As the rapid content authoring market continues to grow, new features and capabilities are equally growing. For the most part, that is a great thing, but as you are about to read, some are not.
There are 124 authoring tools in my latest directory, of which 30 are SaaS or a combination of desktop and SaaS – which really what is the point of that?
Slow growth of SaaS
Even though more tools are adding the features of collaborative and peer review (more on that in a sec) they are still heavy geared towards a desktop solution.
- Desktop: Software is installed on your hard drive of your computer and you work on your computer
- SaaS: Software is in the cloud, on the internet. You work online via the servers of your vendor. Everything is saved online
I had thought that this trend would be dying out, but it is amazing at the number of vendors who are entering the space and still focused on the desktop approach.
Let me make this very clear: you will lose market share, because if you look at consumer behavior and its favorably towards using apps in the cloud, the companies focused on having their solution in the “cloud” will win it.
Adobe Photoshop Express – in the cloud and very popular. Google Docs – ever heard of em? Microsoft Live – same thing. The list goes on and on.
With the ever growing telecomm or working remote approach (and I am even talking about FT employees), globalization and the push to in the “cloud”, it makes strong business sense to follow suit.
Despite the overwhelmingly number of vendors who have a “desktop only” solution, based on what I am seeing- a result of new feature sets – this will change. If you use the previous year numbers of vendors and the total who were in the cloud as a predicator, then at its current growth, expect by mid 2012, a minimum of 20 vendors switching to a “in the cloud” solution only.
I believe though, that will be higher, especially with these tools meeting and honestly beating some major league competitors. Vendors who are already in the SaaS only space, should continue to offer features that maximize its power.
Collaboration and Peer Review
At the end of Dec. 2010, there was only a tiny few vendors who offered online collaborative and peer review features. In just six months since then, the numbers have grown rapidly. Even one vendor who only offers desktop has a forum setup for collaborative and peer review services.
The collaboration – enabling instructional designers or every day folk to work on a course or courses together, is smart. The ability to offer the additional feature, so that SMEs or higher ups can review or take a glance at the courses whenever, is equally smart. If you think about it – how often does this happen when it comes to reviewing courses?
It is a pain when you have to send them a copy of the course via your email or a link via the intranet. Worse, printing it out and handing it off to be marked up by your SME or another staff person.
This eliminates that issue.
One vendor says people can work on the course remotely – in real time, rather then Susan working on it in Tel Aviv and Joe who is in Phoenix having to wait until she signs off, so he can begin working on it.
Continued growth. This feature set will become a standard for systems in the “cloud” because of the reasons stated above – everyone hates those options, at T&D departments at their businesses. If anything because it delays rollout.
While there are SaaS tools that do not yet offer this feature, it will change. Remember when only a few offered the PPT to Flash option in their tools? What happened? Everyone started to include it. Same thing.
Let’s see – what is the fastest e-learning subset ever to garner audience interest for all solutions? Hmm, oh yeah mobile learning. It has blown past social learning, and continues to roll. Yet, surprisingly for content authoring tools, it is still in infant stage. Now, some of you may say, well it takes a long time to add this feature.
The rapid increase in mobile learning is tied directly to tablets. I know, smartphone lovers will disagree, but if you go back into 2010, how many authoring tools or platforms were offering m-learning despite the extensive growth of smartphones (which has been increasing for years)?
Yet, today it is gaining fast adoption across all e-learning lines.
In the content authoring tool market, the number of vendors who offered either mobile learning build capabilities within their tool or offered a stand-alone mobile course authoring tool is 28, of which two are free open source solutions.
Going back into 2010, there were less than nine, of which there was one who could output to HTML5, although it wasn’t really true HTML5 output.
at the numbers in just 7 months. Solid, not great, but solid.
What I found interesting in 2010 and still a couple of vendors are following the approach today – their m-learning capabilites are only for the Blackberry smartphone. I’m not sure they follow the financials or business news of late, but RIM (who makes the Blackberry) laid off folks and is no longer the number one smartphone. Another vendor accepts Palm, which just a few weeks ago, HP (who now owns Palm) announced it was dropping Palm OS from its plans.
A couple of vendors offer SDK development tools with their SaaS authoring tool. Genius.
Despite a few vendors who are living in 2009 in the mobile learning space, overall growth while solid, will continue to grow. The tablets will drive it. Keys to success will be based on the following offerings within the m-learning tool
Self contained app on a tablet or I hate to say it – smartphones – bottom line everything can be done within the app, no need to click the app and go to the vendor’s online tool – after all, if that is the capability today, why would I even want the app, since I can just click my browser?
Online/Offline synch, Push capabilities – has to exist. Look at the consumer market as a whole and not just within the space, not everyone has access 24/7 via the net through 3G or higher. Most folks are using wi-fi only, and it continues to grow.
Output to HTML5 – HTML5 across the tech space is continuing to grow – at a strong clip. There recently was a big time company who announced they were going to develop their solution only in HTML5, not flash.
