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Pros and Cons of Customizing Authoring Tool Templates for E-learning

Pros and Cons of Customizing Authoring Tool Templates for E-learning

I still remember developing eLearning courses in HTML and Flash by manual coding, which use to take many days.Quality of these courses was always not up to the mark and sometimes there were functional or browser compatibility issues which delayed the project completion.

As authoring tools were introduced, developers could have felt relaxed and were able to develop courses rapidly and with high quality. Authoring tools came up with default templates and the user interface of these tools is similar to PowerPoint. So, non-programmers like instructional designers were able to develop the courses by themselves and publish them.

Using default templates available, it is easy to create courses. But, there are some limitations when you want to create very complex animations or interactions using authoring tools. It may be difficult for the instructional designer or a non-programmer to create such interactions.

Let’s see the pros and cons of developing custom templates/interactions using authoring tools.

Pros Cons
Rapid development Custom interactions can be built using logical skills, rather than programming skills. It may take more time to develop custom interactions and a lot of actions are needed to meet the functional requirement.
Tool Limitations These limitations help minimize functional errors and make it easy to edit and publish courses as many times as you want. Sometimes, due to limitations, it may be difficult to create simple interactions which are instructionally sound. You need to compromise with the limitation or change the interaction completely.
Quality If you are using default templates, then the quality will be very high.Even custom interactions with appropriate actions give high quality output. If the complexity of the interaction is more, more custom actions need to be added. The tool provides full freedom to use actions but a wrong action or missing an action leads to many errors. It requires lot of effort to identify and fix the errors.
Features All authoring tools have similar features. Custom actions are the most important and common feature of all tools.Using actions, you can create simple and complex interactions. Requires a lot of logical skills to create complex interactions.There is a limit to which interactions can be customized. Beyond that, it becomes very difficult to create complex interactions. 

Compromise on the functionality because of tool limitations.

Troubleshooting Authoring tool shows warning messages, if you are trying to use wrong actions or miss some steps. Based on the complexity of the interactions in a course, the number of actions can go up to 10,000. This will make entire course complex and it becomes difficult to identify errors and fix them.
Course developer Non-programmer or instructional designer can develop the courses. For complex interactions or customization of the look and feel, you require a good programmer who has sound logical skills.These types of complex courses cannot be updated by non-programmers or instructional designers.
Time and Effort Once the course is developed, it is easy to incorporate minor updates quickly. Developing complex courses takes more time and effort of the developer. Developers need to find alternatives to meet the functional requirement. Sometimes, they need to do research on forums to find solutions to the problems that arise.
Cost Investment on developing complex interactions will help you develop almost all the functional features required. Due to a lot of time and effort of developers, the cost will increase.
Complexity Almost any kind of complex interactions can be created with some tool limitations. The higher the complexity of an interaction, more are the chances of making errors. It may take a lot of actions to create the interaction, which leads to complexity in development or future updates. Sometimes, these interactions won’t work online.

Hope information on these pros and cons helps you decide what precautions you need take before creating a course using authoring tools. Use default templates for rapid development and when you have limited budget. The default templates are also very good in terms of instructional design. If you have specific requirements, which cannot be met using default templates, then you can customize interactions within the tool limitations.

Please share your experiences in developing complex interactions using authoring tools.

View Presentation on Rapid Authoring Tools for E-learning

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