Before we dive into this year’s top 10 authoring tools, a funny thing happened to me this week – rib injury. As a result a delay in the post and up front apology for that. Anyone who has hurt a rib, knows the thrill of agony from it. Wide World of Sports couldn’t pull a thrill from defeat from this one.
Ok, with that being done, let me list the vendors who are in the final ten and then break it all down for you. Here they are in no particular order.
- Gomo – Always a contender. Last year in the Top 10 too.
- dominKnow – Strong authoring tool. From sims to scenarios to courses of all types, to collaboration, nice set of resources – this product is not for beginners. ID experience is a big plus here.
- Articulate Storyline 3 – Back from the throes of the SL2, which sorry was still an update IMO. Storyline 3 is very good. Articulate 360 – uh, my mom always said if it isn’t nice don’t say it, but Rise should be called Deflate.
- Evolve Authoring – Never heard of them? Now you have. Love the image optimization, the ability to create gamification within your course, badge creator is a nice add, overall easy to use, drag and drop, UI/UX delivers.
- Lectora Online – Solid solution. They promise commitment more with LO, but will they deliver? Not for beginners. ID experience needed.
- Adobe Captivate – Some folks love it, others hate it. It’s robust but still a challenge for newbies to use, IMO.
- iSpring 8.7 – If you like Articulate Studio, you are going to really love iSpring 8.7. Far superior to Studio. Easy to use.
- Branchtrack– I just smile when I think about them. Joking aside, I like the product. Not for everyone and can be used with other authoring tools for a nice suite of authoring tools for you.
- Smartbuilder – Has come a long way. Lots to like here. Hence in the top ten.
- SHIFT – With possibly the worst name of the company, I mean be honest, try saying that a couple of times and the word that is synonymous with poo, is said instead. I admit the first time I saw the word, I read it out online as something else. Anyway, the tool is nice and they were the first vendor to have try voice synch with the avatars. That is a plus in my book.
Rather than re-hash a variety of features and functionality, what I decided to do this year, is to base my rankings on the following (and yes, UI/UX is in there, along with functionality, but explaining functionality in deep dive in blog..)
a. Ease of use. How easy is it to create a course? I looked at it from two perspectives. One – Beginner, newbie – has to create a course quickly (sadly very common today in the industry and the ones who lose out? Your learners). Two – Someone with an ID background, or has gone experienced but does not have ID background.
b. UI/UX – Has to deliver. I saw a lot of products who had a nice front UI, but when you dug deeper the “ribbon” per se, was outdated.
c. Online or desktop. Sorry, we are on the go today, more than ever before; folks tell me they have to create courses everywhere, not just at the workplace. Every other e-learning tool today has higher SaaS than one sector – authoring tools. It has to change.
d. Functionality – What can the tool do? What features make it standout from other authoring tools? If a PPT course tool – what can it do that others in that niche can’t? Nomenclature – are they using the appropriate terms for course building or have then gone rogue with “slides” – which seriously prior to Studio, was never used as a course term. In Rise for example they call them “lessons”, which are chapters – the appropriate term. Lessons? Are you serious?
e. Mobile – Everyone says they are responsive, but are they really? Have they removed the widths to be truly responsive? I reached out to folks seeking their opinons on the various authoring tools (using specific tools) for their take. I also tested myself.
Along with mobile, HTML5 is is truly HTML5? Publish to xAPI – does it work with your LMS?
f. Other. Assets, resources, library? Unique feature items that make sense? That whole adaptive learning thing you hear pitched from vendors is somewhat misleading. Great pitch especially for the holy grail for course building, but does it work as it claims to? Without any assistance from the person building the course in the first place?
Every vendor here scored a minimum of a B. Yes that was the baseline. The gap is continuing between outstanding to good, from good to average and average to poor. How many people are using your tool is irrelevant to me. Offer it free, and yeah people will use it. Price plays a role with many people. Reputation does too. But as an analyst, I ignore reputation and price. Not relevant to me.
Building a robust course that is interactive and engaging (at least doable), is more so. Micro-learning or micro learning (both are appropriate terms – I prefer micro-learning) not relevant. You could have built micro courses in the late 90’s.
Minimum level of Experience Needed to build a course
- iSpring 8.7
- Gomo learning
- Evolve authoring
- Articulate Storyline 3 *
* Yes you can create a quick course here, since SL3 has features to build a PPT course. But to me, if you want to push the product to its full potential, experienced level and ID is recommended.
ID recommended (Instructional design background, e-learning developer, or someone who has hit the experience proficiency of building a course).
This level can build a very interactive course, and are ones who could use the tool for creating extensive courses either as a 3rd party shop – which I know many do – or otherwise. Can you create this level of a course with the “beginner” noted ones? In a couple you can (SL3, Gomo – to a certain point).
- Lectora Online – Recommends ID experience
- Storyline 3 – ID recommended, as noted above with the *. I know 3rd party shops that build robust courses with SL3
- dominKnow – Robust courses can be build. ID experience is ideal here
- Adobe Captivate – Learning curve is an understatement. Sure you can do some basics here, but this is totally ID angled.
- Smartbuilder – Similar to yeah you can create a simple course here, but I recommend having the ID, experience proficiency level here.
The Final Rankings (from ten down)
10. iSpring 8.7
8. SHIFT (please, change your name)
7. Branchtrack – Branchtrack lets folks know that they play well within Lectora Online. I can see it as a component of your tool set for building courses.
