Its nearly Halloween and with that comes the shocking and fearful excitement or lack thereof of the scariest things on the plane appearing at the movie theaters, in costumes, television and for us, the course authoring tool market.

Fear #1 – Evil Clown Pricing

Just in the past two years the per license cost of authoring tools has skyrocketed. Long has tools such as Studio and Captivate been on the higher side, the same can be said for vendors such as Rapid Intake and dominKnow.

So why the fear? Because other vendors are getting into the act as well. I must have missed something because I could have sworn that we are in a slow growing economy and previously a global recession.

With budgets at an all time low – granted some are going back up – the pricing seems to be out of alignment.

Compare the authoring tool market with the LMS space and you can clearly see the difference. There are more vendors in the LMS space under 10K then in the past – thus meeting the markets’ needs yet the authoring tool space is seeing a spike in prices.

Yes there are still enough lower priced per license authoring tools but when you view the landscape as a whole, the shock screams loud and clear.

  • Articulate Storyline – $1,398 per license (they seem to be into the “everything must go” marketing angle where a “until the end of the month” is becoming a staple. Of course the “we have to sell everything” is often a ruse, so is this pitch.
  • Articulate Studio – also offering a special deal at $1,398 but you also get Studio 13 for free – limited deal. They do mention in the past the price was over $1,800 but for some reason I had bought it in the past for lower. Regardless, if you are not upgrading its not cheap.
  • Rapid Intake – Talk about price increase. They were never inexpensive but come on – $2,299 for their rapid e-learning authoring suite – includes mobile (prices do drop if you purchase multiple but still 10-25 licenses runs at $1,954).
  • dominKnow – $997 for the LTE/STD/Pro (for less than five licenses) (at 5-10, the cost is $2,497 – but you do get a lot of more features and capabilities.  Compared to the other big players – dominKnow Claro is a steal. (Please note: the pricing is per year, per license)
  • Captivate 6 – $899 (per license), you want the full e-learning suite? $1,799 – per license.
  • Lectora X.6 inc. support $1,790 (per license), no support ($1,595)
  • SH!FT by Aura Interactive – $3,500 (1 license)
  • PowerTrainer Professional – $3,295 (1 license)
  • EduWiz $1,299
  • SoftChalk 7 $1,200 (desktop), $795 (cloud) – per license mind you, again at $795 a bargain!
  • NexLearn (Simulation tool) – their uber robust sim version will cost you nearly 13K for one license, their base version  (Simplicity) $999
  • Platte Canyon – Toolbook 11 (full version) $2,795 per license

All prices are U.S.D. (United States dollars)

I’d rather get smashed in the face with a small pumpkin then pay over $1,000 for an authoring tool. Let alone $999.

What is an equal frightening event is when authoring tool vendors do not even list their pricing on their page. It is as though they are the AREA 51 of the authoring space, so every thing is hush-hush.

Fear of the Mobile Bogeyman aka HTML5

Hmm.. one vendor debuts PowerPoint, the entire market adds PowerPoint. One vendor adds avatars, the whole market runs to add avatars. One vendor adds image libraries, the market starts adding image libraries. One vendor debuts with collaborative peer review, the market starts to add peer review.

What do all these have in common? Speed. Its like offering a la carte cable and then everyone else does it. But when you offer fiber optics, silence.

Yet when it comes to m-learning and HTML5 output, it is as though you are eating stale candy from 1997 shoved into your bag by an unsuspecting neighbor.

The spin around this of course is to say “we have mobile learning” but it is accessing via the mobile web browser. Not an app mind you. And in regards specifically to the output of HTML5, the numbers offering it are slim.

What’s the Hold up?

Fear and Tin Can

Fear for the HTML5 output – many vendors still believe that tablets and they mention the iPad is not going to be strong and I’ve even heard some tell me it is just a fad.  On the latter it isn’t a fad. On the former, every tablet in the market accepts HTML5. Since there are over a few hundred tablets out there with more coming, I’d say that HTML5 is huge.

