Course Authoring Tools - Part 2
by Logan Smith
In this article i want to focus on a frequent question, what is the best tool for creating online course content. I would answer that question by first asking a question. What is it you are trying to accomplish?
A good mechanic will carry many tools in his toolbox so that he has the right tool for the right job. You would not expect a mechanic to show up at your door with just a hammer. Course authoring is much the same, there is no one right tool that will do all things.
Courses Break Down
Let's look at some of the aspects of a typical course. A typical course may contain
HTML markup, text, pictures, videos, charts, quiz, or screenshot images.
Today many people use the SCORM 1.2 format as their preferred course output medium. (We have in the past and will in the future discuss SCORM in depth) for now think of a SCORM 1.2 package as an output type. (Much like a MS Word user would create a .doc output type. )
Once you have created your SCORM Zip package your learning management system - LMS should know how to process the file once upload to your LMS.
SCORM is one type of course output there are many course authoring products on the market today. The price of each package and the skill level required to use them is quite wide.
Three popular course authoring products are Articulate Storyline, Articulate Studio and
Let's talk about each product.
Often we are asked what is the difference between Storyline and Studio if you want a detailed breakdown you can obtain one here. Those of you that prefer the readers digest description may keep reading:
Storyline is great for those who don't have any existing content and want a soup to nuts excellent tool for creating content. It allows you to create interactive e-learning courses and content using slide layers, triggers, and states. These features let you create any type of interactivity you can imagine without programming. This program is slightly more difficult to use then Studio
Studio is great for people that have a bunch of PowerPoint courses already and want to convert them to online courses. Studio will allow you to create presentation-based e-learning. It is a great tool for quickly transforming PowerPoint slides into an online course.
Captivate Is made by Adobe and like most Adobe products you get a lot of power but that comes with more complexity. Captivate is a bit more complex to use than Storyline and would be a competitor of Storyline. You do get a lot of power with Captivate and if you are a power user this would be my preference.
Some LMS products also support HTML course development. HTML programming would be for those people that are father up the course development ladder. You can create some pretty amazing stuff as an HTML designer. Popular HTML development tools would include Microsoft's Visual Studio and Adobe Dreamweaver. We would not recommend HTML course development for a novice user. It is also not as modular, by that I mean it is not as portable or easy to move from one LMS to another as SCORM packages are.
Screen Capture Video
The last course authoring tool I want to speak about in this blog is Screen Capture type training. The buzz word for this type of training is Screencasting. If you are trying to create a course that is heavily dependent on screen capture, such as training users how to use a software program or teaching them how to do something on their computer. Camtasia Studio made by TechSmith is a popular option for this type of training. It allows you to record your screen movements while you narrate what it is you are trying to explain. It also allows you to put in nice scene transitions as well as label and draw on your video to elaborate a point you are trying to make. Once you are finished Camtasia will create a SCORM package or video output file that you can then upload to your learning management system.
If you provide this type of training then I would include this program in my toolbox as well as one of the SCORM authoring tools mentioned above.
These are some of the more popular tools used but there are so many more both free and licensed. If you have some tools you really like to use for course editing please comment below and share them with all of us. We are always looking for great tools to add to our war chests.
In my next article I will continue to focus on the tools needed for great course development.