Top Six E-Learning Tools for 2015

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Well it is that time of the year.  For what?  No clue, but people seem to like saying that phrase and so, I’m adding it to this post.

And what a post it is going to be.

Unusual? Oh, in so many ways.  Fun and Fantastic?  If you have ever found something you lost, it is just like that – euphoria and then you realize the TV is still on and your favorite show is about to start.

Qualifications for e-learning tools

None.  I didn’t put together any secret formula or weighting criteria for these tools.  I did look at several sites that listed tools and realized for the most part they were authoring tools or tools that are super mainstream and oh, they are authoring tools.

When I did find a recent site, a few tools were different than the authoring tools or tools like Go Animate!, but most were ho-hum – is it nap time?

Thus, I decided to identify some e-learning tools that I think are unique, probably unheard of in the industry (in some cases) and offer folks some very cool capabilities.

Trial Tools

Always get a trial on any e-learning tool.  A demo is a plus, but you really need to see how it works for you, whether what it says it actually delivers and whether it is a benefit to you and your team or school or whatever.

Best Buddy

Usually I list the others first, then the top tool or top product at the bottom to build excitement.

Not this time around though.

The top three e-learning tools out there are listed below.  I’d like to personally thank you for winning this year.  Uh, I won’t actually see you in person, rather I am sending a message right now using my ESP techniques that I learned from reading an ebook, telling me how to unlock this mystical powers.

Okay, all set.  Oh, and for those folks wondering whether I am getting any money from these listings of products, the answer is a huge NO.  NO affiliate money, no nothing.  As with anything I do, always independent and fair. Oh, and honest. : )

Here they are

#1  Inkling – Document management solution with analytics.  This isn’t your typical DM solution, more of a way to create whatever types of content you want, push it out, track it and utilize the results.  I’d love to see more mobile power to it, beyond the usual and I think they could do something with video, not just popping it into the content per se.   That said, it is a very cool e-learning tool.

#2 LMSApp –  I am always intrigued by this tool. I know it won’t be flashy or knock my socks off (does anyone use this phrase anymore?) but it still makes me want to see more.

#3 Demo Chimp –  Back in the day there was this amazing authoring tool called Rapid Intake and the guy behind the whole thing was Garin Hess. Garin is the person behind Demo Chimp.   I know Garin (transparency here) and I always felt not only did he know his stuff, but this guy is an ID (instructional design) guru.  A true e-learning developer who gets it.  Anyway, he launched this product and it really is very cool.  As you can surmise it enables you to create demos of your product, content, etc.  A demo can easily become a course.   Works with mobile.

#4 Nitro PDF –  Frankly the best PDF tool out on the market.  You can do everything you can imagine in it – okay, not everything you can imagine.  But, editing, adding your signature, outputting to Word, Excel, PowerPoint (and I can tell you, it actually looks quite good and not cruddy which you see in other PDF push to Word products).  I use Nitro as my PDF solution and even use their Cloud version, where I can send out documents, get people to sign them, and then save it all.   IMO it makes Adobe Acrobat and Reader look like ancient offerings.

#5 Degreed –  It shows off beautiful, and yes it lists thousands of courses, but it is not an LMS nor LCMS nor learning platform (in case you were wondering).  Rather total e-learning tool here. 

What it does is you buy the courses, take the courses, take whatever you want – but you actually leave the site and go to the site where the courses or whatever you are using are located.  Not iFrame here, literally link click (behind the scenes) and whalla on course site.   So, one server goes to another server on another vendor’s site.

The same with an LMS.  Think of Degreed as an overlay with a set of robust features.  They use an algorithm whereas they (Degreed and their expert or experts) came up and the admin cannot change the points assigned to each piece of content or whatever (not at this point they can’t).

Degreed told me that they are considering/exploring changing that so an administrator could change the points piece, which is huge, since it impacts the algorithm in a positive way – after all, shouldn’t the people who are creating the content and administering it, have the power to modify and tweak those points on whatever?   I always hate where vendors think they know more than the client when it comes to these algorithms.

Remember think overlay and you will be better off.

#6 Easybib – This one is for you K-12 and HE folks.  Sake for transparency – I use this tool too. Where you might ask?  With my book that I am writing, that will be published next year by ATD.   This would have been an awesome tool back in my days of grad school, especially with that yucky literature review thing.  Anyway, the solution offers you the option to use Chicago, APA, Harvard and other formats for your citations and will save the citations in the cloud.  I should note this is the premium option.  I think they call it Pro.


#7 Madcap Flare –  There are people out there who either still use Robohelp or wish there was something like it out in the market.  Well the folks behind the original Robohelp left and formed Madcap.  They have a variety of offerings, but this one is for flare. Think Robohelp on steriods, maybe PEDs – who really knows.  


I see a lot of courses that are missing the essence of instructional design.  What I hear back is that individuals can’t find the methods used or it takes too long to learn or there is no need to use instructional design in building a course, especially with the rapid content authoring tools.

With all due respect, I disagree.  I self-taught myself instructional design and if I can do it, so can you.  I used the site below to help me, and read a great book by Horton (last name) in 2002 (so the content of course building with HTML not sure if relevant today).

Anyway, I started out using ADDIE for ID then realized it really doesn’t apply to WBT, even back in the early days.  So, I like many other ID folks that I know, decided to do a hybrid of ADDIE – a little bit here, a little bit there.   You can extract information from ADDIE and use it in building your course or courses.

I did.

This is the site, I don’t know if it has been updated with links or not, but I and many, many others used it and I know people who still do.  It is all about ID, e-learning and stuff like that.  Includes some OD items as I recall.  Don Clark

Labels and Boxes

I’m not a fan of Kirkpatrick – some people are – and hey whatever makes you happy. 

Just as some people live and die by the 70-20-10 approach and others do not – including me.  I just don’t see nor believe that 70-20-10 really applies to e-learning in 2015.   Same with the informal-formal learning. 

E-Learning has changed training, L&D in so many ways.  But, you see, as a whole, we can’t have that.  We can’t see the world outside of the forest (okay some of us can – and that is why change is happening across training and L&D ). 

We like labels.  We like to put items or approaches or methodologies in a nice box.  Then put a bow on it and call it a day or informal learning or formal learning or 70-20-10 or something else that has been around since the early to mid 1900’s. ADDIE? 1950’s.

Well, I hate freaking labels and I cannot stand putting things into boxes.   I like seeing what is impossible and pushing it to become possible.   That is what e-learning offers all of us – but to achieve that, we all need to take one step back and see beyond the state of yesterday and the path of today.

Each of these e-learning tools offers you that first step in seeing what is out there.

For some of you, it will be a multiple set of steps.  For others a step here and a step there.

Maybe it will provide you with a ladder to look above the forest and trees of commonality of online learning.

Offering you an opportunity to rip down those labels; smash those boxes and say to yourself, this is different.

It is not, 70-20-10. Not informal-formal.  And not, some antiquated approach that wasn’t designed nor built for WBT. 

What you must decide is whether these tools will provide you with the necessities to move forward

Into the future

OR, will you disregard them

and stay in the past.

E-Learning 24/7




  1. I started learning ID from Don Clark’s site too. It was my first “textbook” in instructional design. It’s an amazing resource, and I’m glad to see someone else recommend it.

    Thanks for sharing your list of tools. I’m not using any of these currently, and it’s interesting to see a list with no overlap at all.

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