Just like any professional, an e-learning developer needs to have the right tools to build solid training. Creating a course from A to Z can be more challenging than you might think. It’s not something that can be done by a single enthusiast in just a few days. In most cases, it's a work meant for a big team that consists of instructional and graphic designers as well as software developers. However, there are situations when companies are capable of covering at least part of their learning needs internally. In this article, we will review the best tools for in-house e-learning development and provide you with tips on how to choose a solution that will lift your training to the next level!
When deciding on whether your training should be made internally or you should seek external help from e-learning professionals, you need to think about possible return on investment (ROI), or what kind of impact your training will have compared to the resources you plan to invest. High impact training will cost a lot, and it's almost impossible to produce it internally. Professionals in e-learning will be priceless due to their ability to provide information on how to work with content and how to deliver your training to reach your business and learning goals.
But don’t be discouraged from trying to produce some e-learning courses by yourself! Your company can choose this approach if you have a clear and well-written material, your internal subject matter expert is a professional (and indeed – an expert), and all the necessary technological tools are available. You also should remember that there can and should be different sources for training and development of your team.
If you have realised that you are fully equipped for developing online training without turning to e-learning agencies, it’s time to decide upon the right tool.
4 steps to take when choosing the right authoring solution
- Always start with exploring how reliable the supplier of the tool is. Does it have long-term support? Is there a community? Sometimes you can find some awesome tool with amazing features, such as different built-in menu options or a huge template library, but after three years it looks and feels old from a technological perspective. Search for reliable suppliers who are thinking in long-term and are frequently updating their functionality.
- The second thing you need to consider is how the tool matches your learning situation and business goals. For example, if the goal of your company is to have greater customer satisfaction, and the reason for choosing e-learning is to change your employees’ behaviour, perhaps the best tool is the one that provides branching simulation. Remember the Golden Circle of e-learning! It's also important to know the existing situation of learning processes in your organization. Do your employees need mobile learning? Maybe it is not necessary now, but it might be needed in the future. Will the tool fit your existing platform? Answer these and other questions honestly when making a decision, and favour a tool that will benefit your company.
- The next important characteristic is the tool’s ease of use. How fast and easy is the course-building? Will you need comprehensive training before starting to work with the tool? Maybe you will need to hire someone to handle this tool? The more custom options there are, the more difficult an authoring tool will be. No wonder simple solutions are often the best ones, so choose the one that will not require enormous resources from your side.
- Only after deciding upon the previous three questions, can you think about the functionality of a tool. If you make a decision based only on different features, interactions, and customization options, you might realize that there are a bunch of issues. Imagine how frightening it would be to find that your course is not working in certain browsers, or there are many bugs, or your tool doesn’t support the local language. Sometimes, it’s smarter to choose a certain tool with limited functionality if it works properly and fits your learning situation.
To make the decision easier here is our review of the tools we have used at INTEA.
You might still wonder why some tools are rated higher than others. The reasons are diverse, but don't worry, we will walk you through every single one of them. Just take a look at the list of INTEA-suggested solutions for internal e-learning production:
Rise is a web tool made by Articulate 360. Unlike Storyline, which is a desktop application, in Rise, you can create responsive courses right inside your web browser. Using Rise, you can cover many different learning needs – starting from compliance training to an explanation of internal systems and processes. This tool is easy-to-use, and it has a relatively large variety of pre-built templates of text, images, and interactive elements. Rise supports courses that are made in English, French, Spanish, and Dutch, and it has a free trial option. Keep in mind, though, that Rise is very limited when it comes to customization; however, the end result is clean design with a clear and comprehensible learning path.
Mohive is an online tool which is part of the CrossKnowledge learning suite. If you currently use CrossKnowledge as your platform, choosing Mohive as authoring tool is a logical and reasonable decision. Just as in Rise, you can create responsive courses online, but the template library is much more limited. However, you can cover your learning needs with clear, simple and well-written content. A disadvantage might be that Mohive supports courses only in English, and the tool doesn’t have a demo version. At the end of the day though, Mohive might be the simplest way to create and deliver your e-learning courses. Try this tool if there are limited technological and design resources in your company!
BranchTrack is a scenario-based online e-learning tool. One of the advantages of Branchtrack is in-built design options, so you can create digital branching simulations with little or no design input. BranchTrack supports course production in English. The tool is easy to use, and it can be implemented in almost any e-learning software. The only tricky part can be content creation, which is time-consuming and requires certain writing skills. Although branching scenarios might not be a golden bullet for all your learning needs, it definitely is one of the most engaging ways to acquire decision-making and communication skills. Use a chance to sign up for a free trial version and try out different characters and settings for your simulation!
Although there certainly are tools that have comparatively superior characteristics, never rush into purchasing them.
Try demo versions of the tools that provide such an option. It will give you a chance to see by yourself what the tool is lacking and whether you can find a solution. If you are not satisfied, then try another solution.
One may wonder why some of the other tools we put in the graph are not the best for internal course production. Adobe Captivate, Lectora Inspire, and Storyline happen to be the most popular e-learning tools and they are the first to come up in a simple Google search. However, all of them are more advanced solutions that require training before starting to develop courses:
⟶ Both, Lectora Inspire and Storyline, serve well for different technological and learning needs. However, development with these tools should be proper teamwork with the involvement of professional instructional designer, graphic designer, and developer, since it requires sophisticated customization and specific learning material adaptation.
⟶ Adobe Captivate is a very popular option among e-learning developers. Unfortunately, during the years of its existence, suppliers of the tool have shown to be unreliable in support and the development of technologies. This is the reason why we are not using this solution at INTEA. Although Adobe Captivate might look like a tempting solution, there are other tools that have similar functionality and have much fewer bugs and technical issues.
⟶ Although Adapt Builder might seem like a good solution at a first glance, in our experience this tool has proved to be rather difficult and complex if you want to do some CSS customization.
To sum it all up – some training can be created internally, bigger projects can be developed together with e-learning professionals, such as INTEA, and some materials can be bought as ready-made courses. For different learning needs, there can be applied different pieces of training that can all be combined in your platform. There are four steps to take and hundreds of tools to choose from, but never over or underestimate the complexity of any solution. Keep your content and design clean and simple, and your training will become a success!