Let’s take an example. Without an authoring tool, instructional designers may spend weeks or even months on creating different versions for every single course. Let’s say, one for a desktop, another for a laptop, one for a tablet, and another for a smartphone. However, with the support of the best authoring tools, responsive and adaptive eLearning content will be created in a minute to fit different screen sizes.
Obviously, the benefits of authoring tools to education and training activities are undoubted. As time flies and technology changes, authoring tools have moved on to meet growing demands. However, there is always one thing remained the same. That is a frequently asked question of every user: “Which is the best authoring tool?”.
Honestly, the most unbiased and accurate answer to this question should be: It really depends! In fact, there is no thing that’s best suited for everyone. An authoring tool is not an exception. The best eLearning authoring tool for you depends on a wide range of factors. They can be your technical expertise, your budget, interactivity level of your eLearning courses, quality of output, and so on.
The following list comprises 6 well-known authoring tools for your consideration. Responsive design, built-in templates, complex interactions, qualified publishing options, scalability, and more advanced features can be found in those tools.
1. ActivePresenter – An All-in-one eLearning Authoring Software
Coming along the evolution of the eLearning market, ActivePresenter is an all-inclusive authoring software. The app has been developed by Atomi Systems since 2008.
ActivePresenter is a stand-alone app, which is not dependent on any third party tool. The tool can handle a variety of tasks thanks to advanced features and greater scalability. It is a powerful tool for creating slide-based eLearning courses with highly interactive elements. Besides, it also comes in handy for recording screen and webcam as well as software simulations.
With ActivePresenter, users can create a wide range of digital content, from simple ones like podcasts, flash cards, eLearning quizzes to complicated ones such as game-based learning, e-courses, and pro looking videos. Its output can be packaged to SCORM-compliant content, which is compliant with LMSs standards. Thanks to its responsive design, the output will work smoothly on any device.
- ActivePresenter is available for both Windows and Mac OS.
- Users can import and export PowerPoint presentations easily and fast.
- The tool assists users in inserting lots of built-in equations. Besides, users can also modify or create their own equation, regardless of its complexity.
- It offers themes and templates to create the consistent visual design for the whole project.
- Users can add events – actions to every object and slide to create desired interactive actions. In addition, object states comes in handy for changing the appearance of an object. Make use of those features, users can create a highly interactive e-course and personalize it in a unique way.
- It has a rich-feature video editor.
- Recording screen and software simulation is at ease.
- Users can customize HTML5 Player beautifully in their own way.
- It offers a variety of output formats compared to other tools in the list.
- It supports common eLearning standards: SCORM 1.2, SCORM 2004, and xAPI (Tin Can).
- Free forms questions aren’t available.
- Its content library isn’t as rich as other tools in the list.
- The tool hasn’t built-in conversation simulation editor.
- Free for Trial Version (There is no time limit for trial version)
- $199 for Standard Version, $399 for Professional Version
- 40% of full price for Upgrade
- Discount program is available for students, teachers, and non-profit institutions.
An acedamic course created in ActivePresenter
2. Adobe Captivate – A Stand-alone Authoring Tool with Advanced Technology
When it comes to top authoring tools for eLearning, it would be an omission without mentioning Adobe Captivate. This is a desktop app that uses updated and advanced technologies.
For example, the tool comes in handy for creating Virtual Reality (VR) projects. In detail, users can create immersive learning scenarios like virtual tours or crisis management. Besides, its Fluid Boxes feature assists users in aligning objects automatically. Thanks to that, the output is fully responsive, regardless of learner’s device.
With updated technology, Adobe Captive offers solutions for most eLearning tasks. It is suited for creating e-courses, interactive videos, software simulations, conversation simulations, eLearning games, etc. In fact, it is the most preferable for experienced course developers, who has basic knowledge of programming.
- Adobe Captivate is available for both Windows and Mac OS.
- The app offers a rich content library (characters, themes, royalty free images, scenarios, videos, buttons….).
- It supports in creating virtual reality projects: immersive Learning with VR experiences, 360⁰ learning experiences, live device preview for VR.
- Captivate requires a deep learning curve for new users.
- It has typical limitations of a desktop app. For example, sharing themes and slide master is challenging because the process is done manually.
- It hasn’t built-in conversation simulation editor.
- Inserting equation isn’t supported.
- Compatibility between older and newer versions needs to be improved. For example, courses created in Captivate 9 cannot be opened in earlier versions.
- Free for Trial Version (The trial period lasts 30 days)
- $1,299 for Perceptual License Price, $33.99 per month for Subscription
- $499 for Upgrade
- Discount program is available for teachers and students.
3. Storyline 360 – A Good eLearning Tool for Team Work
Among different products of Articulate, Storyline 360 seems to be a more advanced tool. The tool is a good solution for collaborative eLearning projects.
Storyline 360 features new responsive player, mobile-friendly playback, and touchscreen gesture support. Thanks to that, creating interactive courses which are adaptive to every device becomes an easy task.
Especially, the tool offers a great support for teamwork and collaboration. More clearly, it allows users to upload scenes, specific slides, or whole projects. Then, give team members access to those contents.
