In a world where online courses are the rave, picking the right course creation software is doubly essential.
The top eLearning courses all have one thing in common-high-quality content. And it’s virtually impossible to create high—quality content without an excellent eLearning authoring tool.
Yes, you can get by with videos recorded on your iPhone, but even that has its limitations.
This guide walks you through the different types of course creation software, the benefits an authoring tool brings to your business, and our top picks for eLearning authoring tools.
But first, let’s spell out what an online course creation tool is.
What is an eLearning Authoring Tool?
Think of an eLearning authoring tool as the Henry Ford of learning.
These tools allow course creators to build structured digital eLearning content and teach almost anyone. On the flip side, these tools also make it possible for anyone to learn anything.
The authoring tool helps the course creator to:
- Build the course in whatever standardized structure they deem fit
- Export the content in various multimedia formats (text, image, video)
- Test or quiz learners for knowledge assimilation
With the advent of course creation tools, knowledge can get to anyone without the restrictions of geography or physical textbooks and classrooms.
The Different Types of eLearning Authoring Tools
Just as there is no one-size-fits-all approach to eLearning, there are various types of eLearning authoring tools. Each with different specifications, tailored to different course needs.
The most common is the built-in authoring tools that come with learning management systems (LMS). These are usually stripped-down versions when compared to ‘standalone’ course authoring tools.
“Standalone authoring software” is another popular option—especially with individual course creators. These tools are designed solely for digital content creation. It’s a superior option to LMS-based tools and offers creators more options for creating high-quality learning content.
Despite the differences between the standalone option and LMS-based tools, they are both SCORM compliant. This is critical for standardization.
You can also categorize course authoring tools into cloud-based solutions or desktop-based software. The key difference here is cloud-based tools are accessible anywhere, anytime. In contrast, desktop authoring tools are tethered to one location, albeit more secure.
You also have the option of getting an open-source alternative. While open-source course authoring tools are attractive because they are usually free and the course creator can modify the platform as they see fit, they can be clunky.
Plus, you’ll need to have some programming skills to make any changes to the tool.
It is important to note that each type of authoring tool has its advantages and disadvantages. Your choice of course authoring tool will depend on your needs and the course you plan to publish.
Benefits of Using an Authoring Tool
Using a course authoring tool to create online courses has a lot of advantages. Here are the most prominent ones:
Ease of use
Convenience is quickly becoming a hallmark of the user experience in today’s digital world—for creators and students.
Putting together a course can be a nerve-wracking experience – from curating your notes to recording to uploading your content – but an authoring tool provides creators a hassle-free, multi-device course creation experience.
With an authoring tool, your course content comes ready for the myriad of devices out there in your learner’s palm. Be it a Mac, an Android phone, or a tablet, you’re able to offer learners the same experience no matter the device they use.
No need for technical knowledge
No video editing skills, not a problem!
Course creators don’t need to learn any of the hallowed technical skills required to create an engaging online course. Authoring software comes preloaded with templates, fonts, elements, and the layouts you need to create a beautiful piece of work.
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to course creation. And this is one aspect where course authoring tools excel. You can customize your authoring software depending on your needs or user feedback.
Some course creation tools give you the option of gathering data on how learners engage and use your course. This data is invaluable as you can tailor and update the course to improve user engagement and revenues.
Who Should Use eLearning Authoring Tools?
Considering the advantages of eLearning authoring tools, many individuals will find authoring tools helpful. Such as:
Freelance course creators
These are teams of one or more individuals who create an online course around a topic they have in-depth expertise on. Their content is usually interactive and brief. They also prefer budget-friendly but feature-rich course authoring tools.
Corporate training consultants
People leaders at large corporate organizations usually hire to train their teams. To save money and reduce commute, you find them repackaging their training sessions as online courses for these organizations.
L&D managers drive employee training and development. Individual training can be costly and time-intensive. Course authoring tools help them repurpose internal training sessions into online courses employees can consume at their desks without needing a separate workshop.
For small business owners who run employee development programs, course authoring tools are a cost-effective option for an L&D department. In some cases, they might retain the services of a freelance course creator to create the training material. However, they usually start with in-house subject matter experts to save costs
Professional instructional designers
Instructional designers are course creators for hire. Think of them as mercenaries who can help you create content. They use course authoring tools to create a high number of courses for various clients at an affordable rate. They are often highly skilled and can make different kinds of content—video, audio, software simulations, etc.
