Survey Says… (authoring tools)

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rdHi, this is the ghost of Richard Dawson bringing you another exciting episode of Authoring Tools Survey.  We are in the final round and our contestant, Craig Weiss, will try to ascertain what the latest data from his recent survey means to the masses.

Before we jump into this game, let’s take a look at some key details.


Survey Information

We asked e-learning audiences around the world via the internet, what they were seeking in authoring tools. 507 people responded.  With each question, respondents could select as many as they wanted – since it was tied to feature sets.

Craig – are you ready to enter the final round of Authoring tools survey? “Yes, bring it on ghost of Richard Dawson.”

Question 1

What features would you like to see in an authoring tool?  Respondents could answer, “Nice to have”, “Required”, “Not interested” and “Don’t Know”.

“Spirit of Richard, here are the answers” – we will now be switching to Craig’s data and his responses.  Please refrain from cheering, comments or clapping.

End users spoke loud and clear on what feature sets they want when it comes to authoring tools.  When I say want, I mean they see it as a must requirement.

Here are the top five feature sets that are required

  • 83% said Layers, Actions and Triggers
  • 83% said Output to HTML5
  • 62% said Spell Checker
  • 54% said PowerPoint add-in
  • 52% said Audio editor

What it means

Considering that the 41% of respondents had three or less years of experience in building online courses, I think it says a lot.  The days of just PowerPoint to Flash and simplicity are no longer cutting it.  When you toss in 19% who have four to six years, the numbers really come into play.

Most people would assume that the 50% of five or more years (26% who had more than 10 years) would be the drivers behind the need for layers, actions and triggers and I would partially agree. But the success of products such as dominKnow and Articulate Storyline are proving there is a demand beyond e-learning developers.  

I also found the HTML5 numbers to fully back what I have been saying for the past year.  For those authoring tool vendors who still think this is just a passing fad or are using the wait and see approach – if this data doesn’t punch you in the gut to get moving – nothing will.

Just as people on the LMS side are seeking on/off synch than ever before, the ability to output to HTML5 is no longer a nice to have but a necessity. 

Let me be clear, these folks are not saying just have the ability to see it in a browser, they are saying – we want to publish to tablets that support HTML5 – which numbers into the hundreds.

Spell checker seems like a no-brainer and yet it continues to be a feature that is lacking in a significant number of authoring tools. Why? Good question.

I guess they assume everyone knows how to spell cymotrichous (listed as the #1 hardest word to spell in the 2011 Scripps National Spelling Bee).   In case you are wondering what were a few others listed in “required” they are:

  • 45% – Advanced simulation tools
  • 44% – Image editor
  • 34% – Avatars/visual actors

Under “Nice to have” the top were

  • 63% – Ability to auto synch voice to avatar’s lips
  • 55% – Ability to add video from a mobile device
  • 55% – Video editor
  • 52% – Avatars/Visual actors
  • 52% – Advanced simulation tools
  • 52% – Grammar checker

What I found interesting was “image editor” received both 44% as “nice to have” and 44% as “required”.   If you combine “nice to have” and “required” in a top five:

  • 100% – Layers, Triggers and Actions – please note that people could select as many choices as they wanted – but still – very interesting!
  • 97% – Advanced simulation tools
  • 95% – Output to HTML5
  • 91% – Video editor
  • 90% – Audio editor

What scored as the number one, “Not Interested” – Grammar checker with 23% and “Don’t Know” – PowerPoint add-in.  I’m not surprised about the “video editor” because video is all the rage.  Makes perfect sense.

Question 2

Which of the following would you like to see in the next two years? (Select all that are applicable)

The top five

  • 86% – Advanced authoring tool for instructional designers/developers
  • 71% – Integrate with other tools/products (example: Dropbox, etc.)
  • 62% – A video authoring tool (i.e. you build an entire course in video, then edit, etc.)
  • 52% – Ability for learners to instantly change language within the course  – I’m not talking about the UI in the LMS, I’m talking about specifically the course itself
  • 50% – Speech to text (i.e. you speak into your mic and the product makes the changes)
  • 50% – Built-in security and privacy safeguards

I found a couple of points quite interesting. The first was ADA 508 compliance which was nearly the lowest at 29%. The other was an advanced authoring tool for instructional designers and developers.

I fully agree with the need and have stated as such in the past – i.e. there is a huge demand in the marketplace for such a product.  Rather than focusing on a screen capture product as your next big thing – focus on this audience of folks. 

Maybe I’m missing something here, but I constantly hear from e-learning developers at trade shows that there aren’t any products really geared toward them.

