The Best 10 eLearning Authoring Tools & Software
In this article, we’ll break down the 10 best eLearning authoring tools. We will analyze the main selling points of content authoring tools and compare pricing to help you make an informed purchase decision. If you’re limited on time but need to choose software right away, proceed directly to the reviews of the authoring solutions by clicking on the name of the tool you want to learn about, or read the entire article.
- iSpring Suite – a PowerPoint-based authoring toolkit for those who need to create versatile eLearning content fast, with no previous experience in course development and special training.
- Adobe Captivate 360 – a professional-level tool for seasoned instructional designers who want to create complex software simulations and VR learning experiences.
- Articulate Storyline 360 – a robust tool that has numerous content creating capabilities, but requires a lot of time to master all of them. It is best suited for experienced course developers who need advanced features like triggers and layers.
- Articulate Rise – an intuitive authoring tool that allows instructional designers to create responsive online courses in the “longread” format using their browsers.
- Camtasia – an authoring software that has everything you need for creating video tutorials that can act as training materials.
- Lectora Online – a powerful, yet complicated tool that allows extensive customization via programming code, external libraries, and scripts; more suitable for well-trained developers.
- Elucidat – a cloud-based eLearning authoring platform that allows you to create online courses with pre-built templates; a good fit for organizations with dispersed L&D teams.
- Coassemble – an eLearning solution that combines an authoring tool and LMS functionality.
- Gomo – an easy-to-use web-based authoring tool that comes in handy for collaborative eLearning projects.
- H5P – is an open-source authoring tool designed for creating a variety of interactive educational activities right in a browser.
What Is an eLearning Authoring Tool?
An eLearning authoring tool is software that’s used to build eLearning content from smaller pieces of information: texts, images, audio recordings, and videos. In addition to helping you “glue” various media together into entire eLearning courses, they have some unique features that can only be used for training. For example, some eLearning authoring tools allow you to create software simulations, and others let you build quizzes.
All this content needs to be packaged in a format that can be easily distributed via the Internet and that learners can open with a minimum of installed software – preferably just a web browser. Back in the 2000s, it was Flash. Today, modern authoring tools for eLearning enable you to create HTML5 content.
10 eLearning Authoring Tools to Consider
Now let’s take a detailed look at 10 top-performing eLearning authoring tools on the market in 2022. But before we get into the details, check out this handy comparison table to get an overall picture of what to expect from each solution.
|Authoring tool||Type of solution||Learning curve||Collaboration capabilities||Publishing options|
|1. iSpring Suite||Content authoring suite||Low||Yes||HTML5, Video, SCORM (1.2, 2004), xAPi/Tincan, AICC, cmi5, HTML5|
|2. Adobe Captivate||Standalone authoring tool||High||No||HTML5, SWF, SCORM (1.2, 2004), AICC, xAPI, Exe|
|3. Articulate Storyline 360||Content authoring suite||Medium||No||HTML5, Video, SCORM (1.2, 2004), xAPi/Tincan, AICC, cmi5, MP4, Exe|
|4. Articulate Rise 360||Web-based authoring tool||Low||Yes||HTML5, PDF, AICC, SCORM, xAPI, cmi5|
|5. Camtasia||Video authoring software||Medium||No||SCORM (1.2, 2004)|
|6. Coassemble||Online training platform||Low||No||SCORM, Online link, xAPI|
|7. Lectora Online||Web-based authoring tool||High||Yes||ReviewLink, HTML5, Tin Can|
|8. Elucidat||Web-based authoring tool||Medium||Yes||SCORM, Online link, API integration|
|9. Gomo||Web-based authoring tool||Low||Yes||SCORM (1.2, 2004), xAPI|
|10. H5P||Open-source authoring tool||Low||No||Link in iframe, LTI|
1. iSpring Suite
iSpring Suite is a full-featured eLearning solution focused on making rapid content development easy and intuitive. A major plus with iSpring is that the core authoring tool works as a PowerPoint add-in, which makes for a familiar WYSIWIG interface that’s very easy to use. You can start with an existing PowerPoint presentation and enhance it with more sophisticated eLearning content.
iSpring Suite takes a modularized approach to the user interface, with special tabs for different types of training tasks. There’s a quiz maker for assessments, a video and audio editor for creating video lectures and screencasts, and a conversation simulation tool for building dialogue simulations with branching. Creating interactions is made simple with a whole set of ready-made templates for creating glossaries, catalogs, timelines, references, and FAQs.
