December 27 2018

Authoring Tools: What They Are and Why You Should Use Them

Written by Lambda Solutions

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Authoring tools and why you should use them

Creating an eLearning course may seem simple, but doing so actually requires a significant amount of coding and technical expertise. One way to avoid the hassle of figuring out how to create an eLearning course compatible with your LMS, as well as cut the development and update time while drastically increasing the quality of your courses, is by using an eLearning authoring tool.

What are Authoring Tools?

Contrary to what the name might imply, authoring tools are not word processors like Google Docs or Microsoft Word. Rather, they are powerful content creation tools that can be designed specifically for the creation of eLearning courses, and are compatible with learning management systems.

How Using Authoring Tools Can Help You

As we previously mentioned, there's a lot that goes into the back end of creating an effective eLearning course. If you want to do it yourself, you'll have to hire an expert with a significant amount of coding knowledge and technical expertise.

Additionally, you'll probably need to rehire that individual to edit the course anytime you want to make updates to it. This can be disastrous if, for example, a company decides to rebrand or overhaul their training approach.

Authoring tools allow you to avoid the hassle. eLearning courses created with authoring tools are formatted in such a way that uploading them to your LMS and updating them post-publishing are easy and intuitive processes.

Additionally, using a content authoring tool to create an eLearning course lets you retain full control of your course creation, distribution, and hosting, which means you don't have to go through any third parties other than your authoring tool to maintain your course and its profits. Authoring tools are also cloud-based, meaning they provide your courses with a layer of security that simply can't be matched by dedicated in-house server infrastructures.

Many businesses and academic institutions initially perceive authoring tools is being a significant investment that will only provide them with convenience in return. In reality, authoring tools provide a plethora of benefits to their users that easily offset their initial costs.

How You Can Pick the Best Authoring Tool for Your Needs

Picking the right authoring tool for your needs can be deceptively simple if you only follow a few quick steps:

  • Determine your budget. This is fairly obvious, you'll want to nail down how much you can spend on an authoring tool before buying one.

  • Assess your eLearning team's skills. Many authoring tools focus on making themselves as intuitive as possible. Some, however, focus on giving up some ease-of-use in return for greater technical capacity. Are your educators tech wizards? Get a more advanced authoring tool and train them on how to use it. If your educators lack technical expertise, on the other hand, sticking to the basics and focusing on ease-of-use is probably better.

  • Understand what you need, and how badly you need it. The best (and most expensive) authoring tools will come with an endless array of features. If you just want to create a few basic training courses for a simple job, there's no excuse for buying an overly complicated authoring tool. Similarly, know how often you'll be updating your course. If you work in an industry where standards are changing overnight (such as IT), having an authoring tool with a 24/7 support line that will help you update your course on a whim is important.

  • Know your LMS, research the best authoring tools for that LMS, and take them for test drives. Some LMS will work better with some authoring tools than others. Take your time and research what others using your LMS are using as authoring tools. Additionally, most (if not all) authoring tools come with a free trial option, and taking advantage of these ‘demo' copies will serve you well when making your final choice.

The Characteristics of a Good Authoring Tool

At the end of the day, the best authoring tool is one that works for your unique circumstances. Given that some amazing authoring tools, such as Shift eLearning or H5P, are completely free, if you just want a basic authoring tool to get a quick eLearning course up, you can easily achieve that goal without breaking the bank much (if at all).

However, if you have a technically efficient group of trainers, will need to update your eLearning courses constantly, and want to create fully featured, robust eLearning courses, the cost of a more robust authoring tool will be offset by the gains in flexibility, efficiency and ease-of-use you'll receive in return. So do some digging, find an authoring tool that's right for you, and commit to its use.

Are you having trouble finding the right authoring tools for your business or academic institution? Have you found the right authoring tool, but struggle to make it work with your LMS and employees? Let Lambda Solutions lend you a helping hand!

We specialize in helping companies live up to their full potential by working with them to streamline and improve their LMS and eLearning services. Learn more about what we can do for you.

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