I recently had the opportunity to chat with an instructional learning designer who uses eLearning authoring tools in her day-to-day job to design beautiful multi-device eLearning for a variety of clients. The topic of time (and more specifically, the lack of time most of us face in our 9-to-5 working lives) came up. So, naturally I was eager to get her thoughts on how an authoring tool saves time and money. Here’s what she had to say:
“As an instructional designer, it’s important for me to know how to work with the best authoring tools. My job can be very fast-paced at times, so I need to quickly get to grips with all the different authoring tools that are out there and understand how new authoring tools work. They say that time is money so the more time you save, the more money you save. In other words, the faster you get things done, the fewer resources you’re likely to spend on creating eLearning courses.
There are some key characteristics I always look out for in the best authoring tools:
1) They’re intuitive
The first thing I notice when I open a new authoring tool is how easy (or difficult!) it is to find the key functionalities that I need. I’m always impressed by authoring software that guides you smoothly through the elements on the screen the first time you see them. An easy-to-understand, intuitive user interface is one the most important characteristics of the best authoring tools on the market. You must be able to work out how to build eLearning courses within the first few minutes.
2) They’re responsive
In the past, we had to create a different version of a course for every device we wanted it to work in. There wasn’t such a thing as responsive HTML5. Building a single course that would look great on any device was the dream of every instructional designer. The good news is that many of the best authoring tools automatically do this for you. The dream has come true! By creating one single version of an eLearning course that works on all devices, we save time and therefore money.
3) They’re cloud-based
There was a time in the not too distant past in which we all had to travel to the office to work. In L&D teams, trainers, instructional designers, subject matter experts, producers, and graphic and digital designers all had to be present in the same room to discuss how we were going to create a training course from start to finish. The world has changed and, thanks to cloud-based authoring tools, technology allows many of us who work in the eLearning industry to do our jobs remotely. Authoring tools have had a lot to do with that.
The best authoring tools are those that allow teams to collaborate from different locations. You can create, amend, edit and update eLearning courses from anywhere in the world. This means travel costs and time are greatly reduced or, in some cases, even disappear entirely. To create successful eLearning material, the most important things you need to get started are a good authoring tool and access to the Internet. Everything will always be stored there, on the cloud—ready to be updated at the touch of a few buttons.
4) They offer design simplicity
People say that less is more and in design terms, I would totally agree. This applies to the eLearning world too. Less text on screen tends to deliver a more powerful message, provided it is well thought out and written. Less crowded windows in your authoring tool give you more space to work, and allow creativity and ideas to flow. Great authoring tools are designed to give you a good collection of useful assets, without being overwhelming. They should be well designed and organized, and allow you to focus on creating great learning experiences.
Less distraction increases efficiency, which then means that you can create more content in less time. Creating great eLearning experiences will help organizations to achieve their training and financial goals. Creating them in less time and within budget is what can differentiate you from your competitors. So don’t allow the authoring tool you choose to distract you with elements that you will probably never use. Remember: keep it simple.
5) They help to avoid complicated coding
Coding is best left to programmers and developers, and not the creators of beautiful eLearning courses. As a learning designer, my favorite authoring tools are those that allow us to create eLearning content with just a few clicks. Obviously, you want your experience to be seamless. You want it to flow. And you probably don’t have the time or capacity to code. The best authoring tools are those that allow you to create full eLearning courses without being a developer. Not needing developers means that you can carry on with your instructional design work and publish courses quickly and easily. This saves you time and your organization, in turn, saves money. And what business wouldn’t like the sound of that!
6) They have a free trial period
To get started with creating eLearning content, you should invest in the right authoring tool for you. So you definitely want to do your research to ensure you’ve found the right fit for your learning design needs. Making a mistake here could be expensive, wasting plenty of time and money. If you design eLearning course content, you’re going to want to 'try before you buy'. A good authoring tool offers new users a free trial period. This provides time to build a course, share it with colleagues and learners, get some feedback, and amend it.”
Does your eLearning authoring tool save time and money?
If you’re thinking of subscribing to a new authoring tool, do your research first! The most successful authoring tools will include features like responsive multi-device output, intuitive interfaces for ease of use, code-free development, free trial periods and cloud-based global access.
This post, originally published in 2017, has been updated.
About the author: Mike Alcock
Mike is the former Global Sales Director of Gomo.