose your authoring tool accordingly. It is worth paying a higher price for software that features all the functions that will help you create great content and boost your learners’ engagement.
Prices and Plans
Before purchasing an e-learning software it is necessary to do some cost analysis. There are a few questions that you need to consider when determining which price and plan are the best for your needs. It is safe to assume that the more a software costs the more options it offers.
If you are a newbie in creating e-learning courses you may want to start with a free tool such as H5P. This is an open-source tool that is ideal for small businesses or for one-off content creation. H5P is easy to use but lacks the rich multimedia functionality offered by the other authoring tools.
Other tools such as Shift eLearning offers several plans and the price depends on the number of users and courses that you can create. One option is to try creating a course for free and then upgrade once your business grows.
Articulate Storyline 2 and Elucidat are examples of authoring tools that are on the pricy end of the scale, however, they offer a bunch of features that might be worth the investment. Both are offered as one version with no option to upgrade to another plan.
When considering price, the experts also advise that you consider other elements such as:
- Is the tool cloud-based or will it need to be installed locally and run only on one specific design?
- Is the cost for one user license and are there any discounts if you purchase more?
- What period is the payment for? (usually it is for a year)
Main Criteria According to E-Learning Experts
To compile the list of the 5 best authoring tools, instructional designers and developers focused most on how convenient each tool is to use. The elements that stood out as the most important according to the iSpring “White Paper” are:
- Learning curve – The tool should be easy to get started with and include comprehensive instructions and guides.
- Assessment – The tool shall allow testing of the learners.
- Interactive modules – If the students can interact with the course they will demonstrate better engagement.
- Built-in audio and video editors – Do they offer the necessary capacity or do additional tools need to be installed?
- Communication skills training – One of the common goals of online training programs is to master communication with customers.
- Mobile learning – Can we create a course that can be run on any mobile device and allow the users to learn on the go?
Depending on the type of e-learning course, your goals or target audience, some of these criteria may prevail over the others. Focus on those that are important for your business and choose the e-learning software that meets them best.
Following the recommendations of experts in the field as given above, you will be able to find the right e-learning software that will allow you to create your course with ease. You can focus on the content and its improvement by adding the perfect voiceover or translating it into several languages using professional e-learning localization services. Enjoy preparing your next training course armed with the right tool!
- The Best eLearning Authoring Tools of 2017 by Juan Martinez
- Top 5 e-Learning Authoring Tools: The Use Cases Comparison by iSpring