Two weeks ago I got the wonderful opportunity to speak in OZ, specifically Melbourne, Australia.

What I found was an extensive group of people hungry for anything e-learning. They were hungry to know more information. Hungry to learn as much as they could and hungry to see what was in the space.

My sense of it all, was that regardless of the location the buzz is all e-learning.

I wasn’t surprised on the e-learning excitement.

I’ve been watching the market for a long time and seeing the growth that exists in the country. Mind you the same vibe exists in New Zealand.

It was awesome. Just as awesome as finding the AC/DC lane.

I wasn’t thunderstruck, but what I was surprised at was the number of folks who had or were about to purchase the well known authoring tools in the market, Articulate, Captive and Lectora.

If they are unfamiliar with the size and scope of the authoring tool market as many people are, then it makes sense to do what others do – and buy the well known brands.

Fatboy Slim – Praise You

When people think authoring tools, three products typically come to mind

  • Articulate
  • Adobe Captivate
  • Lectora

Articulate Studio

I’ve always found this product to be the top of the line for PowerPoint to Flash course builds. It is easy to use and once you learn it, easy to push out content.  Two components are the shining stars – Presenter and Quizmaker.

Articulate loves to say that Engage is used often, but from folks I have spoken with who use the product, that doesn’t seem to be the case.

Engage is the only product you can edit the HTML – using a HTML Kit. Granted the changes are limited but at least it is something. The rest you can’t. 

Their video encode program is lackluster, you are better off using Audacity – which is free.

A strong pro is that it can generate a table of contents and can be outputted into various LMSs.

The Cons – Articulate Studio

You can only go so far with this product. At some point you will hit the glass ceiling, much like Charlie did in the the Chocolate Factory. Sure he blasted through it, but with this product you can’t.

The two biggest negatives IMO, is that it just isn’t robust enough for e-learning developers and its whole focus on PPT into converting to a course doesn’t help.

Yeah, people love it. Yeah people buy it. But people love to buy fast food, it doesn’t mean that it is on par with a five star restaurant.

And this product is by no means a five star solution.

Adobe Captivate

The king of authoring tools. Long held as a sacred course development product that can achieve greatness for the masses and for some people achieve the same with e-learning developers (I disagree, but that was a previous post).

Case in point:

  • Use of the term “slides”. Any e-learning developer would know that the proper term is pages, as in Chapter-Pages. No e-learning developer or instructional designer would ever say “slides”. If they did, they would have to walk the plank.
  • Themes. I love themes, but let’s face facts – themes are geared for the masses – again, nothing against that, but as noted above, an e-learning developer will often cringe at themes. It reminds them of templates, and speaking of which
  • Templates. Anytime a pre-built offering is available with your product, you cannot honestly tell me that it is geared towards e-learning developers and hardcore instructional designers. Again, I’m a big fan of templates, when it comes to the masses or when you are working in Excel and have desire to build a spreadsheet with macros and pivot charts in it.

Templates in the past have been seen as the winning component, and it it true in the rapid content authoring market today. In fact, I consider it a huge negative if your authoring tool doesn’t have it, especially those that are robust simulation templates.

But, from an e-learning developer standpoint, the thought of using a template is the same as painting with numbers. Blue is number 2, red is number four and so on.

Pros

Feature rich.

HTML5 output, publish to the iPad and text to speech functionality. I also love that they are ADA 508 compliant, which many authoring tools are not.

That said, in general their features are no longer leaders. Rather they are followers.

What do I mean by that?

  • Avatars – actors – as noted a new feature trend.  Nothing like jumping on the bandwagon
  • Templates – trend
  • Interactive elements
  • Screen capture – more and more vendors are adding it
  • Scenario branching – this should be a standard in every product, and thankfully it is becoming more so
  • Collaborative – yeah they are expanding on it, but its in trend mode

Could it happen?

Although there is no indicator that it is in the works or they have even considered it, I have to wonder whether Adobe sees this product as eventually becoming part of the CS  Cloud.

I’m a big fan of SaaS solutions so for me it would be a logical next step and a smart one at that.

However, there are plenty of people who have come to rely on the desktop version and by doing so, would it hurt sales?

I’m unsure, but if it was to happen there is no doubt in my mind that having the same product in essence competing against it self, wouldn’t be a smart business edition.

Lectora

Another well used product in the space. Just as with Captivate and Articulate, Lectora has a huge following of loyal customers and they continue to attract more customers all the time.

In comparison to the other products listed here, I’ve never been a fan of the authoring tool. I have always seen it as lackluster in comparison to other products in the market. At one time, Lectora was ideal for both developers and the masses, but I’m unsure today.

Yes they were one of the first ones to output to HTML5, but they were not the first.

And unlike some of their competitors they clearly see themselves as forward thinking but I’m just not sold.

From my angle they are falling into the same trap that so many other vendors in this space are already in – having features that just are the same ol same with lots of others in the space.

My gerbil in the wheel mentality. 

Bottom Line

Articulate, Adobe Captivate and Trivantis are going to continue selling a large quantity of product. They are going to continue to generate huge followings and very loyal customers.

But that doesn’t mean they don’t have faults nor does it mean that they should always deserve your praise.

Because they don’t.

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