Granted the others accept Flash, but when the folks who make Flash say they are moving over to HTML5, you don’t need a witch doctor to tell you to watch out for that Zombie next to you.

Halloween Fun Fact

Peanut butter candies wrapped in orange/black paper, popcorn balls, fruits and coins are tell-tell signs that you will be toilet papered later that evening.

Now back to the post.

HTML5 Part 2 – better than the sequel to many horror films

HTML5 is not going anywhere. Over the past month, the number of people who have told me they are seeking an authoring tool that outputs to HTML5 has been enormous.  No one says to me, “oh can it output to flash?”. 

They say, we want an authoring tool that supports mobile and outputs to HTML5 (and the mobile they are referring to are tablets).

A Haunting in SaaS

Referring back to the other e-learning solutions inc. LMSs, authoring tools are still way behind moving to SaaS. Again, why this is not going quicker is beyond me, when you realize that over 90% of the LMS market offers SaaS and roughly 60% are SaaS only.

Today’s workplace works remote and travels more than in the past.

Before you shout out that the people who build the courses are at the workplace (physically) think again. I know of several huge companies – both in employees and in brand name – whose instructional designers are remote (many in other states).

When you factor in the number of freelancers, contractors who are out there, there is real demand for SaaS.

But I’ve seen this before – it was called CBT (Computer based training with a CD-ROM). Even though WBT was out in full force by 2000, there were still plenty of vendors offering tools to build CBT. Heck, even in the mid 2000′s you could find folks.

Better yet – there are plenty of authoring tools today who offer outputs for CD-ROM and DVD, which is saying CBT (granted with DVD).  Why would someone want to take a rapid authoring tool course on a CD player?

Oh and were you aware that some laptops and desktops no longer have a CD-ROM player, rather they have only DVD?  What’s next? Bringing back Commodore 64 output?

Not being afraid

Only a couple of authoring tool vendors enable output to a Sony PSP (portable gaming device) and I have seen a couple who can output to PlayStation 3. Thus it is only a matter of time before you will see folks who can output to the X-Box 360.

Halloween Fun Fact #2

In Los Angeles, when you turn off your lights at your house, people still come to the front door and ring it.

Authoring Tool Treat

Yes, I have checked my calendar and I am well aware that the end of the year is not October 31st, but that doesn’t mean I can’t announce my authoring tools of 2012.

(eerie laugh)

Number 1 – Best Authoring Tool of 2012

dominKnow Claro - This is the best authoring tool on the market today.

With an extensive amount of features including HTML5 output, collaborative peer review, avatars, templates, image libraries, notes and the ability to work on the same course in real time (the authors just have to be on different pages) it stands out among the crowd.

SaaS, reusable learning objects, simulations, HTML widgets, assessment tool, on device review (great for mobile devices including the iPad), screen recording and capturing, web cam recording and desktop meeting and scheduling makes this product shine.

#2 Articulate Storyline - Fantastic product. With lots of great features. You can read my review of the product here.  Why not #1?

Well features aside – Claro just destroys it, the lack of SaaS is huge. Sure you can re-synch it with Articulate Online, but that is not the same. Another knock is that the product is geared more to e-learning developers (nothing wrong with that) rather than both – beginners/not heavy tech folks and e-learning developers, which Claro offers.

#3. Rapid Intake - This has always been one of my favorite products but it seems to be more focused on pricing then on the next tier of features. Once they were extremely cutting edge – first to output to HTML5, first to have collaborative peer review, first to have on/off synch for an authoring tool. Now, I’m not sure where they are going.

Rather then offering avatars whose mouths matched your voice (which another vendor Sh!FT offers), they seem to be in cloud mode (no pun intended).

Newcomer of the Year

Right now it is Storyline, but I won’t make it official until after I attend DevLearn and see some of the new shiny tools. 

Bottom Line

Fears are often unwarranted but it doesn’t mean they are not real.

And in the course authoring tool market, it is far too real to even stomach.

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