The workflow puts the focus firmly on content development and dispenses with the manual configuration of complex interactive elements and coding variables. To create beautiful courses even faster, there’s a content library full of high-quality images of location backgrounds, icons, controls, and characters (available in the iSpring Suite Max package).
Another important thing is that iSpring Suite Max comes with iSpring Space, an online space for teamwork on eLearning projects. You can build your course, and all other authors from your team will be able to review the content or edit texts, add knowledge checks, and polish the course look and feel in a single place.
There’s also a built-in authoring tool for making eLearning content right in a browser. You can create a course the same way you write a post on social media. Just type in (or copy) texts and add images and video. Then add quizzes to check how your learners understand the material. That’s it!
Publishing options: pure HTML5, MP4 for video, eLearning formats – AICC, SCORM, xAPI and cmi5
- Ability to use an existing PPT presentation as a starting point for a course
- Simple familiar interface for building courses quickly
- Built-in dialogue simulator with branching conversation scenarios
- Professional video studio for recording and editing screencasts and webcam footage
- Robust tool for creating interactive quizzes and surveys
- Perfect playback on all devices
- Text-to-speech function
- Ability to turn PPT presentations into SCORM courses
- Ability to convert Word and PDF documents into interactive SCORM flipbooks
- Professional grade content library with 68,000 assets, including templates, characters, backgrounds, and icons
- Cloud service for fast content sharing and collaboration
- XLIFF Translation support for fast course localization
- PowerPoint needs to be installed for iSpring Suite to work
- Doesn’t support closed captioning (CC) for video and audio narration
- No software simulation support
- Only works in Windows
iSpring Suite is a fast eLearning development tool, and a great pick for PowerPoint users looking to take the leap into a full-fledged content authoring tool.
It’s also worth choosing if you’re searching for the easiest and fastest way to move existing instructions, manuals, and textbooks online. If you already have PPT presentations, you can turn them into e-courses in just a couple of clicks.
You can also publish your Word and PDF documents to eLearning formats quickly and efficiently. The result will be interactive e-books with a realistic page flip effect. When you want to get more creative and add quizzes, dialogue simulations, and interactives, there’s plenty of power under the hood.
$970 (Annual license)
2. Adobe Captivate
Adobe Captivate is a powerful authoring tool that’s well suited for general eLearning development such as creating slide presentations or quizzes and developing complex interactive courses. Also, it’s traditionally a preferred choice for developing software simulations with the help of effects, triggers, and slide settings. This allows for a lot of versatility in creating realistic simulations and presenting them to users in different modes, ex.: see it, try it, do it.
A standout feature of the latest 2019 Captivate release is the ability to create Virtual Reality projects and make interactive videos and studio-quality HD videos by simultaneously recording webcam and on-screen content and adding interactive elements. The wide range of interactions is another strong point of this toolkit. You can make eLearning fun with drag-and-drop, puzzles, games, and other interactive activities.
Publishing options: HTML5, eLearning formats – SCORM, AICC, and xAPI, Flash (with an option for creating lessons in the EXE format)
- Extensive variables and branching that allow creative customization
- 360-degree (VR) capability to embed virtual reality into your eLearning
- True responsive screen display on all devices, viewable as you create the training
- Asset library including templates, people, headshots, and full-body shots
- Ability to generate text-to-speech (TTS) voiceovers automatically
- ‘Green screen’ feature where you can insert your own background
- Mobile-specific development tools such as geolocation tagging
- Complex software simulation recording options
- Has a version for Mac
- Unintuitive user interface
- Requires you to put in a lot of hours to learn how to use it
- Customers report that Captivate can get buggy and crash in Windows
- Designing responsive content is difficult, since you have to create separate versions for desktop, tablet, and smartphone
- Imported PowerPoint presentations don’t preserve all their animations after being converted with Captivate
- Technical support outsourced to a call center
Adobe Captivate is professional eLearning software, less easy and intuitive, but more powerful than its competitors. It’s best suited for experienced eLearning developers who are comfortable working with variables and some coding to make the magic happen.
In contrast to some vendors that offer an LMS or hosting solution as part of the package, if you want to host the courses that you author directly via Captivate, you’ll need to purchase the PRIME package, which is more expensive and probably not suitable for small organizations with less than 100 employees.
