Welcome to my yearly Halloween Edition. This year we will focus on the top ten authoring tools for 2013.  Each one has a frightful story to tell. Shocking? You bet. Hide under the covers? Doubtful – and if you do, don’t share that info with your colleagues, because if a blog post scares you, well..

For each authoring ranking, a brief true ghost story, then the vendor and why it was selected.

If you are not a fan of this don’t worry, your neighbors told me that your house will be TPd (toilet papered) on Oct. 31st. And you will receive a bag on fire (guess what is in it) on your doorstep when the bell rings – quick stomp on it.. heh heh heh.

#10  Zenler Studio

Back again in the top twenty rankings, but this time it hits number 10.  What I like about this product includes the ability to output to HTML5, works on mobile devices, is extremely easy to use, appears within PowerPoint and SCORM.

Ghost Factoid: In recognition of those lists identifying the scariest movies, here is my top five: Exorcist, The Shining, The Changeling (1980 version), Poltergeist (fun fact: the exterior of the house – seen in the movie, is only five blocks from where I live) and Ju-On (2002).

#9 Quicklessons

A newbie to the rankings. What has stopped the product in the past from being in the top 20 was a lack of clarity in terms of what they were trying to accomplish – at least that was my take.  Now, it seems they finally got it.  SCORM/AICC.

Features I like include:

  • HTML5 output
  • Avatars/Actors/Templates
  • Digital repository of learning objects
  • Nice assessment tool

Ghost Factoid: William Castle was the master of “shock” campy in movies. For House on the Haunted Hill, he had skeletons come down from the screen to the audience. In the “Tingler” he placed buzzers under certain seats, and when the time was right, the movie staff pressed them – which resulted in a person jumping out of their seat.

#8 Lumesse CourseBuilder

Proof that you can create an amazing authoring tool without being based in the U.S. One of the trends I forsee in 2014 is an increase in the number of authoring tools enabling multilingual while creating a course. Thus when you place the course into a LMS that is in your native language, the course matches that language.  SCORM.

Features I like include:

  • Multilingualism
  • SaaS
  • Output to HTML5
  • Nice tracking feature
  • Digital repository for learning objects

Ghost Factoid:  Everyone needs a hobby. Mine is staying at alleged haunted hotels and inns. And yes, I have some cool photos and stories that would make you not want to sleep at night. Pleasant dreams.

#7 Courselab

Was in the top 10 for 2012 and stays in for 2013.  While they do offer a free version – which is quite nice, the fee based version (which isn’t that pricey) offers a stronger set of features. AICC/SCORM, SCORM 1.2, SCORM 2004.

Features I like include:

  • Extensive set of capabilities from repositories to object panes
  • Uses a PowerPoint like layout, albeit it shows a hierarchy approach which many people will like – so if you think this is nothing more than PPT in appearance – trust me it is not
  • Scenario builder
  • Action based object animation
  • One major downer: No HTML5 output

Ghost Factoid:  Reportedly some people are ghost magnets. Which means they attract ghosts even if they don’t want to.  Are you a ghost magnet and if yes, have you left them at your office yet?

#6  Aura Interactive Shift

One of the first authoring tools to enable the synching of your voice to match the actors/avatars’ lips.  They were also one of the first to have scenario backgrounds that matched certain real world backgrounds – example: office background

Features I like include (beyond just the ones mentioned):

  • Create games – way better than some of the “game like” things I see
  • Scenario builder
  • Audio recording studio – don’t expect this to be similar to your $500 or more audio studio software, because it is not
  • Can embed videos

Ghost Factoid: I’ve got nothing. But, hark: do I hear an audio story coming? Why, yes, yes I do:

Scream, my friend, scream for here comes the top five course authoring tools.

#5 Adobe Captivate

I actually met the two individuals who oversee Captivate in terms of product development.  They wanted to know why their product was not number one since it contained many of the same features as the top two.  I cited my previous argument that they had Premiere, Photoshop from the early to mid 90′s and Audition – another product and never added any of items or components from these products into Captivate to give it more punch.  I mean they didn’t need to re-invent the wheel, it was already there.

They said that in their talks with instructional designers this wasn’t something the ID folks wanted – i.e. an additional set of features from those various products.  I told them, that the people I have spoken with, disagree and the market in 2014 shows that there is still not a pure authoring tool for e-learning developers, who still are seeking such a product. As such, how can you not put more oomph into Captivate?

Another issue I had – no SaaS, which considering they announced that their CS products were only going to be available in the cloud, seems strange that Captivate would not be.  Lastly as you are well aware, Captivate is not a component of their e-learning studio solution.

