With so many different e-learning authoring apps available, it can be difficult for someone new to the field (or even someone with a few years of experience!) to determine which software will work best for them. One of the secrets to successful e-learning projects is choosing the right app for the project, one that satisfies the needs of both the learner and the developer. You’ll probably also need something that works with a learning management system (LMS) or other tracking system. There’s a lot to consider, and every project and organization has a different set of requirements.
A good place to start is by understanding the three main categories of e-learning authoring apps available: web applications, desktop software, and PowerPoint plug-ins. The type of e-learning app you need depends on a variety of factors, so make sure to consider these nine things before making a selection!
1. What’s Your Budget?
The amount of money you can spend on an authoring app or project is something you need to take into consideration. However, when looking at the total price, consider what’s included in your purchase:
- What features does the app offer?
- Are there built-in audio and video recording features?
- Does the app offer free graphic assets like templates, photos, illustrations, and characters?
- Does it include a review app to facilitate collaboration with your stakeholders and SMEs?
- Does any technical support come with the purchase?
- Does the software company offer tutorials and other resources to help you get up to speed quickly?
- Is there a community of users available to help you out in a bind?
Make sure you consider everything you’ll get for your dollar. Spending a little more on an app that saves you time can actually turn out to be cheaper in the long run—because your time is money!
2. How Easy Is It to Use?
Consider what level of learning curve you can comfortably handle. Do you need to start developing a course tomorrow, or do you have a few weeks to get accustomed to the app? Are you a technically adept person who learns how to use a new interface quickly, or do you take months to feel comfortable using a new app? What resources are provided to help you get up to speed (tutorials, for example)? If you run into an issue and are unable to find a solution on your own, what kind of technical support does the software company provide? Does the company charge more for technical support? These are all questions to consider before purchasing an app to create e-learning.
3. Are Trial Versions Available?
Most e-learning software companies allow potential customers to try a free trial full-featured version of their app so users can get a feel for its interface and capabilities before they make a final purchase decision.
You should definitely take advantage of this opportunity to try different apps firsthand before you make an investment.
Here’s a suggestion: develop a mini-course that contains one quiz in each e-learning authoring app you’re trialing. This is a great way to discover which app is easiest to learn and use. If a process takes three clicks in one app, and ten clicks in another, you might decide you want the easier option.
Trials are a great way to test-run software before you invest money. Before you download the trial, make sure to set aside time in your calendar. If you don’t have time to test it out, how will you know if the app is right for you?
4. Are You Developing Linear or Nonlinear E-Learning?
What level of interactivity are you looking to incorporate in your e-learning? Are you looking to develop straightforward, linear e-learning courses? If so, then a modern application, like Rise, will likely do the trick for you. If you want to create e-learning with interactive scenarios and branching (different paths leading to different outcomes; described as “nonlinear”), consider an application that’s specifically designed to make building interactive e-learning easy, like Articulate Storyline.
5. Do You Need to Record Software Simulations?
Does the application have a screen recorder? Can you edit individual frames in your recording? Can you automatically add annotations to your video during the recording process? If you’ll be doing a lot of software recording and simulation-based training, you’ll want an app that allows you to easily create those recordings, and then edit them easily without having to re-record. Download a trial and give the recorder a try to see if it will meet the needs for your project.
6. Can You Create Mobile-Friendly Courses?
In today’s ever-connected world, creating e-learning courses that work on mobile devices is no longer optional—it’s essential! But creating content for mobile devices can be a challenge, as they vary in size, display resolution, and ability to display Flash. You should consider mobile compatibility when choosing an e-learning authoring app. Does the app allow you to create inherently responsive courses for mobile devices or do you have to manually tweak your content to make sure it’s displaying correctly? Can you publish your course to HTML5? When trying different software options, make sure to test your content on mobile devices to see how it looks and operates.
7. Do You Need to Integrate with an LMS or Other Applications?
Consider how you’ll publish and deploy your e-learning content when choosing an authoring app. You want the app you choose to support the publishing outputs you need. If publishing content to an LMS, you’ll need to use e-learning authoring software that lets you publish to SCORM, AICC, or TinCan API format. Investigate how learners will access your e-learning content, and make sure it’s doable with the e-learning app you’re considering.
8. Will It Satisfy Your Future Needs?
It’s important to choose an app that’s ideal for the project at hand, but you should also consider what type of e-learning you might create down the road. Will the software allow you to create a variety of e-learning courses as your abilities grow or as your organization matures its e-learning expectations? You don’t want today’s choices to limit you in the future.
9. Is Community Support Available?
You’re going to invest a lot of time in your new e-learning app, so it’s important to make sure you’ll have strong community and technical support when and if you run into a problem or can’t figure something out on your own. A strong community, like E-Learning Heroes, can make a world of difference when you’re learning an app or trying out new approaches to e-learning. Plus, a good community will give you examples and tips that make it easier for you to get started on your course.
As you mull over these considerations, keep in mind that it’s important to build your e-learning on strong instructional design principles. Authoring apps help you bring these principles to life—and choosing the right one can make it easier for you to build the most compelling, learner-friendly courses.
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