I’m not saying bring back Authorware – because, please don’t, rather I am saying push the “oomph” button to make the product robust and powerful enough with feature sets these people want.  If you are unsure how to do it – then crowdsource and find out. 

And the winners are

The last question offered people the ability to select the authoring tools they were interested in winning in a drawing.  The drawing is on Friday and winners will be notified after that, with instructions on what to do next. 

 I want to thank the authoring tool vendors who provided a free license to their products (of which six of the top ten in Feb. rankings were included).  I think it says something when an authoring tool vendor on the list and even a few I asked separately, go out of their way and provide a license in such a giveaway, especially when licenses to many of these tools exceeds $1,200 dollars. 

Bottom Line

And now.. back to the ghost of Richard Dawson

Hey sports fans, I’m back. Sorry I won’t be kissing anyone, those days are long gone.  I want to thank you for reading in on the latest authoring tool survey data. It has been an exciting match. 

Congrats to the potential winners in the authoring tool giveaway. I’m rooting for each and every one of you.

See you next time on Authoring Tool Survey.  “Clap, Clap, Clap”

E-Learning 24/7






  1. Loved your take on the survey – interesting results. Next time would be cool to have a breakdown showing some demographics like how big is the company they work with and how many other eLearning developers/id/ – just people who make courses – they work with in their company.

  2. Great survey, Craig, and in general a great blog! You’re making it easy to stay updated on e-learning as a tool for human resource development.

    I see there is a demand for simulation tools among authors. I do have some thoughts around software simulation, and I would like to seize this opportunity to – hopefully – get some input from you. Hopefully this didn’t become a long rant 😉

    However, I’d be quite happy if you could comment or answer some of the questions at the end.

    First of all, I am surprised simulation doesn’t rank higher in the “must have” section. In my opinion, software applications and systems are business critical tools in todays environment. Therefore I believe individuals using them coherently throughout the company / enterprice will result in consistent processes, again making the company’s operations more transparent for executives and middle management.

    My first concern is that I believe such a consciousness will be critical in terms of responsiveness and flexibility. If you are to react to a changing environment, your interventions in your company are more likely to give the intended outcome if there’s a match between how you think it operates, and how it actually operates.

    My second concern is in the spirit of Kaizen / continuous improvement and avoiding isolated improvement situations, When seeing the most popular tutorial videos for applications on YouTube are old – often up to 4-5 years – combined with the rapid development of application features, I can’t help but think there must be a gap between businesses exploitation of application features and its potential. Also, I believe the outcome in many situations will be different people developing different competences and isolated best practices. By not guiding individuals in the same direction of using applications, I believe you are basically muddling through, and your business will create intransparent processes, again hurting flexibility and responsiveness (and capacity as there probably will be wasteful processes appearing).

    I believe a software simulation system combined with a LCMS would be the right tools to adress both of the problems by

    1) Continuosly updating and training(!) users in new application features

    2) Updating staff on new company processes / best practices / working procedures derived by application features, creating coherent individual work practices, and avoiding random and intransparent processes

    Now, although I’m not a technical competent person, I have done some ad hoc testing of authoring tools and LCMS. In my very limited experience, the only company that has provided tools allowing such capabilities in a satisfying manner, is Adobe through Adobe Captivate combined with the LCMS module in Adobe Connect (of course, the following statements are based on a very limited understanding of e-learning and testing).

    1) Captivate produces fast – multiple scenarios in one take (simulation, training and testing)

    2) Captivate is flexible – I can stop in the middle of production and resume at a later stage without reducing quality.

    3) Captivate automates guiding throug automatic captions which recognizes the “teachers” actions (double click, single click, etc howeer, not right mouse button…).

    4) (I believe) Captivate has the necessary (!) degree of freedom guiding people to aquire feature competences (unlike Assima whose value proposition through a high degree of freedom I simply cannot wrap my head around)

    5) It’s easily published to Connect – just publish

    6) All published material in Connect is easy to organize with regards to context and pathways for learners (but so are many other LCMS-systems)

    7) Very strong integration – The tests and trainings created in Captivate are tracked completely within Connect.

    However, I still see some problems and questions regarding software simulation, and I was hoping you could comment on them

    1) I still see limitations when it comes to creative tools. There’s a difference between ERP-systems and for example 3D CAD. I tried testing this on NX 3D CAD, and Captivate is not able to follow a path with the cursor, or drag and drop. It just creates videos of the procedure. Will this improve?

    2) It seems to me that there are very few providers of software simulation and training features in their authoring system (to my knowledge, only Captivate and Assima). Is this a misunderstanding from my side?

    3) Do you believe providers of authoring applications considers capabilities within software simulation, training and assesment as a strong competitive advantage? Do you believe it should be?

    Kind regards, Øystein Øren

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