Who dominates market share in the tablet space? Apple. They output only to HTML5. The Xoom by Motorola still outputs only to HTML5, although they are waiting for a Flash feature. Overall, all tablets, even those who accept Flash, accepts HTML5.
Built in assessment tool, inc. surveys
Becoming a standard in the industry. Whether it is a stand alone product that comes with the authoring tool or built in (which is increasing, rather than the stand alone), this is becoming the norm. The goal of course, is a one stop shop, rather than going with an assessment tool vendor and then selecting a content authoring tool vendor.
Continued growth, not much more to say to that.
Gaming features and sims
I’m not talking output to WoW or a Medal of Honor, but the ability to create games – real gaming capabilities – not “activites” such as Jeopardy or Wheel of Fortune type.
Sims – built in simulation tools targeting the rapid content authoring tool market and thus experience within that space, is expanding. Sim tools as standalones have always existed, but one negative has always existed – they are difficult to use and your tech skill sets really need to be intermediate or you are an elearning developer or have a background in instructional technology.
These tools are simple to use and offer some nice features. Their output can only go so far, so if you are expecting a sim tool that is the same as a very robust and thus higher tech skills required tool, it is not going to happen.
Gaming and sims are intertwined. At the end of the day, to have a great gaming course, you need to have a strong sim.
A hybrid system has the following features
- Content Authoring Tool is its main component
- Offers some reports, tracking, notifications, occasional assessment (but not the norm)
- Inability to accept 3rd party off the shelf courses or courses not build with their authoring tool
These systems have grown over the past several months, because there are people who are seeking a solution, that offers the bare minimums of a learning management platform.
I would argue that vendors such as Mindflash.com and Knoodle are hybrid solutions, after all their main feature is their content authoring tool. Although, I would state from Knoodle’s perspective the tool is equally a presentation solution.
On going growth. These systems are not going to disappear any time soon. The demand is there.
Vendors to Watch
In 2010, I listed a few vendors to watch in 2011. All the vendors listed below offer a robust set of features and in a couple of cases, their tools are strong in UI and capabilities.
Rapid Intake – their launch of mLearning studio is another fine example of a vendor that is going places. Solution is easy to use and can output to not only Flash but also HTML5. They offer Unision, SaaS based and were the first to offer collaborative and peer review features.
Composica – Always strong in feature sets and was a vendor to watch in 2010. My opinion has not changed.
Courselab – The best free open source product on the market. Feature set is impressive and they are strong both for newbies and those with intermediate tech skill sets.
Kookaburra Studios – Their previous version of Professional Presenter was underwhelming in features, but their latest incarnation shows they are finally getting it and blowing past it.
Thinking Worlds – Ability to create 3D games and sims. Enough said.
Most people assume that Articulate, Lectora and Captivate are the best tools out there, that is no longer the case. It can be said that for many folks they are unaware of the other 121 vendors in the market, some of which match and even blow by these vendors.
When you are seeking out a solution ask yourself, the following questions:
- It meets my needs today, but will it in one to two years?
- Are they constantly adding feature sets that follow the overall consumer market, as well as the e-learning industry?
- From a cost standpoint, do the features and capabilities match it or surpass it?
- What is my goal for my learners? Do you want full engagement and interactivity?
When you examine the content authoring tool market, some of these vendors are not sustainable, from a growth standpoint. In some cases they are already falling steps behind.
Thus, you need to ask yourself one more question.
Times are changing. Are they?
Great post, Craig. Times are changing fast, often between contract development, signing and launch. As a result, the developers must choose a process and go with it.
Does this mean all tools are obsolete by launch? Or that contracts should include update options (adding to cost when competitors who are bidding may not be so correct or honest)? How do you sell a client on the fact that things are changing so fast that yesterday’s development is truly yesterday?
And…reality check…if the learning is good does it make a difference?
What are those of us in the field to do?
Good content elearning post. really times are changing fast and lot in the online elearning, LMS and mlearning and many more elearning courses.
Craig, great post, but please do some fact check:
Just my 2 points:
1. Courslab is not free tool at all: http://zaidlearn.blogspot.com/2007/08/courselab-100-free-e-learning-authoring.html
2. HTML 5 is supported differently by different browsers thus a lot of problems for developers.
Could add more…
Actually they have two versions.
The first version is Free – http://courselab.com/db/cle/root_id/download/doc.html – and you can also see that on the home page. As it notes, it is not a trial, not a demo and is full featured.
2. HTML5 is superior to Flash, and yes while browsers will act differently on it, it is because of the video codecs, which at this time are not universal. Of course if you are not using video, then this is irrelevant. Equally, the end user does not have to worry, because the codecs are already built in.
Please read my post on HTML5 which identifies the codecs, as well as the reasons it is superior to Flash.
If you want to gauge just a small example of its power – check out Wilderness Adventure by the Arcade Fire. It uses geolocation – a feature that Flash does not offer. I recommend Chrome.
