How do we choose the right rapid authoring software that will provide us the maximum ROI? What is the best tool in the market? Well, the answer to these questions is that the choice of a rapid authoring tool has to be made based on your needs.
As the needs of companies are as diverse as the companies themselves, different companies use different parameters to evaluate the tools. The result is that there are no “universally accepted criteria” for comparing rapid online course development software.
However, it is a good idea to consider the features that are preferred by most users. We believe that this provides the best frame of reference for evaluation because we will be comparing the software on features that are widely in demand, thus making the comparison meaningful and relevant to the needs of today’s users.
The E-learning Guild has come out with a report that has listed the most desired features in rapid digital course authoring software. Some of the important ones are as follows:
- Audio Capabilities
- Assessment Features
- Branching and Navigation Features
- Graphics and Animation Creation
- Support for Videos
- Format Templates, Themes, Skins and Text Features
- Games, Scenarios and Simulations
- Support and User-community
- Scripts and Variables Features
- Progress Tracking Features
- User Accessibility Features
- Integration with Social Media
- Publishing Options
Let us now see each feature in detail.
It is well-known that cost implications play a major role in any decision made by companies and the choice of the authoring tool is no exception. However, it is important to balance the cost aspect with other important parameters in the selection of a tool. The tool needs to support the instructional strategies properly. Otherwise it is of little use to the firm because effective online courses can’t be developed using it.
It is common knowledge that efficient use of audio enhances the effectiveness of the online course.The E-learning Guild reported that users were seeking these audio capabilities in authoring tools.
- Embed audio files
- Trigger audio in interactions
- Set audio quality
- Record narration audio
- Perform audio editing
- Store audio in a library
- Export recorded audio to MP3
- Add links to external audio files
Assessments play an important role in asynchronous eLearning. Therefore, it did not come as a surprise when the E-learning Guild report stated that most users wanted authoring tools with a wide range of assessment features. Some of the features desired were:
- Choose from wide variety of question types (including multiple choice, fill-in, and hot spot)
- Require questions to be answered
- Show review of question after score
- Format question pages as desired
- Track assessments
- Create randomized questions
- Create global quiz preferences
- Shuffle answers
- Add media to questions
- Randomize questions from banks or pools
Branching and Navigation Features
Branching and Navigation play a very important role in making the course interactive and user-friendly. The E-learning Guild report stated that users of tools wanted these 3 features to be available in authoring tools.
- Add simple branching
- Add complex branching
- Add custom navigation
Graphics and Animation Creation
Proper use of graphics and animations make the course lively and enhances its instructional value. These are the important features desired by most users, which help them use graphics and animations effectively, as per the E-learning Guild.
- Make objects on the screen interactive
- Animate screen elements
- Edit images
- Insert HTML5 animations
- Choose from multiple transitions (fade in, etc.)
- Insert Flash animations
- Insert text animations
- Use built-in characters
Support for Videos
Videos are an effective medium of imparting training and go a long way in personalizing the online course. The E-learning Guild report stated that the users wanted these video features to be available in the rapid digital course authoring software.
- Embed video files
- Trigger video in interactions
- Link to external or web video files
- Set video quality
- Record screen video
- Export recorded video
- Pan and zoom
- Store video in a library
- Perform basic video editing
Format Templates, Themes, Skins, and Text Features
The E-learning Guild report mentioned that most users believed that template, theme, skin, and text formatting features were important in an asynchronous eLearning authoring tool. They wanted these features related to templates, themes, skins and text available in the tools.
- Use numerous text formatting options (styles, bullets, justification, etc.)
- Customize how interactions look and feel
- Create own customized themes
- Create own custom templates
- Create master slides or pages
- Customize built-in player skins
- Choose from player skins
- Choose from built-in themes
Games, Scenarios and Simulations
It is well-known that effectively deigned games, scenarios and simulations prove very useful in enhancing the quality of online training. The E-learning Guild stated that the users of rapid authoring tools desired these features related to games, scenarios and simulations.
- Add interactive scenarios
- Add software simulations
- Add game elements
Support and User-community
Effective user communities and efficient support are very important in making the best use of a rapid authoring tool. The users of tools wanted these user community and support features in these software, according to the E-learning Guild.
- Easy user support
- Available free intro-training modules
- Active user community
Progress Tracking Features
It is common knowledge that progress tracking plays a very important role in an online course. The E-learning Guild reported that users of rapid eLearning software wanted their tools to track in:
- SCORM 1.2
- SCORM 2004
- Tin Can API
Scripts and Variables Features
The E-learning Guild report stated that most users opined that scripts and variables were very important aspects in the use of authoring tools. It also added that the users wanted these features to be available in the course authoring software.
- Use user variables that you create and track
- Use variables for personalization and data tracking
- Use system variables, such as current date and time
- Create scripts
User accessibility plays a key role in the efficient use of an online course. E-learning Guild stated that most users desired these user accessibility features in their course development software.
- Provide closed captioning for audio
- Provide closed captioning for video
- Provide accessibility (ADL Section 508, etc.) features
- Use text-to-speech (with included voices)
- Work with JAWs and other screen readers
Integration with Social Media
The use of social media in learning is steadily on the rise. The users of rapid authoring software wanted their tools to be integrated with these social networking services.
- Other social media
It is important to see that the rapid authoring tool you choose can publish the course in the desired format. Most users stated that they needed a course authoring software that could publish to these formats.
- Mobile Web (e.g. HTML5)
These features go a long way in helping you evaluate the instructional support, multimedia and delivery capabilities of rapid authoring tools. For more information, on the widely used rapid authoring tools, check out this free resource. Hope you find this article useful. We’d love to hear your views.