$33.99/month or $1,299.00 (Perpetual License)
3. Articulate Storyline 360
Articulate Storyline is the flagship desktop authoring tool by Articulate. It comes bundled with a few other applications like Rise and Review when you purchase an Articulate 360 subscription.
Storyline is popular in the instructional design community since its advanced features like triggers and layers allow creators to go above and beyond in producing customized training content. However, for a newbie, it would pose a serious challenge to get to grips with Storyline – there aren’t many built-in interaction templates, so one would have to spend time learning how to create them from scratch.
With Storyline comes the Articulate Content Library – a collection of course templates, backgrounds, characters, buttons, and icons. It includes a rather small portion of visual assets created specifically for instructional design, at the same time providing access to a vast collection of stock images.
Publishing options: HTML5, eLearning formats – SCORM, AICC, xAPI, and cmi5
- Similar to the PowerPoint interface of Storyline 360, but with greater opportunities for customizing the content
- Allows you to build complex interactions by utilizing features like object states, triggers, and layers
- Screen recorder for making screencast captures and simple editing
- Content library with access to stock images
- Outputs responsive mobile-ready courses
- Can import PowerPoint slides
- Free mobile app for playing courses offline
- Not the most user-friendly interface
- Has a rather steep learning curve
- Interaction templates sometimes don’t work properly
- Screen recording functionality is basic compared to other solutions
- Can be heavy on computer resources
- No Mac version
Articulate Storyline is best suited for experienced instructional designers who need more leverage over the content they produce. This can be achieved by utilizing the advanced features like triggers and layers that Storyline provides.
Since Storyline comes with several desktop and web authoring tools aimed at making it easier for teams to collaborate on eLearning projects, it would be a good fit for collectives. The drawback is that most individual developers and small organizations won’t need all of these tools, but will still have to purchase the entire set just to get Storyline.
$1,299/year (for teams) or $999 (for individuals)
Also read: Adobe Captivate vs Articulate Storyline 3 vs iSpring Suite
4. Articulate Rise 360
Articulate Rise is a web-based authoring tool that allows instructional designers to create training modules or entire courses in the “longread” form using their browsers. Although originally limited to a fairly small selection of interactions, Rise gets updated regularly, so more and more assets become available for creators over time.
Publishing options: HTML5, PDF, eLearning formats – SCORM, AICC, xAPI, and cmi5
- Ability to create responsive training content quickly with a simple web interface
- Access to content library with lots of visual assets like backgrounds and characters
- OS agnostic: works on Mac, Windows, and Linux
- Support for all major eLearning standards allows one to create training content quickly and upload it to any LMS
- Allows you to collaborate on courses with your team members
- Limited content customization capabilities – an understandable tradeoff of a streamlined web application
- Only a single format of a training module (longread) can be created with it
- Just 4 question types to use in quizzes
Articulate Rise will be an equally good fit for new instructional designers and experienced industry cats. When your projects don’t have strict requirements on what content should look like and how it should function, Rise will allow you to pump out training courses quickly.
$1,299/year (for teams) or $999 (for individuals)
TechSmith’s Camtasia is a desktop powerhouse for recording and editing instructional videos. It’s available for both Mac and PC, and is considered to be one of the most popular authoring tools for screencasts and other types of training videos. It doesn’t just allow you to record your screen and edit the captured video – there’s a quiz editing tool, a bunch of stock video/audio, and various visual effects, all at your fingertips.
Publishing options: video formats, including MP4 and AVI, eLearning formats – SCORM 1.2 and 2004
- Available for both Mac and PC
- The most advanced video editor compared to all other authoring tools on the market
- Gives access to a library of stock music, intros, transitions, and other assets that will help you get the job done in less time
- Built-in quiz maker that allows you to create quizzes inside your training videos
- Supports SCORM; can export training modules for use in an LMS
- Limited to producing video content
- No interactive elements can be used in output content aside from quizzes
- Built-in quiz tool only has 4 question types to select from
- Not half as capable as true video editors like Adobe Premiere Pro or Davinci Resolve
This authoring software will come in handy for anyone who makes training content about computer software. Recording the screen and the webcam, editing the output with a bunch of stock effects, exporting the finished lesson to SCORM – Camtasia has everything you need for a good video tutorial that can act as training material. However, if the project you’re working on requires something other than a screencast with visual hints and annotations, look for a different solution.
