Today I thought I would approach the subject of ‘authoring tools’, as I use this term frequently, but often don’t take into account that individuals outside of the industry may not understand what this phrase really means. I recently encountered this issue of my own ignorance while revising a contract sent to a client. The client asked me to more clearly define what I meant by the use of authoring tools…leading me to provide clarification.
Authoring tools are more or less any tool that facilitates the development of your courses and/or products. This isn’t just a phrase used within the e-learning industry, but one familiar with those within design and programming industries as well (and likely more). Any tool that helps you design, develop, program, write (or author) your product can be considered an authoring tool. There are countless options, and I could drone on for days and still come up short with my list.
What kind of authoring tools are available for the e-learning industry?
As stated previously, there are so many options! However, a few of my favourite authoring tools have been Adobe Captivate, Articulate Storyline, Articulate Studio, and Camtasia. I also use Microsoft Office (Word/Excel/PowerPoint) extensively for authoring (albeit less interactive).
Depending on your preferences, you may also dabble within Adobe Photoshop, Flash, or Dreamweaver…or perhaps you have an internal Learning Content Management System that you use. There are so many options out there, you really just need to consult some industry professionals or The Google and start playing around.
But…how do I choose?!
Choosing really isn’t so much of the issue – you can choose multiple authoring tools to produce your courses, you don’t have to choose just one, but I would limit the options a bit to streamline your process or you’ll quickly find yourself overwhelmed with your development process.
The truth is that you won’t know which tools you prefer or which are effective (for what you need to produce) until you start playing around within the environments and authoring content. If you’re new to the industry, I would suggest you attempt to align your preferences with well-known tools (e.g. Articulate/Adobe Captivate), as these products are more likely to have a strong community of support, which is critical when attempting to meet delivery dates and troubleshoot products simultaneously.