Considerations When Choosing an eLearning Authoring Tool
When choosing an eLearning authoring tool, you’ll need to consider the following:
High-quality content almost automatically guarantees the success of your course. So, it makes sense to make this a significant consideration when choosing a course authoring software.
Some parameters to help you judge the quality of the authoring tool include:
- Customization options
- The range of design themes you can choose from
- Is the platform plug-and-play?
(Pro Tip: Check out our awesome course name generator!)
Does the platform allow you to produce the sort of content your audience wants? You want an authoring software that’s flexible enough to enable you to create video lessons, quizzes, text files, simulations, and more.
Mobile eLearning is the contemporary de-facto mode of learning. Is your chosen course authoring tool 100% mobile compatible? This is a must-have feature as most learners might access your course from a smartphone.
The default mode is to assume that expensive means great. Not necessarily true. But this doesn’t mean you should go out there and get the cheapest tool. That could be disastrous. Understand the requirements and needs of your course creation project and use that to evaluate the course authoring tool.
Key Features of an Authoring Tool
Let’s look at the significant technical features that guarantee you’ll get the best out of your investment:
A seamless user experience means you can get the course platform up and running in no time. You don’t want to spend time slogging through technical guides before you start recording your course—especially if this is your first course. User-friendly tools reduce your time to market.
Assessment features are vital to the success of your online course. Learners want to test their knowledge at the end of the course (and midway). You can also use the data to gauge how effective the material is. Lastly, a wide range of assessment features (random questions, multiple-choice questions, open-ended questions, negative scoring, badges, etc.) improves the overall course engagement metrics.
Can the platform grow with you? Can you take on more learners or content without a slowdown in course load times? Can you automate some of the tasks? Your course authoring platform should support your growth, not stifle it.
The gold standard for comparison is probably the Google Workspace, especially if you work with a team to create and upload the courses. Collaboration features allow for seamless version management, sharing of content across different individuals, and feedback curation.
There are tons of publishing formats and compliance standards in the course industry. But a winning course authoring software should cater to the most important formats and standards. HTML5, Android, Flash, IOS, SCORM, AICC, to mention a few.
Whether you’re a beginner or an expert, you’d benefit from excellent customer support. While the level of support would depend on your needs, the following standard customer support options can come in handy:
- A knowledge or resource hub
- Live chat
- An online community or forum
- How-to guides
- Phone and email support
- Product demos
Top Picks for eLearning Authoring Tools
Now that we’ve gotten all that out of the way let’s take a quick walkthrough of our top picks for eLearning authoring tools.
Adapt is a widely popular eLearning authoring tool. It’s open-source, which means course creators the world over can contribute to its development. It’s best for new course creators who are on a budget and looking to learn the ropes of course creation. Plus, it’s free.
- Great user interface
- Regular updates
- Generic templates
2. Adobe Captivate
Adobe Captivate is your go-to course authoring tool for interactive content. It’s also great if you’ll be using quizzes and slide decks in your course content. It works across multiple devices and comes pre-loaded with a 360-degree virtual reality capability if that’s your thing. It costs $33.99/month or $1,299 for a lifetime license.
- Wide range of assets and templates for course creators
- Allows for extensive customization
- Text-to-speech voiceover features
- The unnecessary long learning curve
- Clunky user interface
- You’ll need to create different course versions for tablet, mobile, and desktop.
3. Articulate 360 Suite
Articulate 360 is a complete eLearning suite. Once you subscribe, users get access to nine tools—three course authoring apps (Storyline 360, Rise 360, and Studio 360), course templates, a project review app, and more. The suite costs $999/year for single users and $1,299 per user annually for teams of one or more.
Storyline 360 is Articulates’ desktop authoring tool. It’s popular among course creators because it’s like PowerPoint. It’s great for experienced course authors who need flexibility and customization when creating a course.
- Easy to use
- Limited to Windows users alone
- It’s not mobile-friendly
Articulate Studio 360 is a PowerPoint plugin. It can convert slides into online courses, set up quizzes, and create customized interactions to drive learner engagement.