Features that I like include:

  • Beyond Branching (another big trend for 2014 – as in greater branching capabilities – as we get close to true adaptive learning)
  • HTML5 output, Tin Can
  • Actions, variables, objects, properities
  • Interactions, actors/avatars, HD screencasts
  • Text to Speech – awesome!

Perhaps one of the most famous ghost photos of all time – the Brown Lady

#4 Training Bricks – Bricklayer

Here is a great example of an authoring tool that is not well-known but provides enough for someone to create a very cool course. Easy to use, simple and quick.  The product is not for instructional designers, e-learning developers or those who have high IT skill sets – because that is not the target audience IMO.

Features that I like include:

  • Fun to create courses – you have to enjoy creating courses, especially when you have to create them all the time
  • Timeline – easy to use, oh and multiple tracks too
  • Comes with some analytics (another trend for 2014)
  • Scenarios, actors

Ghost Photo – #2 – The Sailor

#3 GoAnimate

One of my trends for 2014 is the increase of video courses – i.e. courses created in video rather than embedding a video. As such, GoAnimate sits in at number three, because it outputs its scenarios to MP4.  Not only that but you can choose from 360p for faster conversion or 720p for HD – ideal for online video or even, 1080p for Blu-Ray quality.

If you want to embed you can do that as well.

Features I like include:

  • Avatars, animations, voice synching and a lot of options to do a variety of capabilities within the course
  • Timeline
  • Ability to upload your own audio and other files or use their audio tracks
  • Can use their own text to speech options or record your own voice

Ghost Factoid – Why do people no longer dress up as ghosts? Also, who eats those peanut butter taffy like things that are in orange and black wrapped paper? Back in my day, that was a guarantee TP house, plus anyone who gave pennies. I’d rather you gave me a rock to use later on.. hehehhehe

#2 Articulate Storyline

First off, this is a great product. I really enjoy it because it enables someone with no course experience to at least jump in and create a basic course. For those ID folks or people who want to push the course possibilities, then Storyline offers that.

So, why are they not #1?  A couple of key issues

  • Not SaaS – the authoring tool industry is moving more towards SaaS, then in previous years and as a well known vendor you would think Articulate would see this and say , “here I go”, but they do not.
  • I do not see it as an all in one authoring tool platform – again could be ,it is not, and for those folks who want to have some analytics you have to push the course into Articulate Online – the reason? See #1 – no SaaS
  • Constant fixes – I know bugs come up after launching a software product, but there seems to be more than usual with Storyline compared to the #1 authoring tool, and even some of the other authoring tools in the rankings. It may appear to be minor issue to bring up, but the people who bought the product shouldn’t be finding these many issues – isn’t that what Q/A is for?

So, what do I like about the product?

  • Avatars/Actors with a lot of capabilities
  • Scenario backgrounds
  • Creating a course can be quite fun, especially if you utilize the actions, objects and variables
  • Offers enough advanced functionality to push the course to new levels especially with engagement and interactivity

Ghost Factoid:  Back in 1972 there was a horrific plane crash in the Everglades (Florida). The plane was Eastern Airlines, flight 401. Soon afterwards, people on other Eastern Airlines flights reportedly told of seeing the pilots of ill fated plane crash (uh, the pilots did not survive).

#1 dominKnow Claro

Last year’s number one authoring tool, achieves it again, but this year it was very close. Claro continues to improve their product and add features to turn it into a true all in one authoring tool platform.

Features that I like include:

  • Preview mobile mode – no longer do you have to create the course and check it out on your mobile device to see how it looks – now you can click “preview” and it will show you it within the tool
  • Claro’s mobile output is responsive
  • HTML5 output
  • New offline player – since Claro is SaaS – you can push your course info for people taking it into Claro and generate some statistics (more on this trend, later on)
  • Avatars/Actors/Scenarios
  • Co-authoring while building a course – One of the problems of collaboration during course creation is that the people working on the course, cannot be on the same page at the same time while it is being built – one has to go to another page or go offline.  With Claro that is eliminated. You can have multiple people in different locations working on the same page at the same time – now that is cool
  • RLO – Resuable learning objects
  • Multilingualism plus translation import/export
  • SaaS

Bottom Line

There you have it – the top ten authoring tools for 2013.  I know what you might be saying to yourselves – where is the ghost factoid for #1?

Don’t worry because I saved the best for last.

The photo was taken at Gettysburg, PA in a covered red bridge during the day, where it was reported that some Confederate soldiers hung their traitors on their way out of Gettysburg.

Who took this ghost photo?

Funny you should ask.

It was me. 

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