While traditionally best of the best are announced in December, I decided why wait. I mean it is not like something is going to change in just a few weeks for any such product.

Before I get to the list, people always want to know how do I decide what constitutes the best of the best.

Here are my criteria

  • Innovation – if the product doesn’t offer some innovative features, then they are stale. If they are stale – seriously do you deserve to the best?
  • Feature sets – they have to be more than PPT to Flash or add an audio clip and video clip to the course. No offense here, but doing just a clip here or there doesn’t make it interactive.
  • Mobile Learning/HTML5 output – doesn’t hurt and has to be considered. That said, not everyone on the list offers it – since some who do, are not best of the best
  • Desktop vs SaaS – a factor in the decision making. Again, not every tool below is SaaS based, but at some point, you have to move to the SaaS world, especially if you are offering or saying you do – some type of mobile learning functionality
  • Ease of Use – definitely plays into the decision making. I’ve seen some authoring tools that fit most of the criteria above, but whose ease of use is substandard or even really bad. One product reminded me of bad shareware.
  • Design – People want fresh – nice look and feel. UI has to make sense and be very navigation and logical friendly
  • Other – In the last four months, I have seen an increase in online authoring systems – which feature a RCAT along with reporting functionality, e-mail notifications, adding users angle – I used to call them hybrid systems, but a better term is “Online Authoring Systems”. Anyway, I didn’t remove them from consideration.
  • Popularity – wasn’t a factor. Just because it is popular doesn’t mean it the best.
  • Same thing with winning awards. When you see many of these awards from organizations – the general mass of them (but not all of them) require the vendor/company to submit an application for whatever category or categories. Those who do not submit cannot win.

An additional note

  • There is never any pay for play here – even my vendor clients are aware that they may not win best of the best.
  • Never quid pro quo

Updated Content Authoring Tool Directory

  • Identifies the best of the best and now identifies vendors who offer a reader discount when you purchase their product. Right now, there is one vendor who is offering a discount. I’m hopeful that more will join in (as they are doing on my new LMS directory – coming soon).
  • The vendor who offers the discount is one of the top ten – but they were not selected because they offer a discount. They were selected because the fit all my criteria above and frankly it is a very good product. As noted, there is no quid pro quo.

Content Authoring Tools Directory

Lastly, they are ranked. #1 – means #1, etc. They are still best of the best. Considering there are over 120 content authoring tool products in the space, being one of the top ten – puts you IMO – as best of the best. Ranking goes from #10 to #1.

And now, without further adieu..

The Ten Best Course Authoring Tools

#10 Aura Interactive – SH!FT - Really intriguing product. I loved that the background templates can match with a specific scenario, such as the healthcare one I saw with their avatars. The lip synch thing is a big winner too.

#9 – ReadyGo! – This is a tool that for fans of Articulate who may want some additional capabilities might enjoy. Don’t be discourged by their web site – it isn’t ideal, but the product is cool. Solid set of features.

The version you want is the Pro version which comes with Corel Paint Shop Pro, Qarbon Viewlet builder. It pitches that it is a m-learning product because it supports HTML5. It doesn’t output to HTML5, though.

#8 Composica 4.0 - A winner in my book back in 2010 and still solid in 2011. Yes, it offers the social learning authoring features – robust actually, which most vendors in this space does not, but it has added task management and PENS.

#7 Rapid Intake eLearning Studio – One of the first RCATs to offer collaborative capabilities on the net. SaaS based solution, that offers contractors/developers who create courses for other folks – access to the Flash files. Feature set in general is strong. They are innovators and never stale. Ease of use is clearly visible.

#6 Learning Tools MLOAT - I will be the first to admit this is not for non-techies. This product is 100% geared towards e-learning developers or instructional designers who have at a minimum moderate tech skills. That said, for a freebie -and yes, I said freebie (open source) it has a lot of power.

Works across multiple platforms, SCORM, learning object generator and more. There is a reason its called a Multimedia Learning Object Authoring tool. Works well in both corporate and education space.

#5 easyGenerator – You can read a review of their last version on this blog. The newest version adds an adaptive learning capability, which I saw first hand at DevLearn – it was extremely impressive and extremely rare in this space. What hurts them though is no HTML5 output, which I hope will change. SaaS based, easy to use and perfect for any skill set, although for hardcore e-learning developers they may be disappointed.

#4 Kookabura Studios – Professional Presenter X – another fav of mine back in 2010 and still a strong player in 2011. Why very few folks know of this product is beyond me, but you should. You want the version listed here, anything else wouldn’t be worth it. Mass and I mean mass set of features. However, they do not output HTML5 (a reader thought they did).

New features include a documentary maker and iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad developer kit (awesome!). Anyone from zero tech skills to hardcore e-learning developer will find enough in this product to warrant a purchase.

The Top 3 for 2011 (drum roll and shouts are encouraged)

#3 – CourseLab - This is for the free version. Yes, they offer a paid version, but the freebie is more than enough. To give you an example, the free version is ADL SCORM 2004 certified (many commercial paid ones are not). Includes assessments, simulation capability and wizards. I loved it in 2010 and my love is still there, in 2011. IMO the best free authoring tool on the market and as you can see here, one of the best period.

#2 dominKnow Claro – Last year I was underwhelmed with this product, this year I’m stoked. This is an online authoring system (see info above) and its authoring tool means business. Built in audio, image and video tools, enables this to be a one stop service, thus eliminating the need to use Camtasia and alike.

I loved the feedback feature with date/time stamp – so anyone can see what someone else posted, removing the replica comments that often appear. Deadline component is equallly nice. Offers collaborative features such as peer to peer review.

#1 Rapid Intake mLearning Studio – RI makes three products. Unison ranked earlier, ProForm – hopefully shelved at some point and mLearning studio. The best of the best is mLearning Studio. As noted earlier, these guys are innovators.

One of the first ones to output to HTML5. Fully utilizies the iPad/iPad2 experience. Online/Offline synch comes with the tool – a requirement for any RCAT that offers m-learning IMO, especially one where people build courses.

Other strong features include

  • Collaborative test functionality – now everyone can test and verify – regardless of their location
  • Preview in three different mobile forms – phone, 7 inch and 10 inch tablet
  • Course assessment capability
  • Can add HTML5 audio and video (SWEET!)
  • Components include TOC and Glossary – standards in my book

Lastly, it looks like a course when you publish it -regardless if it is Flash or HTML5 – not a PDF or word doc or something that is a hybrid of the two.

Okay..now why not:

a. Articulate Studio – Stale. I haven’t seen anything that has wowed since late 2009. The next version of Studio shows promise, but the current version is the same ol same.

Note: I have used the product as late as 2011 and I am in the beta group for Storyline.

The fact Studio (soon to be newest ver) has been pushed back on its launch dates numerous times, tells me it is yet not ready for prime time.

b. Captivate – Overrated in my book. Listen its a nice product, but IMO there are ones better. Just because a lot of people use you or know of you, doesn’t mean your the best. In fact, most folks have no idea that there are other authoring tools out there beyond Articulate, Captivate and Camtasia.

c. ContentPoint – They offer some very nice features, inc. the publish to Sony PSP, but when the salesperson tells you they are the leaders in the authoring tool space, yet have no plans to offer HTML5 publish/output – then in my book – you are not a leader.

AWARD WINNERS FOR 2012

If you missed the post for the award winners for 2012: here are my top three.

1. dominKnow Claro
2. Articulate Storyline
3. Rapid Intake

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