- Storyline 360 has a rich content library. It includes many defaut templates, characters, photos, illustrations, icons, and videos.
- The tool helps to make collaboration easier. Team members can share slides with each other, access those slide content, and download them right from the tool.
- Both form-based questions and free-form questions are available.
- The tool isn’t available for Mac OS.
- Regarding recording features, it lacks system audio recording and audio narration.
- Audio/ video effects and editing options are limited. For example, inserting blur effect or green screen effect isn’t available.
- The tool hasn’t built-in conversation simulation editor.
- It doesn’t support to insert Youtube objects, equations, and spotlight effect.
- Free for Trial Version (The trial period lasts 60 days)
- $1,299 per year per user
4. Ispring Suite – A Notable PowerPoint Add-in
Functioning as eLearning authoring toolkit for PowerPoint, Ispring Suite is one of notable PowerPoint add-ins. This app may be a favorite choice for those who work well with PowerPoint presentations.
After installing the software, you will see the iSpring Suite tab appears in the PowerPoint ribbon. The tab is next to the Help tab. It contains a group of tools and buttons for developing eLearning content. For instance, users can click a button to start recording audio, screen, or video lectures.
Being integrated with PowerPoint, iSpring Suite helps to convert PowerPoint presentations to multimedia e-courses. Besides, it also comes in handy for creating interactive assessments (with branching and flexible scoring). Added to that, users can also use the tool to build realistic dialogue simulations for corporate trainings.
- iSpring Suite has a rich content library. It provides an extensive collection of eLearning assets (characters, locations, icons, templates, controls, office suppliers).
- The tool has built-in conversation simulation editor.
- It supports a variety of old and new eLearning standards: SCORM 1.2, SCORM 2004, AICC, cmi5, and xAPI (Tin Can).
- It has a free mobile app (iSpring play). The app allows learners to access content anytime and anywhere, without the need of Internet connection.
- The tool is not available for Mac OS.
- It doesn’t support in recording software simulation.
- Audio/ video effects and editing options are limited. For example, it’s impossible to cut, copy, paste, join, or delete media ranges.
- The tool doesn’t support to insert spotlight, zoom-n-pan, cursor path.
- Text-to-speech isn’t available.
- It is missing quite a few interactions compared to other authoring tools in the list. For example, it’s impossible to add events – actions for objects or create and use variables.
- Free form questions aren’t available.
- Free for Trial Version (The trial period lasts 14 days)
- $970 for one-year subscription
5. H5P – A Free and Open Source Authoring Tool for eLearning
If budget is your sole concern, then h5p.org is a great option for you. This site offers free and open technology. At this point, don’t confuse h5p.org and h5p.com. While h5p.org is free for trial purpose, h5p.com is a paid service. So, make a visit to h5p.org if you’re looking for a free eLearning authoring tool.
H5P is a cloud-based authoring tool. In other words, it is a web-based authoring tool. To use the tool, all you need is a web browser and a website with an H5P plugin. It is currently supported for WordPress, Drupal and Moodle.
H5P allows you to create, share, reuse, or modify interactive HTML5 content in your browser. After creating an account in h5p.org, you can start developing online content right away. The tool supports in creating various types of interactive content. For example, videos, course presentations, quizzes with different question types, simple games, and flashcards:
- H5P is great for group collaboration.
- The tool is free and easy to use.
- It offers around 40 different interactive activities.
- The tool cannot run alone itself. It needs to be used as a plugin to WordPress, Drupal or Moodle.
- It doesn’t support to import PowerPoint presentations.
- There are limited features for complex and customized eLearning projects.
- Screen and webcam recording features are missing.
- It is impossible to make content private in H5P.org. Hence, all your projects will be visible for public.
6. Camtasia – A Worth-to-try Tool for Video Recording and Editing
Camtasia is one of the big names of TechSmith. This app focuses on only one aspect of eLearning development. That is, to record and create professional looking videos.
Camtasia is renowned for creating different types of videos. For instance, video lessons, video tutorials, training videos, instructional videos, and more. The tool assists users in recording screen and webcam, with lots of video editing options. Besides, it also supports adding quizzes at any point in a video.
- The tool is available for both Windows and macOS.
- It has a free mobile app for Android and iOS. Thus, users can easily transfer media from their devices for use in Camtasia.
- Drag-n-drop interactions make it easy to use, even for beginners.
- It has limited preset media library.
- The tool is great for video creation but not ideal for developing slide-based courses.
- Free for Trial Version (The trial period lasts 30 days).
- $249 (Single License Pricing) for Individual and Business
- $99.5 for Upgrade, $49.75 for Maintenance
- Discount program is available for education, government, and non-profit organizations.
Developed by different software companies, content authoring tools cater to various eLearning needs. Whilst some specialize in pro video recording and editing, others function as PowerPoint add-ins. While some focus on ease of use, others draw attention to flexibility. Besides, there are also a few tools that can offer all of the above elements.
To find the best-suited tool for yourself, it’s essential to make your own authoring tool checklist of key elements. Thanks to this action, you will know exactly what you are looking for from such a tool.