- Easy to use
- Great templates
- It can be intimidating for newbies
Articulate Rise is a web-based authoring software that offers greater interactivity than Storyline. It is suitable for course authors with little to no experience who want to create quick, accessible courses.
- Excellent user interface
- Ready-to-use templates
- Collaborative features
- Incredible speed
- It is not flexible
Camtasia is an easy-to-use authoring tool that is suitable for creating video tutorials and screen recordings. It is best for course authors looking to create video content. Camtasia’s pricing starts at $249.
- Great video editing features
- Unique video templates
- Screen recording features
- Easy to use
- Unable to create slide-based courses without integrating PowerPoint
Composica is a cloud-based authoring tool. It is an excellent option for course creators and companies who have the budget for extra features such as collaboration and responsive authoring. Its pricing starts at $150 a month.
- Easy to use
- Asynchronous learning
- Collaborative tools feature
- Pricing is steep
- Some features are tricky to learn
- No peer/user support
6. DominKnow ONE
DominKnow ONE has a Microsoft Word-like interface that makes it great for people who, while having a traditional approach to course creation, want to leverage technology for greater reach. Beyond its familiar look and feel, it is one of the few authoring tools that offer you a guide on using it for the best results. Its pricing starts at $997 a year.
- Fully responsive output
- Easy to use
- Easy team collaboration features
- Excellent user support
- It can be tricky for newbies
- Limited variety of authoring tools
- Pricey for beginners
As the name implies, this authoring tool makes it easy for you to create courses without stress. You also don’t need any technical guides to get the hang of using the Easygenerator course authoring software. It is excellent for course creators who are just starting. Its pricing starts at $99 per month.
- Easy to use
- Limited features
- Poor assessment feature
Elucidat is a popular authoring tool. It is best known for its large number of templates that offer its users more options. Elucidat is suitable for authors who desire access to more awesome templates for their work. Its pricing starts from $2,500 per year
- Fast course production
- Easy to use
- Wide variety of templates
- Requires patience and focus on learning how to navigate it
Evolve is an authoring tool that is entirely online. It is designed to create courses that work on any platform, operating system, or device. If you are looking to create a fully responsive course, look no further than Evolve. It’s best for novice course creators and people on a budget because of its reasonable pricing of $40 per month and $400 per year.
- Easily adaptable
- Great user support
- Some features like “Themes” lack flexibility
Gomo is great for creating web-style content. This cloud-based authoring tool is great for creating content that can either be hosted online on the internet or offline through the Gomo app. It costs about $1035 and is suitable for course creators of all levels.
- Responsive and interactive output
- It has an offline mobile app that makes it suitable for use anywhere
- Lacks flexibility
- Limited design templates
11. iSpring Suite Max
If you have a good grasp of using PowerPoint, then using iSpring Suite Max would be a walk in the park. You can create courses from your slides and its set of ready-made templates—images, characters, fonts, and more. iSpring Suite Max is suitable for creating easy and quick courses without going through the time-consuming hassle of learning to use a complex authoring tool. Its prices start from $970 per year.
- Fantastic user interface
- Ease of use
- Excellent video editing features
- Only available to Windows users
If you are looking for a simple yet effective tool for creating online courses, you should try Knowbly. It has a centralized source that makes translation and updates easy. Knowbly is also cloud-based and has built-in real-time collaboration and review features. It is suitable for newbies and is reasonably priced, with pricing starting at $41 per month.
- Easy to use
- Limited variety of templates
13. Lectora Online
Lectora is one of the oldest authoring tools in existence. However, Lectora Online is much more recent. It is cloud-based and is considered one of the best authoring tools. Lectora Online is suitable for course authors who have substantial experience designing and creating eLearning courses. Its subscription prices start at $899 per year.
- Excellent user interface
- Interactive for both learners and course creators
- It can be challenging to master
Designing and creating an interactive eLearning course does not have to be an uphill task.
Whether you are a new course creator or looking to upgrade your eLearning course creation style, there’s plenty of authoring tools to choose from.
Hopefully, this article will help you decide which authoring tool best suits your needs and budget.
So go on and create that online course you have always dreamed of!