The content used for teaching is different: it can be a textbook or a presentation, quiz, video lecture, software simulation, game, etc.
This work is not just another brief feature comparison. The key point of this article is to help you build your perfect authoring toolbox based on your needs.
In this article, we are going to tell you about the top 5 authoring tools that school teachers, corporate trainers and instructional designers use to create engaging e-Learning content. You might have already heard about some of these tools but are not sure about what they do exactly, or you already use them and want to learn more. Anyway, let’s see what is in the perfect toolbox of an e-Learning content author.
1. iSpring Suite 8.1
iSpring Suite is a robust PowerPoint-based authoring tool that lets users create their courses lightning-fast. There is no training needed to use this tool, provided that you know how to work with PowerPoint. You can publish a PowerPoint course to HTML5 format to play it back on any computer or mobile device. iSpring has a free mobile app for mobile viewers that shows your content in full screen and allows you to save it on the device.
Other than the standard PowerPoint functionality with all animations and slide transitions, Suite has a number of features that no other authoring tool can offer. For example, a dialogue simulation trainer, the brand-new feature to train your customer care or sales team. Also, iSpring has unique conversion technology that powers PowerPoint authoring and helps you bring every detail of your original PPT into your web-based e-Learning course.
iSpring Suite has a Quiz Maker for creating assessments in your educational program. Output learning standards are SCORM, AICC, and Tin Can API, so it will work flawlessly with any LMS. iSpring offers linked services for e-Learning (LMS) and sharing presentations online (iSpring Cloud).
Components and prices
iSpring Suite 8 ($697.00) includes the following tools sold separately:
- QuizMaker ($397.00)
- Converter Pro - for PPT to HTML5/Flash conversion ($297.00)
- Cam - screen capture tool ($97.00)
- TalkMaster - dialog simulation ($497.00)
- River - for PPT to video publishing ($97.00)
Volume and educational discounts are available. Also, there are frequent special offers available on the vendor’s website. The product comes with free support. To get case analysis and screen sharing sessions, you may want to look into getting the Maintenance program.
- Perfect PowerPoint support. Published web courses preserve PPT animations, slide transitions, media files, hyperlinks, triggers, etc.
- No training required to author courses. All advanced features are well-documented with video tutorials.
- Qualified and helpful tech support even without an additional maintenance plan.
- Unique TalkMaster tool to create dialogue simulations.
- PowerPoint-based, need to have MS Office installed on your computer.
- No Mac support. Although there is a PowerPoint for Mac, it can’t work with add-ins like iSpring.
- Few interactions compared with Captivate 9 and Storyline 2
2. Articulate Storyline 2
The most well-known e-Learning tool is Articulate Storyline, and there is a reason for that. It’s highly professional, lets you create engaging content with complex dependencies and a near-programming approach (the software features variables, states and layers). This is a rather professional tool with complex functionality, and therefore requires training to use it properly. The learning curve isn’t that of a scientific discipline, but will definitely take some time to master course creation.
Storyline 2 has its own editing environment that looks similar to PowerPoint. It also lets you do similar things that you can do in PowerPoint: animations, transitions, etc. This environment is standalone though, it doesn’t require MS Office components to function. You can convert PowerPoint to Storyline format and continue building your course. Other than creating interactive presentations and quizzes, you can create educational games, compelling instructions, gamified interactions, etc. It is the ideal choice for an instructional designer who strives to bring any idea to life.
Courses can be published to HTML5 and Flash, and played on iPad and Android devices. Quiz features 20 different question types. Layers and triggers make objects respond to a learner's actions, in order to build complex user interactions. Storyline has full multimedia support and allows you to include video and audio into courses. A character bank includes lots of illustrated and photographic characters with adjustable poses and expressions that help students engage with the course content.
Their website states: “Create any interactive e-Learning you can imagine.”
Components and prices
Articulate Storyline 2 ($1,846.00) includes:
- 8 Character Packs (standalone price $999.00)
- Articulate Replay to create video content (standalone price $200.00)
The most significant disadvantage of Storyline is its pretty high price. It includes packages for the value of $1,199.00 if they were to be purchased separately. Check special offers on their website. Consider spending more on the membership program they offer for free upgrades and premium support.
- Rich functionality (variables, layers, states), standalone environment.
- Character bank includes lots of characters.
- Great community (E-Learning Heroes) and explicit documentation.
- Work faster in your own language. The program is available in English, Chinese, French, German, and Spanish.
- The software requires training to use its features.
- High price.
- No version for Mac.