Lifetime license + one year of updates for $299
6. Lectora Online
In this comparison, we’ll look at Lectora Online, the cloud-based version of Lectora Inspire, which offers content authoring plus similar eLearning development tools that are comparable to the other products in this article.
A big focus of the Lectora product range has always been compliance with web content accessibility guidelines (WCAG). This ensures that any course created with this online eLearning tool will be accessible to those with disabilities, such as hearing or vision impairment. If you work in or develop content for federal government organizations, this is a good choice.
Lectora’s popular Getting Started templates are a great shortcut for authoring. Each template includes built-in navigation, interactive samples, page layouts, and instructions for use. Plus, these built-in templates offer different learning styles and course types such as basic linear, non-linear, microlearning, scenario-based, adaptive, time-of-need/just-in-time training, multimedia, and more.
For more experienced developers, Lectora Online supports scripts, custom libraries, fonts, and CSS, so the sky’s the limit in terms of customization.
Publishing options: HTML5, eLearning formats – AICC, SCORM, and xAPI
- WCAG compliant
- Supports conditional branching and sequenced events
- Ability to add your own scripts, custom libraries, fonts, CSS
- Built-in versioning for collaboration
- Robust quizzing options
- Getting-started course templates that include navigation and sample interactions
- Global content management and update of assets
- Reviewing integration with review link
- Stock images and templates from eLearning Brothers
- More expensive than its competitors
- Clunky, outdated UI
- Not the most intuitive authoring tool on the market
- Advanced features don’t support Section 508
- In order to create a responsive course, you need to edit the same content in 5 (!) different views
Lectora has a legion of fans, but they mostly fall into the ‘power user’ category, meaning they’ve spent considerable time learning the tool and are truly experts with it.
It doesn’t offer a user experience as clean as iSpring Suite or Articulate Rise, but certainly offers a great degree of power and flexibility for experienced and more technically inclined eLearning developers.
Most suitable for larger and geographically dispersed organizations with a mature L&D model encompassing multiple authors and reviewers.
$500/year (Starter), $900/year (Pro), $1390 (Team)
Elucidat’s cloud-based eLearning authoring tool lets you produce responsive SCORM-compliant eLearning content that they claim will work with any modern LMS.
Being an online course authoring software, your whole team, from content designers to subject-matter experts, can contribute to, review and take part in the eLearning authoring process at any time.
Elucidat aims to be an all-in-one cloud-based solution for creating high-quality eLearning, managing content at scale, and analyzing performance. It has all the features you’d expect from an authoring platform: templates, resources, video and audio management, a mobile responsive editor, a layout designer, and the usual interactive elements you’d expect such as buttons, flip cards, and input boxes.
There’s also a focus on collaboration with multiple authors, and powerful features for role-based development and translation projects across multiple regions. These include separate modular views for team leaders, SMEs, designers, and reviewers, who all get access to feature sets relevant to their roles and position in the development process.
Publishing options: HTML5, video, eLearning formats – SCORM (1.2, 2004) and xAPI (TinCan)
- Management of eLearning content at scale
- Streamlined workflows for teams
- Page transition effects
- Ability to create single courses that are responsive on any device
- Personalized learner clips
- Flexible item animation; it’s possible to animate almost any course element
- Easily access data and insight into how users engage with learning content
- XLIFF Translation support for automatic course localization
- Cloud-based means you have to store all your contents on the vendor’s servers
- Lacks flexibility in comparison to other toolkits, so experienced content authors may find themselves limited in their abilities
- Doesn’t give too much control over custom interactions in your content
- Can get more expensive than any of its competitors according to user reviews
Elucidat is well suited to organizations with dispersed L&D teams and requirements to deliver course variations by locality.
The variations manager allows an author to create a central “master course”, which has full control over its “child courses.” Once an edit is made to a master course, the child course will then follow — edits can still be made locally in a child course. Elucidat authors can manage several course variations within one location, saving the hassle of creating numerous versions and editing each one individually.
No price listed; must contact the vendor.
Coassemble is a cloud-based authoring tool + LMS with capabilities of the former, similar to those of Articulate Rise. Pick one of 10 ready-made templates in the longread format and fill it with content bits like images, video, quizzes, and text. There’s a surprising variety of interactive elements that can be added onto the screens of your course: from simple slide sequences to timeline and label images. Finished content can then be assigned to students through the Coassemble LMS.
