An eLearning authoring tool is a software package with which you can develop, create and package eLearning content so it is deliverable to end users. Many programs can be considered authoring tools, including Flash and PowerPoint. However, only a specific group of programs include support for eLearning content standards such as SCORM (Shareable Content Object Reference Model). Some examples of these programs (but not all) include: Articulate Storyline and Studio, Composica, Captivate, Lectora and Camtasia.
Some vendors offer PowerPoint plug-ins to add in extra features that you may feel are missing from your standalone PowerPoint program. These plug-ins help acclimate a new user, who is not familiar with standalone authoring tool software programs, since the plug-in capable program opens in a more familiar program such as PowerPoint. An example of these PowerPoint plug-in programs are Articulate Studio and Adobe Presenter.
I digress: Let me provide a brief introduction to the evolution of eLearning and how the ability to choose an independent 3rd party authoring tool came to be. Originally, when eLearning was kicking off, the eLearning solutions were all-inclusive: combining both course creation tools with the LMS itself. These were able to create, deliver, track, and manage the training (the LMS). However, this created a big problem, as people would have all of their courses locked-up in the LMS with no way to get them out and/or move to another LMS. The solution to this problem was the implementation of standards like SCORM which allowed any SCORM compliant course to be externally created and loaded, launched, and run in any SCORM compliant LMS. This new paradigm gave companies the freedom to pick their authoring tools independently of the LMS (and vice versa).
Selecting the right authoring tool for you and your organization is just as important as the LMS with which you launch the courses you create. The two go hand in hand, and the more comfortable you are with both your authoring tool environment and your LMS the more successful you will ultimately be in your eLearning efforts and goals. It is worth making use of the free trial account versions to see what works for you. Check back to our next post on the added benefits of keeping your content out of your LMS and using a 3rd party authoring tool.
For more information on Authoring Tools and how to successfully upload and integrate SCORM compliant training, view our available White Papers on these topics at: www.inquisiqr3.com/resources/documents/#whitepapers
Our experienced custom courseware developers in house reiterate that certain products are also more effective for different methods of course presentation (video, slideware, etc.) So be sure to keep that in mind as you are searching for your Authoring tool, too. Products our developers have previously tested/worked with and recommend are: Articulate Storyline, Articulate Studio, Adobe Captivate, TechSmith Camtasia, Lectora Inspire, and Composica.