3. Adobe Captivate 9
Adobe Captivate 9 is an e-Learning toolkit for authoring interactive e-Learning content on your desktop. Similar to Storyline, it has its own editing environment and moreover, it has a version for Mac. Captivate has timing and object properties menus. You can use them to build your learning course. You can publish to the cloud for viewing, no app or additional software required. As with the other software, Adobe Captivate 9 allows you to import your PowerPoint presentations into e-Learning projects.
Captivate includes a character pack, each with a good number of poses. Compared to Storyline it has more built-in characters, but each character does not have many pose options. Also, you can record audio straight into your project. However, for best results, an external program should be used to record audio (e.g., Audacity).
The great option in Captivate is that you can convert your slide notes into speech. It is a great addition to your course development process. A couple of course player skins are OK, others look outdated.
Users who have used Adobe’s other products will learn how to use the software faster.
Components and prices
The price for an Adobe Captivate license is $1,099.00. However, you can get it with a subscription to Creative Cloud, which will cost you $29.99 a month.
- Mac support.
- A wide range of quizzes and question types with comprehensive scoring and branching, based on test results.
- Text to speech.
- Mac version still has some flaws and inconsistencies (such as 2 different sets of menus with partially different options).
- Old-style player skins compared to Storyline and iSpring.
- No 32-bit version for Windows.
4. TechSmith's Camtasia Studio
Camtasia is the most popular screen capture tool on the market. It has a video editing module called Camtasia Studio that provides a lot of features for creating a perfect instructional video. Options like zoom in and out, additional effects, and video layers are not included in other built-in screen recorders of other tools. For content authors who need more advanced screen recording and video editing capabilities, this tool will be the best choice.
It has a Mac version and a PowerPoint add-in that can publish your presentation in various video formats.
Camtasia costs $299.00 for the PC version. The Mac version is cheaper at $99.00. Discounts are available for bulk licenses and for purchases made by governmental, non-profit, and educational institutions. Purchase includes the latest version of Camtasia and any future minor updates.
- The creation of interactive videos with clickable hotspots, tables of contents, and search features.
- Professional video editor including built-in themes, backgrounds, graphics and callouts.
- The integration of quizzes and comprehension questions, with results displayed in spreadsheets, to monitor student learning in real time.
- Interactivity elements are very limited because it publishes to a video format.
- Requires a fast computer to work smoothly.
5. Lectora Inspire by Trivantis
Lectora bills itself as the "mobile learning game changer," which promises to transform your learning. Lectora's Inspire Suite integrates the eLearning Brothers' template library, cutout people library, and interaction builder to help you author e-Learning courses. Lectora also integrates Snagit and Camtasia to allow you to capture, edit, and import images and video into your e-Learning content.
Users can combine textual content, Flash animations, images, audio and video, test questions, and interactivity in a single e-Learning module that can be published to a learning management system.
Components and prices
A lifetime license for Lectora Inspire is $2,374.00 and it includes:
- eLearning Brothers Lectora Template Library
- eLearning Brothers Cutout People Library
- eLearning Brothers Interaction Builder
- Snagit screen capture tool
- Camtasia screen recording and video editing tool
The software is available via subscription at $159.00 a month.
- Responsive design. All objects are rescaled to fit mobile devices. Can be customized for each view.
- Publish your e-courses in HTML5 format, which is supported by a wide range of browsers in common use today.
- Has a version for Mac and Linux.
- The software is limited in terms of technical simulations and training, and in its audio capacity.
- The action pane is only accessible via menu, rather than already visible on the interface, which may be difficult, if not frustrating.
- Lectora's import and export feature still needs some work, when compared to similar software.
While Articulate Storyline is a very powerful tool, it requires some training in order to use the software to the fullest (utilize variables, states and layers to create complex dependencies). The direct competitor of Storyline is Adobe Captivate. If you’ve used some Adobe programs like Photoshop, it will be easier for you to get used to its user interface.
iSpring Suite is not a direct competitor with Storyline and Captivate because it is PowerPoint-based authoring tool, while others have their own environments with pros and cons. iSpring is a robust toolkit for rapid e-Learning with no training, fast conversion from PPT to HTML5. Plus, it has the powerful QuizMaker and unique tools such as TalkMaster.
Techsmith’s Camtasia covers all video recording and screen capturing tasks, and has a great editing tool. Lectora Inspire is a very powerful toolkit, but also has a steep learning curve and the highest price in this comparison.
All the analyzed tools are great for certain tasks and types of e-Learning materials that you create. Ideally, you need to evaluate every one to pick the most suitable tool (or tools) that will help you make your online courses.