Publishing options: online link, API integration, eLearning formats – SCORM, xAPI
- User-friendly interface
- 8 question and 16 interaction types available
- Hosted in the cloud – you can author content from any platform or location
- Can import SCORM modules to add them to your online courses
- The product is also an LMS, so finished modules can be assigned to learners right away
- No dedicated mobile app for taking courses on smartphones
- Interface looks clunky and poorly designed on certain screens
- Just a few templates available when you start a new course – would like to see more in the future
- SCORM can only be exported as a link to Coassemble’s server
Coassemble will be an interesting product to try for small teams that need to start training their staff as soon as possible. The combined authoring tool + LMS functionality ensures that, as soon as a new course is ready, it can be put to good use and shared with learners. Of course, there are some limitations that stem from the web nature of the app, but the extended selection of interactions and question types will make up for it, making the training process engaging.
Several plans, starting from $490/year
Gomo is another web-based authoring tool that allows you to create online courses that learners can view online from a website or through the Gomo app. It was designed with teams in mind. This tool is perfectly suited for collaboration on content – multiple users can edit the content and leave notes for each other in real time.
The course development process is based on using ready-made templates and themes that can be configured to suit your project or brand. You just need to choose the templates, compliment them with text and images, set up the feel and look of your course, and it’s ready to go.
Publishing options: eLearning formats – SCORM (1.2, 2004) and xAPI
- Hosted in the cloud – you can create courses right in your browser
- Ability for team collaboration on the content
- Branching scenarios
- Simple course structure overview
- Pre-built themes with customization options
- Easy-to-use image editors
- Centralized resource library
- XLIFF translation support for creating localized content
- Fewer customization options than some competitors offer
- You have to store all your materials on the vendor’s servers
- No mobile app for taking courses on smartphones
- No video capture tool
- Some users report that the tool is a little slow in some processes
Gomo is an easy-to-use authoring tool that is ideal for collaborative eLearning projects. It has enough basic functionality to allow the building of simple online courses with quizzes. However, if you need to create versatile and more sophisticated learning content, it may not be the best solution.
Due to its multi-language and localized content options, the authoring tool will also be a smart choice for large enterprises that want to translate courses into multiple foreign languages with minimal time and effort.
No pricing options listed; must contact the vendor.
H5P is an open-source authoring tool developed for the creation of interactive educational activities right in a browser. You can make interactive videos, course presentations, crossword puzzles, pairing memory games, and more. More than forty types of interactive activities are available.
There are three ways to use H5P. The first is with plug-ins in WordPress, Drupal, and Moodle. This is free. The other ways are using a direct link and adding the activities to any platforms, blogs, and other sites that support embedded content, or delivering the content to LMSs like Canvas, Brightspace, Blackboard, Moodle, and other systems that support the LTI standard. The latter services are provided via H5P.com and require a paid subscription.
Publishing options: link in iframe, LTI
- Web-based – you can create the content in your browser
- There’s a free version
- Extremely intuitive
- A variety of interactive learning activities
- There’s an open educational resources hub where authors can collaborate and share open content
- Doesn’t have the versatility of other paid tools.
- Ability to import the content only to LMSs that have LTI
- Reporting is only available with a paid subscription
- No screen recording or video editing tool
- No preview option
H5P is a great starter option if you’re just taking the first small steps in the content authoring sphere, or if you don’t have the budget to invest in a more powerful eLearning tool. Despite the tool allowing you to create a variety of activities, its functionality is quite limited in comparison to its competitors.
However, if you’re engaged in academic education and use Moodle LMS, H5P can be a solid free eLearning tool for creating engaging interactive content for your students.
Free with plug-ins. The paid subscription starts at $804/year for 3 authors and 250 learners.
Also read: Best eLearning Platforms to Drive Corporate Training
To Sum Up
We hope you found this information useful and are on your way to selecting an eLearning authoring tool that’s perfect for you.
Sign up for a trial of each authoring software you’re interested in, use it, and make sure you enjoy it. If your authoring experience is causing you problems and forces you to deal with technical issues instead of making great learning content, consider another tool.
If you want to produce content right out of the gate without spending hours training or reading support forums, start with an iSpring Suite 14-day trial and explore all its features right now.