Choosing the right authoring app is a key factor for e-learning success. That said, with so many options available it’s not always easy to know which is right for your needs. Answering these nine questions will help streamline your decision-making to determine a clear winner.
1. What’s your budget?
Cost is a smart way to narrow your options. But don’t forget—the price alone doesn’t tell the full story. When comparing your options, do a deep dive into everything each authoring app offers you.
- How do the app’s features align with your needs?
- Does it include free assets—such as templates, photos, illustrations, or characters—that can save you money?
- Are there built-in audio and video recording features?
- Does it simplify collaboration with stakeholders and subject matter experts (SMEs) and get their feedback?
- What level of technical support is included?
By weighing what is and isn’t included, you can see which option gives you the best overall value.
2. How easy is it to use the app?
Think about your course creators. Are they quick to learn new apps or less comfortable with new technology? Are they experienced developers or subject matter experts building e-learning for the first time? Do they have time to ramp up or do they need to start creating content immediately?
Also consider the level of support available to customers. Are tutorials and resources easy to find and learn from? If you run into an issue you can’t solve, is support included or do you have to pay extra? These are all important things to consider.
3. Is there a free trial?
Getting your hands on the apps you’re considering can answer a lot of questions. That’s why free trials are so helpful! They let you get a feel for how different apps work before you commit to buying.
A useful way to decide between apps is to create the same short course in each one. This makes it easy to compare the development process as well as the final look and feel of each course. If a process takes three clicks in one app and ten in another, you might decide you want the faster option.
Be sure to check how long each free trial lasts. Depending on the app, the trial might be as short as a few days or as long as a few months! Either way, it’s handy to book time in your calendar before you start up the trial so you actually have time to test the app out before it ends.
4. What level of customization do you need?
Thinking carefully about the level of customization you need can also narrow down which apps will work best for your situation.
Are you looking to quickly develop e-learning courses that look beautiful out of the box? Or do you need to have complete control over the look and feel of your courses—down to the last pixel?
Could you meet your training goals with a library of modular learning blocks? Or do you need to create fully custom interactions or immersive scenarios?
5. Do you need to create software training?
If you’re designing software training, you likely want an app that supports screen recording and software simulations.
But don’t stop there—look into what features it has to save you time on recording and editing. If you make a mistake, do you have to start over or can you edit individual frames in your recording? Can you automatically add annotations to your video during the recording process? Are there options to adjust the volume or video brightness? Can you decide on the format (screencast or software simulation) after recording? Or do you have to decide up front?
The right features can make a noticeable difference in how fast you can create software training and revise it later if something changes.
6. Does it create mobile-friendly content?
Having your e-learning courses work on mobile devices isn’t optional anymore—it’s essential! Even if your learners aren’t accessing courses on mobile just yet, it’s still good to plan for a future where they are.
But not all apps make building mobile courses easy. As you explore your options, see if the app lets you create inherently responsive courses or if you have to manually tweak your content to make sure it displays correctly on all devices. And when creating your sample courses, test them on mobile devices to see how they look and make sure they work as expected.
7. How do you want to track and host courses?
Once you’ve built your courses, you need a way to deliver them to your learners. You can do this either directly on your intranet or internet site if you don’t need to track learner data (like scores, completions, and more) or via a learning management system (LMS) system if you do.
It’s important to have a plan for how you’ll do this before you choose an authoring app, to make sure the app lets you publish your course to the format required by your hosting platform. For example, if you plan to host your courses on your website, you’ll need to publish to a web format. But if you’re hosting them on an LMS, you’ll need to publish to SCORM, xAPI (Tin Can API), cmi5, or AICC, depending on the LMS you’re using. (Haven’t heard those terms before? Then check out A Quick Introduction to LMS Standards.)
8. Will it cover your future needs?
E-learning authoring apps are a long-term investment, so do “Future You” a favor: think about what kind of e-learning you’ll need to create in the upcoming months and years. Are there topics or audiences you’re not creating content for now but likely will in the future? Will your organization’s needs shift as it better understands everything e-learning can offer? Will upcoming challenges mean you’ll need to scale up how fast you’re creating courses or who’s making them? You’ll be happier with your app choice in the long run if it can also cover these future needs.
9. Is community support available?
While it may not be the first thing that comes to mind when choosing new tech, connecting with other users is priceless. They can quickly troubleshoot issues, give you tips for getting up to speed on the app, and help you see what you can create with it in new ways.
An active user community can help you find these people quickly. And the connections you’ll make in those communities will make your work easier and support you along the way.
As you think about these nine questions, keep in mind that your app is only part of the course creation picture. You still need a solid foundation of instructional design principles to help you create meaningful e-learning experiences. But when you have the right e-learning authoring app, it makes bringing those principles to life substantially easier.
Want to learn more about the apps we offer here at Articulate? Check out this article: Why You Need the Apps in Articulate 360 and When to Use Them. And if you’d like to take Articulate 360 for a spin, start a free 30-day trial.
As always, remember to come back to E-Learning Heroes regularly for more helpful advice on everything related to e-learning. If you have any questions, please share them in the comments.