6. Adobe Captivate
The Final Five
5. Lectora Online – I do have concerns that they are driven more still by desktop, despite years of saying they are committed more to LO. Either you are or you are not. That said, LO can do more IMO than the desktop.
4. Evolve Authoring – You can do a bit here, I love that it can also be part of your toolbox with other authoring tools, a nice compliment. That says flexibility to me, which will be essential in 2018.
3. (Bronze) Storyline 3 – Lots to like here, but that mobile responsive with the player is still questionable, does not support right to left, desktop tool. I often hear people tell me that SL3 is SaaS based. It’s not. What you can do though after building the course is uploading it into Rise from AC360.
Sidebar: Take on AC360
As for AC360 my sense is that down the road, Studio will go away and AC360 will replace it, with Rise doing a lot more or perhaps a new component as part of AC360 having enough Studio features in it. In fact, Rise has quite a bit IMO. Anytime a vendor does a comparison between their own tools, uh, that is a red flag, especially if they are pushing one more so than the other, and they do – with AC360. Oh, for those that wonder, yes Studio is part of AC360 but again as a download which they refer to as an app. What I am saying is see ya on Studio and replace totally with Rise or another “new component” of AC360, thus solving the cloud based issue of Studio.
2. (Silver) Gomo Learning – Not a fan of the LRS in an authoring tool, when there are so many other items you could have to make, uh, a greater authoring tool. You can keep your courses/content on Gomo and then push them directly into your learning system OR you can download the courses in their respective course standard wrappers and upload them into your learning system. Supports PENS.
1. (GOLD) dominKnow – So much to like here. Everyone can do collaboration and peer review, but what if you could gain insights into what each author is doing in real time? Who is spending X time and how much time on a page or pages or course for example? Themes can be switched at any time. Custom trigger statements is a huge win. You can send xAPI and SCORM at the same time, send xAPI data to multiple LRSs at the same time too. You have a choice – either keep the courses on their servers OR you can download them in their wrapper and upload into your LMS. Supports PENS too. Lastly, supports folks who have MAC OS. I know cloud based tools will always say they do, but I have found mixed results.
There they are – this year’s top ten authoring tools for building courses or the term now being used – “content”.
You may disagree.
Just as you may agree.
But as someone who self-taught themselves ID so many years ago, you can achieve quite a bit with any authoring tool on the market, even some rapid content authoring tools.
The key is what do you want to achieve?
And who is/are building the courses that your learners/students will see?
Because at the end of it all,
If the courses are boring or static, no matter how great your learning system is,
People won’t return.
Did an H5P search but found nothing. https://h5p.org I think you should take a look at.
I did look it and wrote about it in Linkedin group page. I like it, but it is ideal for adding pieces into an exisitng authoring tool or a course. A good fit though for some folks.
Any thoughts on the ADAPT Open Source platform Craig?
I think it has its place in the space, but I do not see it as many othes do as a pancea for creating great courses. Open source products can do amazing things, but up to a point, it is an issue I see with other Open source products in our space. You have to have a great on-going community, repeated updates, assets, and evolving technology. All challenges.
Hi Craig. Thanks for your recommendation. However, I wanted to make you aware of something that is incorrect. You can have your course that you create in gomo on your own LMS. No problem. You can create a SCORM or xAPI package and upload to your own LMS like with many other tools. Hope that clarifies things.
Thom, post has been updated to reflect that. Ty.
Domiknow is the worst by far building interaction and frames is tough, one update and the whole course breaks, image labels cannot be adjusted with a keyboard only through mouse, if you use text box instead it breaks in document mode. Only good thing you can add references and citations with ease especially for medical courses, but i think that can be done in storyline now too. Will try GoMo and see. Evolve is still in niche stages. I think you should also test walk me and epiplex
Walk me isn’t an authoring tool. I like the product, but it is not an authoring tool. An e-learning tool yes. Epiplex – not a fan.
Paul Schneider, VP of dominKnow, provided this response:
Thanks so much for your feedback. Based on your comments, I do suspect you are using an older version of the dominKnow solution. Something unique to the world of cloud software that we offer is the ability for some clients to control the cadence of their releases. In response to your specific comments, one area you speak of is image labels and the creation of single source documents that produce both a responsive print document and interactive eLearning content. Most solutions settle for a print screen of an eLearning course, which is satisfying, as long as your course has little to no interactivity. For dominKnow the print version of a course is an editable responsive Word document representing everything in the course, rather than a single layered screen shot. This gives you a content accurate document, unlike a screen shot, but naturally the representations of two fundamentally different content approaches will flow differently. We’ll be bringing some exciting advancements in this area early next year with options utilizing the best of both approaches (responsive and layered pixel) in your document export. In respects to automatic creation and formatting of citations and footnotes, thank you. Yes, this is a tremendous time saver in not only the creation, but quality assurance of these reference materials that you won’t find in Storyline or most any other tool. Last, in terms of interaction building and updates. It sounds like you have a specific issue and we would love to help, just drop a line so we can assist. When it comes to interactivity, we think you will be hard pressed to find elsewhere the flexibility and power that dominKnow offers, especially for responsive content design.
Any thoughts on Elucidat Craig?
Great Post! All the information you share in post is too good and very useful. I will keep it in mind, thanks for sharing the information! Keep it up!
I really like you blog about Top 10 Authoring Tools It is so informative and gives lots of knowledge to the reader. Thanks a lot for posting this amazing blog, keep writing.
Comments are closed.