HTML5 is less buggy then Flash, open source – so you can do quite a bit with it, accepts APIs – Flash doesn’t, 40% less resources hog, geolocation – which will become of significance with m-learning and some features people may want to include (BTW, one content authoring tool vendor has geolocation as part of its feature set), and many other benefits.
Oh, and you do not have to download a plug-in or updates for HTML5, unlike you do with Flash, which as you know can cause headaches for some end users, because with some of the newer courses, Flash 8 or higher is required, and many businesses do not keep up with the latest.
HTML5 isn’t inferior or superior to Flash. They can fulfill the same purposes but they are not necessarily intended for the same purposes. It’s foolish to make this comparison. And the variance in behavior in HTML5 isn’t entirely due to video codecs. It may interest you to know that much of the corporate and government world, as well as the the academic world is stuck in older browsers. HTML5 won’t work at all. Flash will and will be a superior choice in these instances for similar goals for many years to come.
HTML5 is also not less buggy than Flash. And Flash isn’t necessarily closed source (the player is, the format is not). The “bugginess” is largely up to the person coding the interaction. If you think switching to HTML5 will change that…
Flash will continue to have niche uses even after HTML5 gains full momentum, regardless of partisan rhetoric.
You may not need to download a player or plug-in for HTML5. Instead… an entirely new browser for a standard that isn’t even finished yet.
I get that HTML5 is pretty hot. I love the new capabilities it will offer when it’s finished and when my customer base is ready for it. But I don’t get this HTML5 vs Flash argument. It’s shallow, petty, and stupid. It rings of ignorance.
Hmm, funny Amazon launched its newest solution for the Kindle in HTML5. Adobe is creating a product specifically for HTML5, rather than just having a kit you can use with CS5 and it continues to grow.
No matter how much info you provided to someone about its superiority over Flash, if you love Flash you will dismiss it and offer counters, regardless of the data. But, read the hundreds of web sites out there, not written by Apple or initially pro HTML5 and you will see the same things that I have been mentioning, for a while – at the end of the day, HTML5 will be superior to Flash.
I can see that you’ve read and taken to heart Steve Jobs’ thoughts about Flash and HTML5…
HTML5 is hopefully going to be a big leap forwards for the HTML standard once it actually becomes a standard (Reccommendation next year?), but you could probably be a bit more openminded about the shortcomings of HTML 5 due to the fact that it’s not yet a standard and still is “work in progress”:
1. HTML5 is NOT a standard as of yet, won’t be for some time. Old version of HTML is umpteen years old, and different browsers STILL handle HTML code in different ways.
2. Different browsers are implementing different parts of HTML5 in different ways, so support will vary. Will be great when they all share a common implementation of the coming full standard… sometime in the future.
3. Updating – yep, you’re correct.. no need to update plugins any more! Instead, you have to upgrade the BROWSER itself as support for HTML5 is expanded. Large companies do not normally keep current with the latest versions of browsers. Loads of companies are still running on IE6 because it’s a major undertaking to upgrade the browser. This will ofc be no problem once everyone are on later version of the browsers. Google on the other hand went as far as to integrate Flash into Chrome.. so no need to download plugins any more, and everything is updated automatically.
4. Flash in it’s latest incarnations support all the mobile functionalities you could wish for, like e.g. accessing mobile devices’ GPS positioning system.
5. Don’t know where you get the “ressources hog” from and that HTML5 should use “40% less ressources”? This was certainly true with old versions of Flash, but it’s not any more. Apple was complaining for some time that Flash used too much ressources and CPU.. due to hardware-acceleration not being supported on the Macs because Apple wouldn’t allow it… With the new versions of Flash, where hardware acceleration is supported, this is no longer an issue. And Flash will soon support hardware accelerated 3D directly too, important for games and other interesting applications. Also, a lot of complaints was made that “websites with Flash load too slowly and consume too much ressources”.. yes of course they did.. try making a website in HTML5 having 10-15 advanced animated banners etc. running at the same time and see what happens to ressources and loading time. It is an issue of extraordinarily bad web-design trying to create pages like this.
6. The only platform today where Flash really is an issue, is iOS devices because Apple does not ALLOW Flash to run in the browser. Flash still runs on these devices as Adobe AIR apps, but then you have to download them from Apples Appstore…. Flash runs on Android, WebOS, RIM QNX, with WP7 and others hopefully soon to come as well. The sad thing about this is that the first video EVER I saw of a mobile device running Flash was of an iPhone running Flash.
7. New Cloud-based browser technologies will eliminate a lot of the issues releated to these differing technologies. The Skyfire browser allows youy to run basic Flash, like e.g. videos on your iOS device. Today, e.g. iSwifter allows you to run fully interactive Flash like games etc. on the iPad. OnLive is also a coming cloud service here, allowing you to run Flash, Silverlight, HTML5 etc. on any device like e.g. pads of all types.
We’re all hoping for a brighter future with technologies making life easier.. today we see a “war” between the different technology-leaders with Apple on one side and “the rest of the world” on the other when it comes to the issue of Flash on mobile devices. And I think it’s all about business models, not what’s best for the users.
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