Authoring tools are computer programs (software) that help you develop learning content, usually to upload to a website or a Learning Management System (LMS). But which one to choose? According to their web page, they all state that they are the only one you would ever need; the reality is that it depends on the type of learning you want to create. Ask your friendly Learning Consultant (that’s me) about their strength and weaknesses, areas of specialisation.

They can be installed on your computer or work fully online, sometimes they are part of the LMS. You can buy very advanced Authoring Tools or use free ones or the software you already have (MS Word and MS PowerPoint for example).

Authoring tools allow you to organise and format the Content in components of the Lessons using engaging and interactive options to help the learners learn a set of inforation that could otherwise be difficult to ‘digest’.

While most LMS will accept a wide range of digital file format of text, slides, images, audio, video; the more interactive files are saved as SCORM.

Most Authoring tools export the lessons as SCORM. This is a zip archive containing all the files needed to deliver the interactive lesson. The SCORM (zip) file is uploaded in the LMS by the Administrator, to add all the files in the correct Course. Testing is highly recommended to make sure all learners will access every aspect of the interactions without errors on different devices (computers, laptops, mobiles) using different browsers on different screens.

Adapt is a free open-source authoring tool. It is complex to install and use, but offers a wide range of free interactions created as add-ons (plugins) by the coding community. As it is installed on a personal computer, the information will not be uploaded on a third-party website.

Evolve, is an online (no installation required) version of Adapt with a lot of versatility.

Articulate is a vendor selling Storyline and Rise authoring tools.

Adobe currently sells Captivate Classic and Captivate.

Storyline (like Captivate Classic) is installed on a personal computer to design an interactive course based on a slide by slide layout with interaction templates. The programable triggers and conditions add ‘cleverness’ to the content to adapt to the learners progress.

There are some differences between Storyline and Captivate Classic that usually separate designers, a bit like Windows and Apple Mac users. Personally, while at their core they both deliver the same service, I find Captivate Classic harder to learn with more options and integrates well with other Adobe tools. Both can be used after a one-time purchase license (as long as the license is guaranteed by the vendor, which they can stop at any time forcing you towards the subscription model).

Rise is an online option (requiring a subscription) that creates the content using a process resembling building web pages like in WordPress instead of screens (slides), the learners will need to scroll down to keep reading and interacting with the content. Reaching the bottom of the ‘page’, the learners will then access the next chapter. It has a limited range of interactions to organise and format the Content. It has a short and simple learning curve with pre-set options to develop quickly interactive learning. The review process to gather feedback is built-in. the information included in the lessons is saved online.

Captivate is installed on a personal computer and allows a similar design approach as Rise in organising the Content in ‘pages’ to scroll down. I think it has more option in formatting the text and images, but at the moment they are very similar in their use.

The Authoring tools are evolving to allow learning on mobile devices, integration of interactive 360 images and videos, interactions that are easy to implement, mixing medias. The types of topics and learners you dealing with should influence your choice of Authoring tool, including a mix of several options.

MS PowerPoint can be used to create and export videos and SCORM files using additional plugins (add-ons).